Mobile payments: a guide to paying with your smartphone

If predictions by the experts ring true, the days of paying with cash and coins could soon be a thing of the past. In fact, a report by Westpac shows a cashless society could be as near as 2022.

And if further research proves correct - which tips Australians will be early adopters of smartphone payments - the next big payment trend could be mobile wallets.

Haven’t joined the digital wallet party yet? Here's a roundup of the major smartphone payment options available now, to help you decide which one is right for you.

But first...what is a mobile wallet?

A “mobile wallet”* simply refers to an app that gives you the ability to make purchases with your smartphone at point of sale (POS) terminals accepting contactless payments. How it works is, mobile wallet apps communicate with POS terminals through technology dubbed "near field communication" (NFC).

*We could jump down the rabbit hole by talking about loyalty card storage apps for your mobile like Stocard, but today we’ll stay on the smartphone payment route.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay uptake is booming in Australia! But don’t just take our word for it, the tech giant says Aussies use its digital wallet more frequently per month than users in any other country. Apple Pay is compatible with iPhones (depending on the model), plus you can also use it to make in-app purchases on most Apple devices such as your Apple Watch and iPad.

Key facts:

  • Apple argues that its mobile wallet is safer and more secure than a physical card issued by your own banking provider. That’s because when you make a purchase, your card details are completely hidden from the merchant in the form of an encrypted code.

How to use it on your smartphone:

1. Download or open the app from your Apple “Wallet”, using your existing Apple ID. Then you’ll be prompted to set up your Face ID or fingerprint password.

2. Upload the details of any eligible debit and credit cards you have in your name by taking photos when prompted with your smartphone.

3. Pay with Apple Pay online or in person at a terminal that accepts NFC transactions (anywhere you can use payWave and PayPass)! Access the app with your Face ID or fingerprint, choose the card you want to pay with and hover your phone near the merchant terminal. Payment complete!

Google Pay

Google Pay, Google’s mobile wallet that was previously dubbed “Android Pay”,  entered the scene a little later than Apple Pay in Australia, but it’s still going strong. And given that the search engine giant now offers its very own phoned dubbed “Pixel”, we’ll probably see the number of Aussie Google Pay users steadily increase.

Key facts:

  • A range of Aussie financial providers support Google Pay including ANZ, NAB, CommBank, Westpac, American Express, UBank and ING Direct. 
  • It’s compatible with Android operating systems, making the app suitable for smartphone users who aren’t Apple enthusiasts.

How to use it on your smartphone:

1. Download Google Pay from Google Play, then set up your account. 

2. Upload your compatible cards. 

3. To make a purchase with your phone, hold it over a payment terminal supporting NFC. You can set up fingerprint identification (if your phone supports it) or simply set up a pin. 

4. Just unlock your phone as you normally would and hover away!

Samsung Pay

Samsung has been under fire since launching its mobile payment app mid 2016, after a number of customers complained that their devices burst into flames! With the embarrassing setback now behind them, the electronics company continues to offer its own mobile wallet, otherwise known as Samsung Pay.  

Key facts:

  • AMEX and Citibank  jumped on board first as the only two card providers offering Samsung Pay to their Aussie cardholders, but these days, a wide range of banks, credit unions and other financial providers offer Samsung Pay.
  • Samsung Pay not only works at terminals where contactless payments are accepted, it can be used at older merchant terminals which read magnetic stripes too. That’s all thanks to “Magnetic Secure Transmission” (MST), a technology that can release magnetic signals from your phone. So the unique thing about Samsung Pay is that it has both NFC and MST capabilities. Impressive!
  • The app can require facial recognition or fingerprint authentication if you opt in for it, just like Apple Pay.

How to use it on your Samsung phone:

1. Open Samsung Pay from your home screen, apps menu, or lock screen.

2. Swipe to choose the card you want to pay with.

3. Verify yourself with facial recognition or the touch of your finger (alternatively, you can tweak your settings to not include your face or fingerprint, but a pin number instead).

4. Hover your phone over the merchant terminal to make the purchase!

Optus Pay

Optus partnered up with Heritage Bank back in 2014 to deliver Optus Pay, a payment method allowing mobile customers to make purchases under $100 with their Android powered phones, NFC-enabled wristbands or coffee cups. Sound intriguing? Read on for details.

Key facts:

  • It’s strictly available to Optus mobile customers. But the good news is that users can deposit funds into the mobile app from any Australian bank account.
  • NFC payments through Optus Pay work for purchases under $100.
  • While three out of four accessories are free to order from Optus, caffeine lovers craving the smart coffee cup will have to buy it from Frank Green online for $39.95.

How to use it:

1. Download the app and register for an account, which you’ll use to track transactions and check your balance. Keep in mind, your account balance cannot exceed $500.

2. Choose your free NFC enabled sticker (that attaches to the back of your phone), one of two wristband styles via the app, or buy your smart cup through the Frank Green site.

3. Once your accessory has arrived in the mail, you’re good to go. To make a purchase, simply tap your accessory at a compatible merchant terminal.

What the big four banks offer

CommBank

While they weren't one of the first, Commbank have now jumped on board the digital wallet train and offer a huge range of options for debit and credit card customers. They have embraced Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay and even have their own CommBank Tap and Pay within their banking app (only available on Android smartphones). They also have payment options for your "wearables", like Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung and Google Wear OS. 

ANZ

ANZ was the first of the big four bank to offer customers Apple Pay for credit and debit cards. ANZ customers can also use Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay, so whatever your mobile payment preference, there's an option to suit you.

NAB 

NAB customers now have access to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay,  Google Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay. They also offer Nab Pay, which is compatible with Android powered mobiles. Once you’ve downloaded the app and set up your account, you simply press a button within the app to Tap & Pay at a merchant terminal that accepts contactless payments. All payment methods work with NAB credit and debit cards.

Westpac 

Westpac offers mobile banking and a digital wallets like Samsung Pay, Google Pay, Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay. You can pay with your phone with eligible Westpac debit and credit cards. Unfortunately, Aussies with iPhones miss out when it comes to mobile payments with Westpac for now as they don't offer Apple Pay, but you never know what the future will bring.

So that was a roundup of the mobile wallets currently available to everyday spenders in Australia (and the ones in the works). To find out more about how this innovative technology works, head to our fintech hub.

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