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The Top Five Mobile Payment Apps

Apple-Pay

Apple Pay

Best mobile payment app

5.0 5.0 Stars
  • Widely accepted
  • Apple products take top market share
  • Extremely secure
Despite Apple Pay only being available on Apple devices, it’s one of the most secure, easiest to use, and widely-accepted mobile payment apps around. It’s free to use to make payments in person or online — and you can send cash to people you know.

  • Starting price: Free for users, standard payment processing rates for merchants

  • Security: Uses tokenization

  • Transaction limit: $10,000 per transaction

  • Device compatibility: iOS, watchOS, Mac OS (operating system), iPadOS, Safari

  • Market share: 85%+ retailers accept Apple Pay; <55% of smartphones are iPhones (in the U.S.)


Apple Pay lets you store credit and debit cards, gift cards, and even cash in the app. Source: Apple Pay 

Apple Pay is one of the best-known ways to make mobile payments. According to Apple, more than 85% of retailers in the U.S. accept Apple Pay, which makes it practically ubiquitous. It also offers one of the most secure ways to pay for goods in person, surpassing that of debit and credit cards.

The best payment processors should offer an NFC card reader to enable you to accept it. I use Apple Pay for purchases in places notorious for card skimming. Unbeknownst to merchants, many people fall victim to card skimmers installed at gas stations, ATMs, and restaurants.

One of the reasons Apple Pay has such strong security is that Apple encrypts your credit card data on its servers and then encrypts it with unique tokens each time you use it. You have to authenticate each transaction using your fingerprint, face recognition, or your six-digit PIN for your phone. Apple Pay’s strongest selling points are its security and the fact that it’s widely accepted.

Apple Pay doesn’t cost extra for merchants or users. Rather, Apple Pay charges banks directly. The cost may be felt by merchants, but it’s miniscule.

Other benefits of Apple Pay: As a merchant, you can accept it online, and as a user, you can use it from your Mac or iPad via the Safari browser. Plus, you can use it to send money to friends or family (U.S. only).

The only downside to Apple Pay is that it’s only available on Apple products, which alienates a whole user base that prefers Android OS or Samsung.

Who is Apple Pay best for?

The obvious answer to who Apple Pay is best for is Apple product users, but beyond that, I suggest all merchants get a card reader that accepts Apple Pay. I find it’s the most secure method of payment — especially in person.

If you accept Apple Pay on your website, customers can pay online with Apple Pay if they use the Safari browser or via their own app.

Recent upgrades to Apple Pay

I’d heard rumors about this recent upgrade to Apple Pay, and I think it could threaten all other mobile payment providers if they don’t also do this. You can turn your iPhone into a card reader using Adyen, Square, or Stripe as your payment processor. Literally, a customer can just tap their phone or watch to your iPhone to pay.

Another big trend in the payments world is buy now, pay later, and Apple is getting on board with Apple Pay Later. As a merchant, you don’t have to do anything, and as a customer, you can choose this mobile payment method to split a big purchase into four smaller payments and pay zero interest.

Apple Pay pricing

In addition to working on iPhones, iPads, and online, Apple Pay works on Apple Watch, too.

Whether you’re a retailer or a user, Apple Pay won’t cost you anything extra to accept it or use it. So, how does Apple make its money through Apple Pay? If you’re transferring Apple Cash to a bank account, you can do so with no fees, but you have to wait a couple days for the transfer to complete, or you can pay 1.5% (to a max of $15) to get an instant transfer.

Apple also makes money by charging the bank that issued the card 0.15% fee.

Pros and cons of Apple Pay

Pros

  • Widely accepted
  • Apple products take top market share
  • Extremely secure

Cons

  • Only works on Apple products
  • Instant transfer costs up to $15

    Summary

    Apple-Pay

    Apple Pay

    Best mobile payment app

    • Starting price
      • Free for users
      • standard payment processing rates for merchants
    • Security
      Uses tokenization
    • Transaction limit
      $10,000 per transaction
    Features
    • Widely accepted
    • Apple products take top market share
    • Extremely secure
    Google Pay Logo

    Google Pay

    Best for most devices

    4.5 4.5 Stars
    • Works on Android and iOS
    • Pay peers or merchants in person and online
    • Works across multiple devices
    Unlike many other mobile payment apps, Google Pay works on most devices because it’s tied to your Google account. This makes it easy for you (if you use Google, anyway) to make payments online or in person. And Google Pay is easy for you to accept whether you run an online store or a brick-and-mortar shop.

    • Starting price: Free for users, standard payment processing rates for merchants

    • Security: Uses tokenization

    • Transaction limit: $5,000 per transaction

    • Device compatibility: iOS, Android

    • Market share: 25 million users (2021, U.S.), or 21% of market


    Google Pay works on almost any device, and you can use the mobile wallet for tap-to-pay at many retailers with NFC card readers.

    Google Pay combined Android Pay and Google Wallet to create Google Pay to compete with other mobile payment apps. It chose a more homogenized path for users by creating an app for iOS and Android, so you can use it on almost any device.

    If you want to accept Google Pay at your store, you need to have two things: a contactless card reader and a UPI ID (unified payments interface identity). To accept Google Pay online, you need to use the Google API (application programming interface) and a payment processor that supports it — many of the best do.

    The benefit of accepting Google Pay is that you provide a secure way for your customers to make payments.

    Also, Google Pay is super organized; I like that I can see how much I’m spending through Google Pay and see how much I spend at each merchant.Its strongest selling points are security and compatibility — it uses tokenization like other mobile payment apps, and you can use it on almost any device.

    One of the things I like best about Google Pay is that it combines so many mobile payment methods. I can use it to purchase items in-store, online, or use it to send money to friends. The peer-to-peer method does cost you, though (see pricing below).

    Google Pay is a bit limiting in a few ways. I couldn’t use it on my Apple Watch. And the transaction limits are a bit confusing, but more on that under pricing.

    Who is Google Pay best for?

    I personally use Google Pay specifically for Google purchases — it’s just easier to set up subscriptions that way. Otherwise I stick to Apple Pay because it makes more sense for my iPhone and Apple Watch.

    With that said, I think Google Pay is a great choice for you to have as a merchant just to give customers more options. And as a user, I think it makes sense for you to use it if you aren’t already using another mobile payment app.

    I would say Google Pay isn’t the pick for debit card transfers; although the 1.5% fee (minimum of $0.31) is low, you can use another peer-to-peer app for paying friends and family with no fee. Also, you both have to be using Google Pay for it to work.

    You can easily see retailers, restaurants, and people you’ve paid using Google Pay.

    Recent upgrades to Google Pay

    Google has brought back Google Wallet. It’s only available for Android devices, but it works similarly to Apple Wallet. You can store boarding passes, event tickets, and credit and debit cards in your Google Wallet.

    Google Paypricing

    Make checkout quick and give your customers more choice by adding Google Pay to your online checkouts.

    You won’t be charged anything to use Google Pay, whether you’re a merchant or a user. However, there is a small 1.5% fee for debit card transfers from your Google Pay balance (minimum of $0.31).

    Pros and cons of Google Pay

    Pros

    • Works on Android and iOS
    • Pay peers or merchants in person and online
    • Works across multiple devices

    Cons

    • Users must pay a 1.5% fee on debit transfers from Google Pay balance
    • Confusing transaction limits

      Summary

      Google Pay Logo

      Google Pay

      Best for most devices

      • Starting price
        • Free for users
        • standard payment processing rates for merchants
      • Security
        Uses tokenization
      • Transaction limit
        $5,000 per transaction
      Features
      • Works on Android and iOS
      • Pay peers or merchants in person and online
      • Works across multiple devices
      Zelle

      Zelle

      Best for paying friends and services

      4.3 4.3 Stars
      • Fast money transfers
      • Send money to friends or businesses using bank account
      • Free to use
      Zelle is a mobile payment app that works by connecting directly to your bank account. You can use Zelle to pay bills, friends, or even service workers — and the beauty is that you don’t have to use the same bank for it to work.

      • Starting price: Free for users

      • Security: Uses authentication

      • Transaction limit: Varies

      • Device compatibility: iOS, Android, banking apps

      • Market share: 15.1 million users (2021, U.S.)


      Zelle makes it easy to send or receive money — it’s available in most banking and credit union apps.

      Zelle has quite a bit of competition in the P2P (peer-to-peer) payment market, and it somewhat competes with the business side of mobile payment apps. It’s managing to do well despite its smaller user base because it positioned itself inside banking apps across the U.S., making it an easy choice for sending money to friends or even service-based businesses.

      Open your banking app and you’re likely to see Zelle in there. It’s in my banking apps and I use it. If I just want to transfer money from one bank to another, I just use the regular transfer option, but if I want to send money to a friend or my landscaper, I use Zelle.

      Zelle has made it ridiculously easy for you to send or receive money. All you have to do is connect your banking account by verifying your identity using a phone number or an email address, which should also be associated with your bank.

      In fact, its strongest selling point might be that you don’t even have to have Zelle in your banking app to receive money. Just download the Zelle app and register to get your cash deposited to your account.

      I’m a big fan of Zelle because transfers are instant and there are no fees. With that said, Zelle doesn’t offer purchase protection, so I have to be 100% certain I can trust those I send money to.

      Who is Zelle best for?

      My testing and research showed that businesses may have a harder time using Zelle. As long as you’re using a bank that supports Zelle it’s possible, but it’s better if you’re running a service-based business that tends to send invoices to customers. For example, I use it to pay my landscaper. I think it’s also best for you if you’re just sending money to someone you know; all you need is their phone number or email address to send.

      You don’t even need to be a Zelle user to receive money; all a sender needs is your phone number or email address to send you money.

      Recent upgrades to Zelle

      There are no published roadmaps for Zelle. The most recent upgrade to Zelle is how many financial institutions signed up to include Zelle in their apps (more than 1,100 at publication time).

      Zellepricing

      It’s easy to request money from others and split the cost for something using Zelle.

      Zelle doesn’t charge a fee for sending or receiving money. Small businesses can even accept payments via Zelle and there’s zero fee (at least by Zelle). Some banks may charge you a fee as a business, but it’s likely on par with low transaction fees.

      Pros and cons of Zelle

      Pros

      • Fast money transfers
      • Send money to friends or businesses using bank account
      • Free to use

      Cons

      • No purchase protection for users
      • Only bank transfers allowed

        Summary

        Zelle

        Zelle

        Best for paying friends and services

        • Starting price
          • Free for users
        • Security
          Uses authentication
        • Transaction limit
          Varies
        Features
        • Fast money transfers
        • Send money to friends or businesses using bank account
        • Free to use
        PayPal

        PayPal

        Best for online and mobile payments

        4.2 4.2 Stars
        • Popular online payment option
        • Works on most devices
        • Includes purchase protection
        PayPal is one of the best-known online and mobile payment apps in the world, which is why it’s captured more than 40% of the online payment market share. It’s easy to use and there are no fees to send or receive money to others. Small businesses are smart to include PayPal as a payment option — especially online.

        • Starting price: Free for purchases, varied rates for other purposes

        • Security: Uses encryption and monitoring

        • Transaction limit: $4,000 to $60,000 per transaction

        • Device compatibility: iOS, Android, browsers

        • Market share: 42% of global online payments


        It’s easy to check out online via PayPal; you just need to click a button and log into your PayPal to pay.

        PayPal is practically synonymous with online shopping. More than 425 million people use the online and mobile payment app, which is one of the largest user bases. It helps that PayPal is free to use, can be used via an app for iOS or Android, or can use it on a browser.

        If you run an online store and you aren’t offering PayPal as a checkout option, you could be losing out on big revenue. According to a study by Forrester Consulting (paid for by PayPal), 35% of mobile users abandoned a purchase because their preferred method of payment wasn’t available.

        I use PayPal regularly because I’ve found it’s easier to keep all my online purchases in one place in case I need to return anything; I’ve never had an issue with refunds. It’s fair to say PayPal’s biggest benefit is that it’s easy to make payments online, and it’s also easy to add a PayPal button to your online store.

        I will say that I like the idea of being able to pay for purchases in person with PayPal. It isn’t nearly as straightforward as the tap-to-pay method most mobile payment apps use, but it’s still doable. PayPal has its own POS (point of sale) system, or you can set up a QR (quick response) code to let customers pay for items with their mobile devices.

        Who is PayPal best for?

        I feel like everyone is already using PayPal, and it’s right for everyone. Mostly, I’d say it’s a great pick for online sellers, though it’s also workable for in-store payments. It’s easy to use a QR code to pay, but if you haven’t used QR codes before then you might need a little instruction. Just use your mobile phone’s camera to scan the QR code.

        You can easily send money to someone you know on PayPal. It’s equally easy to send money to small businesses or freelancers using a phone number or email address.

        Recent upgrades to PayPal

        It’s safe to say PayPal is mostly an online payment solution, but it seems to always be branching out in other ways. It’s a financial institution in its own right, with options for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, as a bank, and now you can even set up a savings account with PayPal.

        In fact, you can earn 3.25% APY (average percentage yield), which is massive. Compare it to Bank of America’s, which is only 0.01% for standard savings accounts.

        PayPal pricing

        PayPal is now offering a savings account if you want to keep your PayPal balance rather than transfer it to your bank account.

        It costs nothing for you to send or receive money to family and friends. If you’re a business owner, though, you’re going to pay a myriad of fees depending on how you receive money for goods or services. I can’t show you all the rates (you can see PayPal’s merchant fees here), but the range is 1.5% to 8% (average rates are 2.99%).

        It’s also worth noting that instant transfers from your PayPal balance to your bank account will incur a 1.75% fee. And as a business owner, you’re looking at some high chargeback fees ($20) and dispute fees ($15 to $30).

        Pros and cons of PayPal

        Pros

        • Popular online payment option
        • Works on most devices
        • Includes purchase protection

        Cons

        • Lots of varied merchant fees
        • 1.75% fee for instant transfers
        • High transaction fees for businesses

          Summary

          PayPal

          PayPal

          Best for online and mobile payments

          • Starting price
            • Free for purchases
            • varied rates for other purposes
          • Security
            Uses encryption and monitoring
          • Transaction limit
            $4,000 to $60,000 per transaction
          Features
          • Popular online payment option
          • Works on most devices
          • Includes purchase protection
          Samsung Pay Logo

          Samsung Pay

          Best for rewards

          4.0 4.0 Stars
          • Works with most card readers
          • Offers a rewards program to customers
          • Secure payments
          Samsung may be best known for electronics, which could be why it offers one of the most unique value propositions in the mobile payment app space: It works on older card readers. It also offers a points reward system for using its app.

          • Starting price: Free for users, standard payment processing rates for merchants

          • Security: Uses tokenization

          • Transaction limit: N/A

          • Device compatibility: Galaxy devices, GearOS

          • Market share: 16.3 million users, or <20% smartphone global share


          You can store up to 10 payment cards in your Samsung Pay wallet.

          Samsung Pay has stepped up the mobile payment app game with many features not found in its competitors’ apps. You can use it to pay for goods and services almost anywhere credit cards are accepted, earn rewards, and breathe easy knowing it’s secure.

          As a merchant, you don’t have to worry too much about how to accept Samsung Pay. Even if you have an older card reader, it should still accept Samsung Pay payments, though this is being phased out for newer Galaxy models.

          Honestly, that is one of Samsung Pay’s biggest selling points.

          I have to say I was surprised to see a rewards program from Samsung Pay. Typically you expect rewards programs from credit cards, not a payment app, so it’s a nice bonus that you can get cash back. Also, you shouldn’t see any added fees for accepting or using Samsung Pay.

          Who is Samsung Pay best for?

          In my research and testing of Samsung Pay, I found that it’s easy for merchants to accept. You don’t even have to do anything to ensure you can accept it, but maybe check with your payment processor to make sure it isn’t a problem.

          Also, it should go without saying that you’ll only use Samsung Pay if you have a Galaxy phone.

          Is it worth it to switch your phone to use Samsung Pay? I’m going to say no for now. It has some nice features, but you can’t use it to pay for gas at the pump, and it doesn’t have a browser-based app for paying online.

          If you use Samsung Pay to buy stuff at certain retailers, you can earn points for rewards and cash back.

          Recent upgrades to Samsung Pay

          Samsung Pay is a bit quiet about how it improves its app, so there isn’t much to say about recent upgrades. There does seem to be a plan in the works to make Samsung Pay available in more markets.

          As of now, Samsung Pay works in most retail shops around the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy.

          Samsung Pay pricing

          Samsung has figured out how to send a magnetic signal from your app to a swipe card reader.

          There are no fees to use Samsung Pay. In fact, Samsung offers you its 30% off employee discount on Samsung products.

          Pros and cons of Samsung Pay

          Pros

          • Works with most card readers
          • Offers a rewards program to customers
          • Secure payments

          Cons

          • Only works on Galaxy phones
          • No peer-to-peer payments

            Summary

            Samsung Pay Logo

            Samsung Pay

            Best for rewards

            • Starting price
              • Free for users
              • standard payment processing rates for merchants
            • Security
              Uses tokenization
            • Transaction limit
              N/A
            Features
            • Works with most card readers
            • Offers a rewards program to customers
            • Secure payments

            How We Tested Mobile Payment Services

            It’s easy for me to test mobile payment services because I use so many of them, including a few not even on this list. For the ones I wasn’t familiar with, I downloaded the app and tested as a consumer. This is mostly to get a feel for the app and how easy it is to pay for goods or services with it. 

            I also looked at how each mobile payment service allows business owners to accept payments. The easiest way to get you to adopt these payment options is to incorporate it into what you’re already using, like a contactless card reader.

            While it’s important for you to offer many payment options to your customers, you have to consider the cost of doing business. I know you have to pay transaction fees anyway, but if you have to pay more on top of that, is it worth it? And if you pass along those fees to the customer, well that’s not always legal (see the credit card surcharge controversy).

            Transaction limits are also important to you as an individual and as a business owner. If you’re too limited by lower transaction limits, you may not be able to reasonably do some business with one app. 

            At the end of all my testing and researching, I found there’s a good reason to use any one of the mobile payment apps on this list. They’re all excellent ways to accept money for business or to split the bill on a pizza in their own right.