What's the difference between Android Pay and the new Google Wallet?

Times are changing, and as we shift away from "traditional" in-store purchasing with physical cards to a variety of new systems, there's plenty of competition for your business. Dozens of companies want your in-store and online payments flowing through it instead of a competitor, and while Google was early to the game in pushing NFC-based in-store payments it has had to basically blow up what it built and retry in 2015 with Android Pay.

Google Wallet never really took off in a way that Google wanted, but still to this day has lots of users for some of its features. Even though people may not be using Wallet to pay every time they walk into a convenience store or use a vending machine, they're using the app for money transfers and still have payment info stored for online payments.

So rather than continue down the path of using one app for everything, Google is splitting up the mobile payment and money management into two apps — Android Pay, and a new Google Wallet. Pay is for in-store and eventually online transactions, while the new Google Wallet will handle person-to-person money transfers and the use of the physical (but digitally managed) Google Wallet Card. Sound a little confusing? Well, we're here to clear it all up.

Android Pay is here

After being announced back at Google I/O 2015, Android Pay is finally available to use on your supported Android phone. Android Pay is Google's second swing at handling mobile payments — both in-store with NFC payment terminals and online with supported retailers — to replace the rather clunky attempt at the process with Google Wallet.

Unlike Google Wallet did in the past, Android Pay operates with the cooperation of banks and card issuers, and doesn't have any restrictions based on the phone carrier you're using. Adding a debit or credit card takes just a few taps — even less if you've previously had it stored in Google Wallet — and is verified by your bank at the time of adding. After that, you're using a virtual number within Android Pay, which along with other security enhancements guarantees you won't have your data compromised when making transactions.

Using Android Pay in a store is the same as it was with the old Google Wallet. Assuming the store has an NFC-enabled payment terminal (which is a growing possibility, but hardly ubiquitous at this point), just wait for the total to be rung up, unlock your phone and place it on the designated payment area of the terminal. You don't have to open up the Android Pay app first — just make sure NFC is turned on. You can set what card is used by default in the Android Pay app and change it at any time, as well as look back through your transaction history or contact your bank directly from the app.

Android Pay is the go-to app for in-store payments, gift cards and loyalty cards.

Android Pay isn't just for managing debit and credit cards, though — it can also manage your loyalty and gift cards. Provided the loyalty or gift card program is recognized by Android Pay, you can scan or manually enter the cards and have them stored digitally in Android Pay. No more little cards on your keychain or filling up your wallet. By default your phone will give you a notification when you're nearby a store that supports one of your stored loyalty or gift cards, with quick access to the barcode for the merchant to scan.

In the future, Android Pay is also slated to handle online and in-app purchases, as Google Wallet (and transitioning to "Google Payments") currently does. This means that cards you have added to your account in Android Pay will also be available for purchases on websites and in apps that support the Android Pay system. Think of this as a direct competitor to in-app purchasing platforms from PayPal and Amazon, and eventually fully replacing online payments that are currently handled by Google Wallet.

During this transition from the old Google Wallet to Android Pay, if you already have the old Wallet app installed on your phone it will eventually be updated in the Play Store to become Android Pay. If you never installed Wallet, you'll be able to simply download Android Pay once it becomes available in the Play Store.

Changes to Google Wallet

As we pretty clearly explained following the introduction of Android Pay, Google Wallet isn't going away entirely — it's just changing. If when you read through the description of Android Pay it sounds a lot like what you're used to in Google Wallet, you're not alone — Android Pay is now going to handle all of the in-store and online payments with your phone, while Google Wallet is now focused on two simple features. When you install the new Google Wallet app, you'll see it has slimmed down quite a bit, and it's now simply used to send and receive money between individuals, and manage your physical Google Wallet Card.

As you've always been able to do in Google Wallet (and in Gmail via Wallet), you can use the new Wallet app to either send money to or receive money from anyone using their email address. When you attempt to send money you can pull directly from any Google Wallet Balance you have, or fund that sending with a connected bank or debit card (sorry, credit cards aren't accepted) without any fees. When you request money the person on the other end has the same choice — enter a bank account or debit card to send money to you, or draw from their Wallet Balance if they have one. There are some limits to sending, receiving and funding your Wallet, but they're quite high — $10,000 per transaction, or $50,000 per five-day period.

Send and receive money simply in the new Wallet, and even manage your physical Wallet Card.

When you receive money from someone in Google Wallet it initially hits your "Wallet Balance," and is held there until you decide to "cash out" to your bank account. If you choose to leave the money in your Wallet Balance it can be sent to other people instantly, or used with your Google Wallet Card. Cash-outs take a few business days to process as they are sent to your bank account, but again don't have any fees associated with the processing.

The physical Google Wallet Card, which many people have forgotten about by this point, is still around and is the other big feature of the new Google Wallet app. If you're not familiar with it, this physical Wallet Card is a fully-featured MasterCard debit card that you manage through the Wallet app and can use anywhere MasterCard Debit is accepted. You can use it to buy things in stores, and even withdraw money from ATMs, all with no fees assessed by Google (though ATMs themselves may charge fees).

With the introduction of Android Pay and changes to Wallet, though, the Card has changed a bit. The Wallet Card now only gives you access to your Wallet Balance, and doesn't have a backup funding source such as another bank account or debit card. You can only spend what you have available in your Wallet Balance, just as if it were another prepaid debit card. You can fill your Wallet Balance with transfers from other people, from a connected bank account (no fee) or with another debit card (2.9 percent fee). Spending is also limited to $5,000 per day, and ATM cash withdrawals are also limited to $300 per day. You can monitor your Wallet Balance constantly in the new Wallet app, as well as look at transactions and lock or cancel the Wallet Card if needed.

While not that many people will actually use the Wallet Card, it may be a great choice for a young child who needs a physical card to use but also needs to also have spending limits and can't have a bank account. It's also a great secondary card to keep around if you need to use it as a backup in case of emergencies. For daily use, though, far more people are likely to use the Google Wallet app for sending and receiving money. With a painless funding system, easy-to-use interface and absolutely no fear of fees, it's a much better experience than anything else out there right now.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Still not available to my Note 5 with T-mobile. Kinda looking forward to it.
  • Don't have it on my Nexus 5 either. Don't feel bad.
  • I just got it this morning on my Nexus 5, I used it/tested by buying a soda from the vending machine in our break room that has a NFC reader.
  • Hit my Note 5 (international) and S6 edge (T-Mobile) on Monday.
  • I have a Note 5 on T-Mobile and I have the Android Pay app installed. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hit my Droid Turbo this morning. Haven't used it yet though. Posted via the Android Central App on my DROID Turbo
  • Can you go get the 8.x Google Play Services .apk? There's an Android Pay .apk you'll want as well. Mine didn't arrive for my S6. I just manually installed it.
  • Turns out I already had the right version of the Google Play Services but the Android Pay application was not in the Play store. So I just found the most recent apk online and it seems to have installed correctly.
  • Glad to help. Android Pay is sort of built into GPS. Before the Android Pay .apk came out, people were using it and setting it up by manually launching the activity using something like Nova Launcher.
  • No! Android Pay has nothing to do with your phones GPS! Hahaha just kidding Posted via the Android Central App
  • You can download the apk from a number of sites.
  • My friend has it in his note 5 and I've used it in my nexus 5. Posted via the Android Central App
  • it doesn't work on tmobile network. they have planned to release their own payment app like isis(softcard) bullshit..just kidding mine doesn't work i don't know if its because of rooted or not yet released. btw i downloaded from google search if you type softcard on google play store you will find it but i will say this device is incompatible with this version.. good luck
  • Works on my rooted T-Mobile Note 4.... Hat to untick Superuser in the SU app then re enable once the card was accepted.
  • that didn't work for me on moto x pure
  • if you type Softcard on google play store you will find it but you can't install it or can...it might say device incompatible with this version i don't know if its something to do with rooted phone or final release is not yet on play store. i download android pay from apkmirror website installed it when open it says android pay in not available. end of the story. i even fully unrooted it no luck
  • "Android Pay is here"....it's literally not even in the Google Play store yet lol
  • As long as my Google Wallet app still works, I'm good. Because I choose to use a GSIII over the Note 5, I own a Note 4.
  • I actually have the Google Wallet CC card, can align all my cards into one and switch back and forth using the app. Since only 5 stores have NFC and no others have opened NFC in the past 4 years except the same 5 stores, The GWallet card is more useful. And I can give it to my brother to loan him money instead of cash or transfers that take time to switch accounts or send and receive
  • I have the Google wallet card as well. I'm was able to add it to Android pay yet it won't take my Chase debit card. Go figure. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is good news. I was afraid I wouldn't be able the use my Wallet balance with Tap to Pay, like I can with the old system. Great for budgets! Posted via Android Central App
  • It only works person to person now. I've tried 3 times to use it to purchase items, but it takes me to the setup for Android pay, which doesn't support my bank Posted via note 4, +32 gig micro SD and 2× batteries...because I can.
  • Been arriving on phones throughout the week with updates in the Play Store, and Google has announced the rollout. I'd say that's about as good as it gets in terms of Google apps being released :P
  • Where's the Play Store link then?
  • It's updating for people who have the old wallet installed. You can install the old wallet and it'll be updated to Android Pay as soon as you have the new Google Play Services. They can't put it in the Play Store on its own until that's rolled out.
  • It's worth noting that, if you have root, unlocked bootloader, etc the Android Pay app will not function.  Even if you unroot, you get an error so long as you bootloader is unlocked. Some people are reporting that they were able to disable root and that allowed them to setup credit cards, but were still unable to actually make payments once they re-enabled root.  If you have an unlocked bootloader, you have to re-lock it (if possible) and keep it locked for Android Pay to function. I get that "root" increases users' risk of infection by malware and such, but is there really a good reason for Google to "kill" Android Pay for all rooted users?  It seems like the Android enthusiasts are *exactly* the people Google needs to get on board with this and spread the word, since that group of people are more likely to make the purposeful effort to use Android Pay in the first place.
  • It never complained about by bootloader, only root.
  • I got automagically installed on my HTC M8 on Sprint. It's there now.
  • Because it will install automatically on your phone after you install the wallet app or your old wallet app that had tap and pay will convert automatically. They still haven't set a separate install file in market yet.
  • I just got a notification that it's available to me. Tried setting up my cards unsuccessfully. I'm guessing because I'm rooted. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yep, doesn't work on rooted, rom'd or unlocked phones and it requires a pin or pattern secured lock screen at all times or your cards will be deleted. No support for LG's knock code either. Total failure. Google said they decided to go with a secure lock screen for convenience instead of a pin to open the actual Android Pay app because that was only 1 secure unlock versus 2. I totally disagree. Having to use a secure pin each time I open my phone (100's of times per day) is hardly simpler than entering a pin once a week when I use android pay. I rolled back to the old google wallet app. Back to the drawing board Googs.
  • What would be nice is to have option. Either a lock screen or a special pin each time you use Android Pay. How GW use to be was fine with me. But now i won't use mobile payments even when the option available.
  • Yeah i would like to know the genius who thought forcing an unlock pin(for every time we unlock our phone) on us instead of a pin for the gw app itself was a better idea. That makes zero sense.
  • Why don't you just use a simple pattern unlock it's easy as one swipe and works. Posted via the Android Central App
  • because a simple unlock patter 100X a day is slower then a pin for the app the 1-4 times a week i use this app. Not sure why its mandatory to have a pin at all..My real wallet doesn't have a pin. If i lose my phone I just go online and disable my phone as a device for android pay/wallet. I would rather have an option for a pin, then I can choose the experience I want
  • I'm in the same boat; except when I rolled back Wallet it still won't accept my credit card (worked fine before). Still shows both of my loyalty cards, though the new Pay only showed one. I may roll back to an older version of GPS, but frankly I don't use Wallet all that often anyway.
  • It works fine on unlocked phones. It's rooted ones that it doesn't work on. The truth is, only a small percentage of people root their phones. With Android m their will be less reason to root although custom roms are still awesome. Posted via the Android Central App
  • By the way, it does work on rooted phones. You just have to unroot, install Android pay and then root again. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Disabling root works to allow you to enter your card details (unless your bootloader is unlocked).  Unfortunately, if you turn root back on, Android Pay will not actually allow you to make a payment.
  • Actually it does you just have to go into su settings and unroot temporarily while setting up pay. Check root in su settings afterwards and bam, good to go. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This doesn't work in all instances. Those with unlocked boot loaders and custom rom are reporting issues (I've tried the above myself). It still won't let me add cards. Some get to add their cards, but when they go to pay they find out it doesn't work.
  • Thanks. Now I know why Android pay doesn't work on my rooted moto X. Google, you failed me and others.
  • I don't think offering protection is google failing lol
  • Totally agree. I uninstalled Android Pay after 1 day. Having to use a pin to unlock everytime I want to use the phone is a total PITA.
  • You can also use pattern lock. And the old gwallet required a pin every time also. If you want to just keep your phone open to everyone and let anyone use your cards than that's your choice but i don't google is going to allow that on their end.
  • The old Google Wallet app required you to enter a pin when launching the app, not every time you unlocked your phone.  There's a *huge* difference, there.  I may use Google Wallet (Android Pay) 2-3 times a week, whereas I unlock my phone dozens of times per day.
  • Actually it does work on unlocked phones... I have it on my OnePlus One and seems to work just fine. The PIN number requirement is a little irritating but not that big a deal for me. I enabled smart lock so the unlocking isn't as tidious
  • Unfortunately you can't stay rolled back. Once Play Services is updated it will say you need to upgrade to Android pay to use it.
  • You can roll it back? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Go into SuperSU and disable it. Then set up your cards. Then reenable. Worked for me. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I also had to uninstall xposed (using flashed xposed-uninstaller) to get it to set up cards. Then reinstalled xposed and re-enabled SuperSU.
  • Honestly not worth it to me, don't really need the feature that bad.
  • Funny I never had to touch xposed. Hmm. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No luck with my on my G4 w/ Xposed.
  • Same for me on my rooted Nexus 6 running CyanogenMod. They will probably fix that in a future nightly build.
  • Used it today. Using the unlock code after the phone is already unlocked was odd. Thought that was why they made mandatory lockscreen a thing. Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • unroot, activate android pay, root it back
  • It's not because he's rooted (which he didn't say he was anyway). Same thing happens to me and I've never rooted this phone.
  • Yup, not rooted here... Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • Great article that nicely explains the difference between the two and what to expect. Thank you! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Andrew's articles are always good. They are a must read. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thanx Andrew, good job once again! FYI to you or your readers, this thread in the AC Moto X 1st Gen forum will give folks a taste of a 'real world' experience...http://forums.androidcentral.com/moto-x-2013/581266-google-play-services...
    My tale begins about 3pm on the 15th!
  • I like it. Especially the fact that tit don't need to open the app at all to pay. Just tap and pin. Posted via my S6 on the Android Central App
  • How does that work? When I do it on my Note 4, i tap, it prompts for a pin and tells me to tap it to the terminal again and the app is most definitely open.
  • Ditto here.... Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • I use it every day, either the card or nfc, and I was tired of getting notifications + emails for every purchase. Now I get 2 notifications and an email. No way to turn off the emails. The point is that I liked one single app with all of my purchase history and my balance, and there is STILL no way to stop getting emails, which is redundant... very google. Oh, and now when I have a trusted bluetooth device it still makes me use my lock screen, which was one of my favorite features of a smartwatch.
  • Seriously.... That's crap... And would really annoy me too... Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • Seriously? I don't have my G Watch with me, but it really makes you unlock the phone even with the trusted device? If that's the case, I will be taking Android Pay right back off. Screw that, I love that feature...
  • Hm have you flipped the switch in the Android Pay settings off that says "notifications for transactions" ?
  • I know about that. I just don't want any more emails in the inbox. I can't turn those off. I have been using wallet for a long time, I'm enough of a geek to immediately go to settings. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Gmail has great filtering options. Set up a "Receipts" folder and have the emails skip your inbox and go there. You won't see any more notifications about them then.
  • Question though... When I tap to pay... What gets charged, my wallet balance or my card? When I use my physical wallet card, both apps tell me I have been debited. So if I tap, is the "pay" app being activated? If so, does my wallet balance get charged, or my bank card? Posted via the Android Central App
  • With the new android pay only your bank card gets charged. With the old gwallet tap and pay app, if you selected it, your wallet balance would get touched first. now they are separate which i can understand why people are frustrated.
  • I'd make one note that only if your card and bank support android pay will it show up directly on your card. If it isnt supported just yet it will work the way google wallet did using the virtual mastercard process which.
  • I wonder if one could get the Google Wallet card, and add it to Android Pay?
  • The fact that you have to have a detailed article just to explain what the difference between the two is exactly why Google struggles to get people to use some of their products.
  • Such is the nature of the beast so to speak when using a "smart" device to make payments versus a "dumb" one where the "smart" part is solely on the merchant's side. This is a BIG reason I refuse to consider using my smartphone to make payments, not to mention I just don't fully trust a so-called "smart" device (that's loaded with various other apps, sometimes of questionable nature) for anything of such sensitive nature.
  • That's why a little research goes a long way. Using your smartphone is safer and more secure than carrying and using physical cards. Example: when home depot systems got hacked, those people that used tap and pay didn't have anything to worry about because their transactions used tokenization and non of their info was stolen versus those that used physical cards.Yes at first it is cumbersome, but like everything else, once you get used to it, it is great.
  • Except hardly anyone accepts it STILL, and we have to carry cards STILL, rendering it all moot when it's a pain in the arse compared to just reaching for the card in the first place.
  • Apple doesn't have this problem, at least not to the same extent. Even us geeks are confused by Google at times. With Apple it's just technewbs who are confused.
  • I picked up a Note 5 last night and it updated to Android Pay. Sadly its not working here at work in the vending machines like my OPO did with Wallet. I get the pop up showing that my card was read and a green check, but the vending machine doesnt respond at all to it. Not sure what the deal is. I need to test it at a shop and see if its the same.
  • It could possibly be the same issue I used to have with Google Wallet where the payment wouldn't go through unless I had Bluetooth turned on.
  • It has nothing to do with Bluetooth. It's the nfc chip that activates. Some tap and pay systems are being updated so that could be a reason it doesn't work. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My Note 5 received the update to the Play store last night, and I'm going to try it out today. ☺ Posted via the Android Central App