Google Wallet is now Google Pay Send. It’s the app and service from the search ad giant that lets you send money to acquaintances, just like Venmo. It joins plain-old Google Pay, the point-of-sale piece of the company’s rebranded online payment app and service strategy. Pay Send works on both Android and iOS, as well as from a web browser. It’s a good choice, because there’s no fees and money goes right into the recipient’s account. Unfortunately, Google Pay Send doesn’t let you use a credit card, and is limited compared with our Editors’ Choices, Venmo and Samsung Pay.
Google Pay Send is available for iOS 8.0 or later and Android 4.1 and later. On the iPhone X I tested it with, Google Pay Send was a 75MB download, and on a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the app was a mere 5.9MB. Neither is likely to overload your phone’s memory, but it seems likely that Google’s mobile operating system includes support that needs to be added on Apple devices. On first run, the app shows a brief animation explaining what you can do with it—send money to and receive money from friends.
Of course, you also need a Google account, and you need to link your account to your funds, either by entering your bank information or storing debit card data. If you’ve already set up Google Pay or Google Wallet, you don’t have to enter a card again. If not, it’s the usual drill of snapping a photo of the card and entering verification information. You can add multiple payment sources, but they can only be debit cards and bank accounts, not credit cards. Apple Pay, Venmo (Free at Apple.com) , and others let you use a credit card as well. Google Pay Send pulls directly from the sources you choose, and dumps funds directly into recipients’ bank accounts.
Google Pay Send has a $9,999 single-transaction limit, and you can’t send more than $50,000 per 5-day period. That eclipses what competitors, such as Square Cash and the Editors’ Choice award-winning Venmo allow in a week ($2,500 and $2,999, respectively).
Like Square Cash, Google Pay Send imposes no fees, because it only supports debit cards. Venmo charges a 2.9 percent fee when you use a credit card, though that’s due to the card issuer, not the payment app.
Facebook Messenger also boasts person-to-person mobile payments, but it has a few differentiators that separate it from Google Pay Send, most notably that it only works inside the messaging app. That’s an advantage, since it means you don’t have to install a separate app, and most of your contacts already have an account.
Mobile Payment Mambo
Google Pay Send is extremely easy to navigate. Performing transactions used to require digging through several layers of menus. Now, you can exchange money with friends right on the main screen through the Venmo-inspired interface, as long as you have your friend’s email address
On first use, the app requested that I allow it access to my contacts. I also had to verify my name, the last four digits of my SSN, and my DOB. You can also check a box stating you may use the service for receiving commercial payments. Corporations and nonprofits aren’t permitted.
Your money recipient doesn’t have to be in your contacts, however; you can simply enter an email address or mobile phone number. Before sending, the app pops up a warning to the effect that you should only pay people you know, to avoid scams. The sending page says “Processed by Google Payment Corp.” You can include a note about the payment, something most peer-to-peer payments offer, but there’s no Venmo-style social network, which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.
You can cancel a payment before it’s been accepted a plus it shares with Zelle. To claim the money, recipients have to set up their own Google Pay account. When a payment is claimed, the app offers to remind you if you want to make similar payments regularly. The recipient needn’t transfer the money to their bank account as is required by Venmo and other payment apps—it’s deposited within 24 hours. Unclaimed cash comes back to you after two weeks. Transactions are all recorded for future reference.
Google Pay Send lets you send cash via SMS messages similarly to the way you can in Venmo, Square Cash, and Facebook Messenger (though that’s through its own messages rather than SMS). If you send money through a text, the other party receives a secure link to the funds. They then tap the link, log into Google and enter their bank information. It’s simple and convenient, although we wouldn’t blame someone for not trusting a text essentially saying, “Click here to get money.”
When requesting funds, you can specify up to five debtors. The money is transferred in the same way, but a nice little touch is a Send reminder button, which sends a notification and email to the delinquent dirtbag.
The only payment frill offered by the app is the ability to split payments, but strangely, this option only showed up on my iPhone, not on the Android phone. I entered a money amount, and then was able to enter more than ten email addresses to share the cost.
Options in Settings include requiring a four-digit PIN for all payments and notifications about transactions, but that’s pretty standard fare.
When it comes using the service on the web, you can do everything you can do in the app on the service’s website, which is only called Google Pay, even though it’s limited to Google Pay Send functionality. In fact, the Settings on the web version all refer to Google Pay Send.
Similar to the way Apple Pay uses Siri to let you pay friends with your voice, you can (as of late March 2018) now use Google Assistant on certain Android phones and iPhones to pay with Google Pay Send. Note that the service doesn’t work with Siri herself, as Venmo and Square Cash do.
You can use the service from some pricey smartwatches from Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, and Movado, and some more affordable models from Huawei and LG. Your intrepid reviewer has not yet taken these out for a spin.
Security and Privacy
The trade-off of diving too deep into any digital ecosystem, especially one as data-hungry as Google’s, is figuring out how much privacy you’re willing to sacrifice for convenience. The stakes are that much higher when dealing with financial data. Fortunately, you can lock all your cards saved on Google Pay Send behind a PIN.
Google also secures the service with what it calls “multiple layers of security, using one of the world’s most advanced security infrastructures.” But the company isn’t forthcoming about details beyond that. But that’s not enough, according to a Google support webpage, “Google Pay Fraud Protection covers 100 percent of all verified unauthorized transactions.”
Finally let’s recount the app’s limitations: It only works in the US, unlike options such as Xoom and PayPal, which work in many countries and with many currencies. NFC payments, gift cards, and customer loyalty program management, aren’t part of its arsenal, but are now handled separately by the Android-only Google Pay. Google also abandoned the physical Google Wallet Card, so there’s no longer a piece of plastic tied to your account that can be used like a debit card. Among popular payment services we’ve tested, only Square Cash offers a physical payment card now.
Back to Basics
After complaining about the last Google Wallet feeling too stuffed, dinging it for removing features might sound hypocritical. However, the problem was never that the app did too much, rather that it just dumped all that functionality on the user in a confusing way. The straightforward interface of the new Google Pay Send is an improvement. Though the nomenclature might be confusing, perhaps splitting Google’s mobile-payment platform into two perfectly good apps with clear purposes—Google Pay Send for paying friends and Google Pay for paying businesses—is a smart move. But that choice also means that each app, individually, is now less capable. Venmo, is our current Editors’ Choice for person-to-person payments, and Samsung Pay is our in-store payment app pick.