Android Pay Is Coming to a Phone Near You: How Safe Is It?

By Jocelyn Baird, NextAdvisor.com

Android users rejoice: almost exactly one year after Apple Pay debuted, Google is following up with its own mobile payment system, aptly named Android Pay. According to a post on the Official Android Blog, the new payment system will be rolled out within the next few days to users with NFC-enabled devices running KitKat 4.4+. Similar to Apple Pay, this mobile payment feature will enable users to store their credit and debit cards, along with loyalty cards, gift cards and special offers, then pay in person at stores or from apps in their phones, without the need to pull out their wallet. While it shares some similarities with Apple Pay, Android's mobile payment system also comes with its own unique functions that users can look forward to.

How does Android Pay work?

Once your cards have been entered into the app, whenever you are in a store with an NFC terminal, you can simply unlock your phone and place it near the terminal to complete a payment. You don't need to open an app for it to work, and according to Android at least 1 million stores across the U.S. are already accepting Android Pay. Even better, using the feature in certain stores will enable you to apply loyalty points and special offers to your transaction. In-store payments will be available immediately, while in-app payments are set to be released later in the year. When it is available, using the feature will be as simple as selecting "Buy with Android Pay" when you are using an app and wish to make a purchase.

Android Pay will support credit and debit cards from American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa, as well as most banks in the U.S., including American Express, Bank of America, Discover, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, USAA and U.S. Bank. It will also support Wells Fargo, Capital One and Citi in the near future.

When will it be available for me to use?

Android said on Sept. 10 that it would be rolling Android Pay out "over the next few days," though not all features will be available immediately -- such as in-app purchases. By the middle of this week, all users running KitKat 4.4+ should be able to download and use Android Pay. Existing Google Wallet users can access Android Pay through an update to the Wallet app, while those who don't already use Google Wallet can download the app on the Google Play store when it's available. In the future, all new NFC-enabled phones from carriers including Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile will come with the Android Pay app preinstalled.

How secure is this technology?

Android Pay does not send your actual credit or debit card information when it completes a payment. Instead, a virtual account number is created to represent your account information -- thus keeping your personal details safe. Additionally, Android Pay shows a payment confirmation after every purchase that lets you see where the transaction occurred, along with the merchant's name and number. This is designed to help catch any potential suspicious activity. Another great safety feature Android has designed in conjunction with Android Pay is the Android Device Manager. This feature allows you to instantly lock your phone, secure it with a new password and even wipe it clean of personal information in the event that it is lost or stolen, which is something that is also offered by many mobile security apps.

One of the biggest concerns beyond security for users of technologies like Android Pay is whether relying on it completely to make all of your purchases is a wise idea. Batteries can die, phones can go out of range. If you do choose to utilize this app for your spending, it's probably best to always keep some cash on you just in case. Otherwise, you could find yourself stranded with a dead phone and no way to pay for a taxi or some other necessary expense.

Although there are some built-in security features, keep in mind that a lack of fingerprint scanning -- a prominent feature of most new iPhones which helps secure Apple Pay -- for most Android users means someone who accesses your phone could potentially access your credit and debit cards. And even though Android is working to implement fingerprint scanning into most new phones, it isn't as secure as Apple's technology. Thus, if you plan on using this feature, it's a good idea to ensure that you use a lock screen with a PIN or another form of protection and make it secure to prevent someone from snatching your phone and using it to pay for things. Any time a new technology is introduced, those who use it need to be aware that they are putting themselves at risk and take the proper precautions. Time will tell whether Android Pay presents any real security issues or not. To learn more about the latest in mobile security, follow our blog.

This blog post originally appeared on NextAdvisor.com.