Google is notorious for confusingly named products, and that might be most apparent with Google Wallet and Google Pay. These two apps have taken a convoluted path to get where they are today. So which one should you be using?
Both Google Wallet and Google Pay have seen some pretty drastic revamps over the years. Their purposes have changed a lot and confused many people in the process. Let’s take a look at what each one has to offer.
A Complicated History
You may be surprised to learn that the original version of Google Wallet was introduced way back in 2011. The service was primarily for sending money to people and there was a physical Google Wallet credit card as well.
The Google Wallet card allowed people to pay for things in physical and online stores with the funds in their account. This was before mobile payments with tap-to-pay were widely supported. The Wallet card was a very clever solution.
Eventually, tap-to-pay gained enough traction that Google launched Android Pay in 2015. It maintained Google Wallet and Android Pay separately until 2018, when the two were combined into a single service called “Google Pay.” The Wallet card was discontinued in 2016.
Then, in 2020, Google Pay got a massive overhaul with a bunch of new features. All of Google’s mobile payment services were under one umbrella… for a while. In Summer 2022, the service was split in two, with the Google Wallet branding making a return.
That’s where things stand as of September 2022. Google Pay and Google Wallet exist as two separate products—sometimes. More on that later.
What Is Google Wallet?
Google Wallet can most easily be summed up by its name—it’s a digital wallet. You can add credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards, transportation passes, event tickets, vaccine cards, and gift cards.
Basically, Google Wallet is for paying for things online and in physical stores with tap-to-pay. It features a very simple interface that shows your cards, tickets, and passes. Google Wallet is only available for Android since the iPhone doesn’t allow non-Apple apps for tap-to-pay.
Google Wallet can generally be used with any card reader that has an Apple Wallet, Google Pay, or the contactless tap-to-pay icon. For online purchases, look for the Google Pay or Google Wallet buttons at checkout. It will take some time for the Wallet branding to replace Google Pay.
What Is Google Pay?
Google Pay received a massive overhaul in 2020, and it’s pretty much the same experience now. The tap-to-pay functionality is still present in Google Pay, but that’s not the only thing it can do.
The Google Pay app has peer-to-peer payments, shopping deals, cashback offers, and a full-blown banking experience with personal finance insights. You can think of Pay as a combination of services similar to Venmo, PayPal, RetailMeNot, and Mint.
Unlike Google Wallet, Google Pay is available on both Android and iPhone. The tap-to-pay functionality doesn’t work on the iPhone, but the other features do. It’s a feature-packed app that tries to do a lot of things. In fact, it might be too much for some people, which is why Google Wallet exists.
Which App Should You Use?
Depending on where you live, you may not even need to decide which app to use. Google Pay and Google Wallet only exist side-by-side in the U.S. and Singapore. In every other country, Google Wallet entirely replaced Google Pay, and India doesn’t have Wallet at all (as of September 2022).
Google Pay can do everything Google Wallet can do, but Google Wallet can’t do everything Google Pay can do. If you’re in a country that has both, you can choose between the full experience (Pay) or just mobile payments (Wallet). There’s no reason to have both.
Use Google Pay if you want peer-to-peer payments, deals and rewards, or personal finance tools. If you only care about mobile payments, Google Wallet is a much more streamlined experience for that. The choice is even simpler for iPhone users—Google Pay is the only option.
In closing, Google Wallet is for mobile payments, Google Pay is for mobile payments and more. It’s not as complicated as you might think, but Google certainly isn’t helping its case.