Years ago, the only way to pay for something was with cash, or perhaps a cheque when the amount was going to be more than you’d be comfortable carrying around on you. Then came the credit and debit cards; convenience at it’s best when it came to buying things with money you have in your account (debit) or not (credit), followed by technology enabling users to make contactless payments, with this set only to increase.

But what about mobile payments? That is, payments you make using your phone with some additional technology in the form of an app. Usually they use NFC (Near-Field Communication) and contactless card machines to record the transactions and allow you to pay for things on the fly.

Worldpay recorded a 328% year-on-year rise in mobile payments, with 126 million UK mobile payments last year, totalling a spend of £975 million. Worldpay predict exponential growth again for the next 12 months. 

Chances are you’re already using mobile payments – or could if you chose to for even easier payments - so what’s out there at the moment and how do they compare?

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is one of the most popular mobile payment systems at the moment – after the (unsuccessful) launch of main competitor Google Wallet came before it, Apple took the time to work on getting it right.

It’s easy enough to set up, using your Apple ID and TouchID which, chances are, you’ve already got to allow the app to input your card details – either by scanning or manually entering them. After verification, your card is stored in the Apple Wallet app ready for use. All you have to do then, is hold your phone to the contactless payment machine and away you go.

There’s a bit of a pro vs. con in the form of security vs. convenience issue – you have to verify you are the owner of the details in the Wallet, which means entering your PIN or using the TouchID pad - but this is probably worth the few seconds extra it takes as it makes it harder for someone to use your credentials.   

Android Pay

Android Pay is very similar to Apple Pay  - but for users of Android devices, obviously. It works pretty much in the same way, though you currently can’t use it online. This means you can’t benefit from the added security sometimes offered by retail sites using Apple Pay.

Once set up, if you’re signed into Chrome with your Google account, you’ll find your Android Pay cards are automatically saved; this helps with the cumbersome task of having to type your card details whenever you want to buy something (you verify with the CVV number) but it may be that you don’t want to give your card details to any  old site, you’re going to have to use PayPal.

Security with Android Pay hinges on the security of your phone – if your phone is unlocked, your card details are accessible. Quick and more convenient, sure, but not as secure, especially if you don’t use a lock code!  

Vodafone Pay

A relative newcomer to the mobile payments arena, Vodafone Pay actually offers a little extra to the services from Apple and Android Pay.

The main draw, is the SIM card in the phone is capable of contactless payments, so your phone doesn’t have to be switched on to be able to buy things. The usual limit of £30 still applies, as for all good contactless cards, but it doesn’t need power to work. You could have your phone off, NFC disabled, or completely run out of battery and still be able to make a payment at a contactless card machine point.

As well as this, Vodafone is currently the only mobile payment system that allows payments over £30 (when the phone is switched on) as you need only verify your identity with a PIN; Vodafone doesn’t specify a limit on the amount you can spend.

Limitations are the fact that Vodafone Pay can only be used on Android, you need a Visa, Mastercard or Paypal account and you’ll need a contactless Vodafone SIM card in your phone, which could restrict many potential users. But if you’re already an Android-using Vodafone customer, this could be a good option.

Barclays bPay

A mobile payment that’s available on Android and iOS – at last!  Barclays customers have had this option for a few years now, it’s a slightly different take on the technology in that it doesn’t function like other mobile payment services.

bPay connects your card to its own digital wallet  - which you need to keep topped up – and uses a contactless chip inside something else. That could be a keychain, wristband or watchstrap for example.  You can keep your phone tucked away and pay with the chip, from funds you’ve got loaded to the digital wallet.

It can be useful for curbing spending, as it relies on the Wallet being topped up and could come in handy if you don’t want to carry your phone with you in certain situations.

However, you have to buy one of the contactless gadgets to go with it though, which isn’t as expensive as buying a new smartphone, is still an additional cost. And you cant use it for buying online, so while it has a number of benefits, the fact it works so differently to other mobile payment methods could make it less attractive. 

Tesco PayQwiq

Another take on the competition, the PayQwiq is unique in that it doesn’t use NFC to interface with a card machine.  Instead, you pay by scanning an on-screen barcode at a register in Tesco.

Yes, this means that you’re limited to only spending at Tesco. But it links with your Clubcard and will automatically update your Clubcard points each time you use it. The fact it doesn’t rely on contactless payment systems means you can have a spending limit of £250 though.

Available to both iOS and Android users, there’s added security with a four digit security code – you can’t use a fingerprint or pattern scanner – if you only want to buy things at Tesco without using your debit card, it could be a good choice.

Samsung Pay

Only just available in the UK, Samsung Pay has a lot going for it. As you might expect, it can only be used with select Samsung Galaxy phones, it works almost anywhere you can use a contactless card as well as within participating apps, where you see a Samasung Pay button at checkout online.

Like many of the other systems, it work using NFC to make contactless mobile payment and it’s compatible with loyalty cards for selected merchants in the UK to accumulate and redeem points, and once set up, is able to be used on TfL services by touching the middle of the phone against the card reader. 

Useful for making purchases in the depths of shopping centres where internet connection is flaky, you don’t need to be connected to make a payment – though you do need to connect to the internet to activate the app or add a new card.

Security is high with Samsung Pay, using dynamic digital tokens to transmit details rather than your card number, no personal or payment information is stored on a Samsung server or your phone and it doesn’t have access to your bank accounts. You have to use your fingerprint or a four digit PIN to authorise in-store purchases, and the Galaxy S8 and S8+ enables you to use iris scanning technology to keep transactions secure.


While everyone knows about PayPal for shopping online and within wallets for other mobile payment services, as well as transferring money to other PayPal users, US users can pay via PayPal OneTouch on their phones out shopping in the real world. This should be available in the UK soon (so the rumours say) … we’ll keep you updated.


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