Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Android Pay finally arrives in the UK

Android Pay has finally arrived in the UK but while some Android phone users may be excited, there are some drawbacks.

After announcing plans for Android Pay's first international expansion in March, Google's contactless payment service is now available in the United Kingdom. Google's rival to Apple Pay works with all NFC-enabled Android devices running KitKat 4.4 and above and was launched in the US last year.

Earlier this month, many stores in the UK began receiving promotional material advertising that Android Pay now works. After downloading the app from the Play Store, users have to enter a compatible credit card or verify one already associated with their Google Wallet account.

Participating banks

In addition to MasterCard and VISA, customers of the Bank of Scotland, First Direct, HSBC, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society will all be able to sign-up to use Android Pay.

After downloading the app adding cards is relatively seamless. However, users will need to verify their card with their bank either by telephone in the case of some cards or by entering a verification code sent via SMS.

Loyalty card integration

Unlike Apple Pay, Android Pay users can also add loyalty cards which could prove to be a distinct advantage as users can slim down their wallets but still get their points every time they shop. To add a loyalty card users simply search the particular scheme, select it and then scan the barcode  on the card - or add it manually should no barcode exist

Not every loyalty scheme is available however, the Harrods Rewards scheme being just one exception.

Tap and pay

Having added payment and loyalty cards Android Pay users can then go and buy things simply by placing their device on a Tap & Pay terminal at merchants. There's also no needy need to unlock their device for payments under £30. The payment then is deducted and points should automatically added to one's loyalty scheme.


There are a few drawbacks however. The biggest issue is one of acceptance. Not everywhere accepts contactless payments and it may be unclear to consumers if Android Pay is accepted even if other forms of contactless payments are accepted. There are some strange anomalies too. While one can add a Nectar card to the list of loyalty cards, Sainsbury's, which is one of the main partners does not as yet accept contactless payments. This is despite promises the supermarket chain would bring in contactless by the end of 2015 [Guardian].

Contactless is now used in one in seven sales in the UK, although payments are limited to £30 if using a physical card. The maximum amount is set at £100.


Security is at the centre of Android Pay so given you don't lose your phone users should be safe. With industry standard tokenisation, Android Pay doesn't send merchants your real card number when you purchase. Android Pay also makes it convenient to keep track of payments and to lock your device if it becomes lost or stolen. Though while you may be able to lock or wipe an Android device remotely from using Google's own Android Locate app and web interface as well as third party apps such as those made by Norton or Cerberus, it is probably prudent to contact the card issuers should your phone be lost.

No Amex, Barclay, Natwest et al

The other drawback for some consumers is not being able to add all payment card types. While major two payment services Visa and Mastercard may be used with Android Pay, American Express users are left out in the cold.

While American Express is not accepted everywhere this should not be reason enough that it not be an option. Many places that already accept contactless also accept American Express. Indeed all the major supermarkets, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Tesco and Morrisons accept the card and many other High Street outlets welcome the card amongst them most McDonalds, Pizza Express, Costa coffee, Boots the chemist, and Primark.

This is perhaps of particular annoyance to those that collects points with their American Express card or like to keep all their payments on one card.

But it's not just American Express users that have been excluded. Santander, Natwest, Barclays, Barclaycard, Tesco Bank, TSB and boon. by Wirecard are also absent [BBC / GuardianTelegraph / Trusted Reviews / Tech Week Europe]

It is unclear why some banks have not partnered with Android Pay. Android Pay could potentially be more successful than Apple Pay given the number of people using Android devices. However, Apple is supported by most of the major banks in the UK the full list being American Express, the Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Barclaycard, boon. by Wirecard, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, M&S Bank (credit only), MBNA, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Tesco Bank (credit only), TSB and Ulster Bank.

tvnewswatch has reached out to some of the other financial institutions. Of those that responded Natwest said, "It is our intention to introduce Android Pay and we will make an announcement as soon as we are in a position to do so." Meanwhile American Express did not give an absolute assurance it would support the payment method but said, "There is no update to provide at the moment. As soon as we have more info we will communicate it to our card holders." Santander, another banking group missing from the app, said "we’re actively working with Google so that customers can use Android Pay later in 2016". TSB said that, "Android Pay is definitely on our plans but we aren’t in a position to share dates just yet". First Direct were more evasive, claiming that it's cards were "not yet compatible" and asked its customers to "keep an eye" on the Android Pay website for updates. As for Barclays' customers, there is no indication they will support the app at all since they are planning their own smartphone app. Their response was a simple "we have no plans to have Android Pay". Tesco Bank customers also look as though they may also be left out in the cold too. "We're not looking to introduce Android Pay at the moment but if this changes we will let our customers know," was their response.

TfL support

Perhaps the most important supporter of Android Pay is Transport for London [TfL], which has introduced many passengers to contactless and mobile payments. The average number of journeys made on London's transport network using mobile devices has increased from 7,500 a day to more than 35,000, with more than 200,000 unique devices used to make trips in the six months leading up to February – an increase of 1,000 devices per day.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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