Apple Pay vs. Google Wallet

Both mobile payment systems are free to consumers and similar in other ways

Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) brands inspire almost religious devotion in their loyal consumers, many of whom see comparisons between the two tech giants as a comparison between apples and oranges.

When it comes to their mobile payment systems, though, our findings suggest they are practically identical in what they can do. Apple Pay, also known as Apple Cash, seems easier to use, while Google Wallet, which was called Google Pay until 2022, has a few more features. For families with teenagers interested in using a mobile payment app, Apple's is likely to be more easily monitored and flexible.

Key Takeaways

  • Apple Pay and Google Wallet are widely accepted mobile payment systems; both also include a digital wallet, despite the difference in their names.
  • Apple Pay and Google Wallet are similar in what they can do. Apple may be to be easier to use, but Google has more features, including Google Pay, its mobile payment app.
  • Apple Pay is probably easier for teenagers 13 and up to use for peer-to-peer (P2P) and retail payments, with parental monitoring.
  • Google acts as an intermediary and stores your card details on its servers, while Apple has explicitly declared that it will never track your transactions.

Apple Pay vs. Google Wallet

Although their interfaces and user options are similar, there are ways Apple's and Google's mobile payment systems differ, primarily in terms of security. The following compares the two apps.

 Apple Pay Google Wallet 
Introduced 2014   2011
Technology Contactless payment via near-field communication (NFC)  Contactless payment via NFC
Hardware Usable on Apple iPhones and iPads with Face or Touch ID, Apple Watch Series 1 and later, Mac models with Touch ID or Face ID Usable on most hardware because you use a PIN to sign in
Online Purchases From an app or website, with Touch ID or Face ID From an app or website, with PIN 
Device Limitations Can only be used on Apple mobile devices Can only be used on Android and iOS devices
Security Touch ID; uses tokenization PIN; uses Google Pay virtual card

Both systems allow for contactless payment using near-field communication (NFC) technology, though they implement it slightly differently. Apple, with complete control over its hardware, makes Apple Pay available on iPhone models with Face ID and Touch ID (except the 5s), iPad models with Touch ID or Face ID, Apple Watch Series 1 and later, and Mac models with Touch ID.

Google, on the other hand, opts for a more traditional PIN-based authentication system. This allows it to work on older hardware than Apple Pay does. Both can make online purchases straight from an app or website, automatically handling the entire checkout process with pre-filled defaults and only requiring PIN or Touch ID verification to complete the transaction.

From an industry point of view, the most significant breakthrough that mobile payment systems offer is in their security, and here, Apple and Google both incorporate some beneficial protections.

Google Wallet vs. Google Pay

Even though its maker reverted the overall product's name back to Google Wallet from Google Pay in 2022, there remain some differences between Google Pay and Google's wallet offering.

Google Wallet is a secure, private digital wallet that lets you store items such as:

  • Payment cards
  • Flight and event tickets
  • Transit passes
  • Vaccination, loyalty, and gift cards
  • Digital car keys
  • Identification cards

Google Pay, in contrast, is an app within the wallet that lets you manage your money and finances. It lets you:

  • Get insights about your spending.
  • Send money to friends and family and split bills.
  • Earn rewards on eligible transactions.
  • Find offers from merchants.
  • Gain quick access to your Google Wallet.

Apple Wallet vs. Apple Pay

The differences here are similar to those between Google Wallet and Google Pay. In this case, Apple Pay is the secure payment system offered on Apple's products, and Apple Wallet is where you can digitally store your credit or debit cards so you can use them with Apple Pay, along with other tickets, passes, IDs, and more.

Apple Pay vs. Google Wallet for Teens' Use

If you're a parent or guardian of a teenager who's interested in access to a mobile payment option, Apple Wallet provides Apple Cash Family. As an adult, you can add family members younger than 18 under your own Apple Wallet, which allows you to add money to their account, lock their access to the account, choose to whom they can send money, and set up notifications whenever the young person makes a transaction.

In addition, Apple Cash Family comes closest to letting you use it like cash because most retailers popular with kids (such as movie theaters, grocery and clothing stores, and popular fast-food places like Taco Bell) accept Apple Pay.

With Google Pay, a component of Google Wallet, kids of any age can be added by a parent to the parent's own Google account, which allows the adult to limit children's spending to certain apps or types of purchases, as well as require parental preauthorization for any purchase that the child makes. Note that kids under 13 can't make purchases using Google Assistant, the company's artificial intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistant app.

Google Pay also offers another feature for family use, Purchase Requests. This allows kids to send a request to buy something to the adult supervising Google Pay's use by the family, even without a family payment method set up. Then the family manager of the account can review and decide whether to make the purchase for their young person. Parents also can use Google's Family Link app to monitor kids' purchases in the Google Play store, Google accounts, the child's location, and time spent on supervised devices.

Because Google Pay only works on Google Play, kids can't use it to make purchases in physical stores or to send money to their friends or family, unless they get approval for those activities from the Google Pay Purchase Requests tool and the parent pays using the family payment mode.

Security Systems

Credit card fraud remains a significant problem worldwide. As banks and retailers work to upgrade their platforms, mobile payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Wallet may allow the U.S. to leapfrog to the forefront of payment security.

Though the two systems appear to be equally robust, the companies take different approaches that shape what their products can and can't do. For the consumer, the use of Touch ID versus personal identification (PIN) authentication is the most visible difference, but behind the scenes, there is a lot more happening. Most important is the fact that neither system reveals the user's card details to the vendor.

Google Security

With both systems, you provide your card details only once, during the initial setup. Google adopts an intermediary role and saves your card details on its servers. It then issues a virtual card to your device, the Google Pay virtual card.

When paying, the device only transmits the Google Pay virtual card's information. The vendor never sees your real card, which is protected by Google's secure servers.

When the seller charges the virtual card, Google, in turn, charges your stored debit or credit card and is the only entity that ever sees your real card through this transaction.

Apple Security

Apple employs a different system known as tokenization. Here, when your card details are provided to the device, it contacts the issuing bank directly and, upon confirmation, receives a device- and card-specific token called the Device Account Number (DAN), which is stored on a secure chip on the device. The DAN structurally resembles a credit card number and is passed on to the merchant when any payment is made before getting authorized by the bank.

Does Apple Pay Charge Fees?

No, Apple Pay doesn't charge consumers fees. Instead, it makes money directly from the bank that issued the card linked to the Apple Pay account.

Does Google Wallet Charge Fees?

No, Google Wallet doesn't charge consumers fees. Google makes money by charging vendors a percentage of each transaction, as well as through targeted ads.

Does Apple Pay Offer a Credit Line?

Apple Pay doesn't have its own credit line but pairs with the Apple Credit Card.

Does Google Pay Offer a Credit Line?

No, Google Pay doesn't offer a credit line in the U.S.

The Bottom Line

Apple Pay was once promoted as "Your wallet. Without the wallet," a description that, in truth, fits Google Wallet better. Google Pay, meanwhile, was promoted as "an easier way to pay," which in all fairness is what Apple ought to be saying. For the consumer, both systems offer convenience and a measure of security, so choosing between the two is mostly a matter of personal preference.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
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  10. Apple. "Apple Pay Security and Privacy Overview."

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