How to pay with your phone? A comprehensive guide

Adam Rozsa
25.10.21
5 minute read

Using your phone as a credit card might sound like something from the not-too-distant future - but contactless payments from your credit or debit cards are already possible with nothing more than your smartphone and your preferred mobile wallet app.

Once you’re set up to use your mobile device as a payment method, all you’ll need to do is unlock your phone, and hold it near the merchant’s payment terminal or card reader. Verify the payment, and you’re done. Sound good? If you always leave home holding your phone, but don't love carrying your wallet, this guide to paying with a credit or debit card and your mobile device is for you.

We’ll also touch on how you can use a Wise debit card to make easy international mobile payments from your iPhone or Android device. Pay globally - and for less - with just your mobile phone.

Get a Wise debit card

📝 Table of contents

What do you need to pay with your phone?

Let’s start with a few payment by phone basics. To make mobile payments on the go with your smartphone you’ll need a couple of things:

  • A compatible mobile device which usually needs Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled
  • A credit or debit card which is supported for mobile payments
  • Your preferred mobile wallet based on your preference and phone type

Popular mobile wallet apps include:

We’ll cover these mobile wallets, including how to pay with your phone with each of them, in just a moment.

First - let us introduce the Wise debit card which you can use with both Apple and Android devices to make mobile payments in over 200 countries, without excessive bank exchange rate fees.

If you need to spend while you travel or shop internationally online, you could be better off with a Wise account and card. You can hold and manage dozens of currencies within your account - all from your smartphone - and make physical and mobile payments with your linked card.

All currency conversion uses the real mid-market exchange rate - and just a low, transparent fee. Wise’s smart technology means you’ll always pay in the local currency and if you don’t have it in your account, the card will automatically convert to it from the balance that’s cheapest for you. No hassle, and no scary costs.

Get a free Wise account

payment by phone

Apple Pay

Now, we’ll look at how iPhone users can choose Apple Pay to allow mobile payments¹. Apple Pay is free to use on the iPhone, and also available on the Apple Watch and some other compatible devices.

  • Open the Wallet app on your iPhone
  • Tap the + button to add your preferred supported debit or credit card
  • Select Continue, and then enter the card details following the prompts
  • Follow the steps to verify your card with your bank or card issuer

Once you’ve added a card to Apple Pay, you’ll just need to wake up your device using Face ID, a password or fingerprint, and then tap to pay. You can add multiple cards and switch between them to maximize credit card rewards with different retailers, or to get the best available exchange rate using the Wise debit card.

💡 Get a full rundown of supported bank debit and credit cards from different regions and countries around the world on the Apple website², then learn more about how to use Apple Pay here.

Google Pay

Google Pay is a good choice for Android phone users. You can actually use some aspects of Google Pay on an iPhone too, but the functionality isn’t necessarily the same as for Android users, so you’ll want to check out the details before you sign up. Here’s how to use Google Pay on an Android device³:

  • Download the Google Pay app
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to add your chosen compatible bank card
  • Set a screen lock when prompted, to increase security
  • Make Google Pay your default mobile wallet if you would like to use this service every time you make a mobile payment

Check out where you can use Google Pay - and which payment services are available - by region on the Google website⁴.

💡 Want to learn more about how Google Pay works? Find a full guide to using Google Pay here.

payment by phone

Samsung Pay

Finally, Samsung Pay is an option which might suit Samsung phone and smartwatch users. Here’s how to set up Samsung Pay on your phone⁵:

  • Open the Samsung Pay app which is preloaded on compatible phones
  • Enter a security PIN following the prompts
  • Add the compatible card or cards you want to use for mobile payments
💡 Want to learn more about Samsung Pay? Get this guide. Or - if you’re not sure about the differences between Samsung Pay and Google Pay, check out this Samsung Pay vs Google Pay review instead.

payment by phone

How can I pay by phone?

Paying merchants with just your phone is easy once you get set up. In most cases you’ll use a payment terminal or card reader just as you might for a physical or contactless card payment. But instead of tapping or handing over your card you’ll just hold your phone near the payment terminal to complete the transaction. Wait a moment for the payment to show as approved, and you’re done.

Before you can use your mobile payment app you’ll always need to verify your identity using a fingerprint, password, PIN or Face ID. This takes just a split second, but ensures your money is safe.

Is it safe to pay with your phone?

Mobile payments are safe. In fact, in many ways they’re safer than using a physical card as your phone can’t be skimmed or cloned.

When you make a contactless payment with your phone, your chosen mobile wallet communicates with the payment terminal to transmit a secure token which contains the required details for your card issuer to pay. Your full card details aren’t shared with the merchant. All this happens using NFC technology, similar to contactless card payments - it’s just that in this case, the details needed are stored in your phone instead of in a physical plastic card.

It’s still smart to take common sense measures to protect your money, though. Make sure your chosen password or PIN is kept safely, and look into how to secure your mobile wallet in the event your phone is lost or stolen. This can be done remotely to block or wipe the information stored as required.

payment by phone

Get a Wise debit card - and pay with your phone all over the world

Open a free Wise account and order your Wise debit card to make cheap international payments on the go, with your iPhone or Android device.

Use your Wise account to hold 50+ currencies and make international transfers 6x cheaper than using your normal bank. And when you travel or shop online with international retailers, use your card in 200 countries to spend like a local and withdraw from anywhere.

Wise uses smart technology to make sure you pay in the local currency wherever you are - and if you don’t hold the right currency in your account already, your card will automatically convert to it from the balance that’s cheapest for you.

Send and receive international payments. Hold and convert dozens of currencies. And spend like a local all around the world, with Wise.

Get a Wise debit card

Payment by phone: bottom line

Carrying a smartphone - or using other smart devices like watches - is something most of us do. Chances are that it’s already hard to remember what life was like before having instant access to messages, maps, and entertainment. And once you start to pay using your phone too, you’ll forget it was ever necessary to carry your wallet or rifle through payment cards in a store or restaurant.

And mobile payments aren’t only convenient. Use them as a way to make sure you pay with the best card for every purchase, and you can also save money, or earn rewards. Add your cashback credit card, and choose it when you’re making a big ticket purchase. Switch to your rewards card when you’re buying from a partner retailer. And use the Wise debit card when you spend in a foreign currency to get a better exchange rate, and cut foreign transaction fees.

Paying with your phone is simple to set up - you’ll only need a compatible phone and bank card, and your preferred mobile wallet. It’s as secure - or even more so - than using your card to make payments. And it means you can leave home with pretty much nothing apart from your phone, your keys and a smile. What’s not to love?


1]Apple support - How to add a payment card
2]Apple support - Supported countries
3]Google Pay help - Set up Google Pay
4]Google Pay help - Supported countries
5]Samsung Pay - Set up Samsung Pay

All sources checked on 25 October 2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Wise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location