Contactless payment with a smartphone.

Here’s everything you need to know about using payment apps

Make payments with just a wave or tap of your smartphone.

4 min read

Are you looking for a payment method that's more practical and secure than cash? Mobile payments are the perfect solution. Paying with your smartphone is simple, convenient and secure—not just online but in stores, too. More and more businesses are now accepting this payment method. How exactly do online and in-store payment apps work, though? This guide explains just how simple it is to pay with your smartphone.

How do mobile payments work?

Set your smartphone up for mobile payments in just a few easy steps:

  1. Download a payment app to your phone and add the card you want to use for your transactions.
  2. For in-store payments, make sure that the NFC function is enabled on your device (you can check this in your smartphone settings).
  3. Make your payment. For in-store payments, you simply have to unlock the phone and hold it next to the POS until you see that your transaction has been approved.

Now contactless payment has been made even easier as you can pay up to €50 without having to enter your PIN into the POS reader. Just remember though, you’ll only be able to make contactless payments if the store has a POS reader available.

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There are a lot of mobile payment apps available for both Android and iOS. We’ll talk about the two most popular options: Google Pay (for Android) and Apple Pay (for iOS). These apps both allow you to make in-store, in-app and online payments securely using the card that you’ve added.

Mobile payments using Google Pay

To use Google Pay on your Android device, you first need to download the app from the Google Play Store. Then you’ll need to log in to your Google account and add a credit or debit card that’s compatible with mobile payments. You can now make in-store purchases anywhere you see the Google Pay or contactless logo. Or use Google Pay to make payments in apps or online.

Mobile payments using Apple Pay

To activate Apple Pay, open your iPhone or your iOS device (iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch) and go to your Wallet. Follow the instructions for adding a new payment card—just make sure that the card you choose is compatible with mobile payments. You’ll need to repeat this process for all the devices you want to use to make payments with Apple Pay. Once your card has been added to all your devices, you can use the app to make online or in-app payments, or in any store where you see the Apple Pay or contactless logo.

Your iPhone isn’t the only device you can use for Apple Pay. You can also use:

  • The Apple Watch for in-store, in-app, or online payments
  • The iPad for in-app or online payments
  • Your Mac for online payments

QR and NFC for in-store payments

If you want to pay with your mobile phone in a store that accepts this kind of transaction, make sure NFC (Near Field Communication) is activated on your device. This electronic system allows two devices to interact when they are within 3 to 10 centimeters of one another. By setting up a peer-to-peer network, your smartphone becomes an actual electronic wallet. Through your chosen payment app, you can complete a transaction simply by placing your phone close to the store’s POS (Point of Sale) reader, automatic distributor or cash register. Check your phone settings to find out whether your device has NFC technology.

Using a QR (Quick Response) code also lets you make quick and secure contactless payments online and in stores. A QR code is a square symbol that contains the bank account details and data of the recipient, so you won’t need to enter them manually. If a store uses this kind of payment method, all you need to do is open your camera or payment app, scan the QR code that’s presented to you, and follow the instructions.

Are mobile payments safe?

Payment apps and the NFC system have multiple security levels. They’re based on a process called tokenization, which is designed specifically to protect users’ information. With tokenization, the buyer’s credit or debit card number is replaced by an encrypted token (a series of numbers generated randomly). This means that the system doesn’t reveal your information at any point—when you pay using your smartphone using a payment app, the store can’t identify or obtain your bank account or credit card number, or other sensitive data.

Plus, for a transaction to be successful, the NFC system has to be enabled on the smartphone and its connection with the POS has to be direct. So, for example, it would be difficult for your smartphone to activate the POS from your pocket. It needs to be directly near the POS. Furthermore, NFC uses a relatively uncrowded band (13.56 MHz) and incorporates even more technical features against interference.

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Mobile payments using N26

Using your smartphone for making payments is simple. Every N26 bank account automatically comes with a virtual N26 Mastercard that you can link to Apple Pay or Google Pay right away. All physical N26 Mastercards also include NFC technology, so your transactions will always be secure and uncomplicated. Visit our plans page to find the right N26 account for you, and discover a new way to pay!

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