How to make payments with your phone

Viktoriia Hnatiuk /
Bankrate Logo

Why you can trust Bankrate

At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

Mobile wallets have been around for a while, but they’re not always easy to understand — even though they’re very easy to use.

When you swipe, tap or insert your credit card into a standard credit card terminal, the card reader collects the information stored on your credit card and uses it to complete the transaction. Paying with a credit card on your phone works in the same way; it’s just that the credit card information is stored on a phone app instead of a piece of plastic.

Yes, putting a credit card on your phone is secure. In fact, it’s one of the most secure ways to pay. The phone payment app uses the same security technology as contactless credit cards (the kind you tap instead of swipe), and pay-by-phone transactions use tokenization to mask your actual credit card number during the transaction and protect your card information from being stolen.

Mobile wallets also let you add multiple credit cards on your phone, which is good for people who want to maximize their credit card rewards by using different cards at different retailers. You can even use contactless payments on some bus and subway systems. Just tap your smartphone to the turnstile, and the credit card on your phone will take care of the rest.

But what do you need to do before you’re ready to make credit card payments on your phone?

Here’s a step-by-step guide for three of the most popular mobile wallet apps: Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Apple Pay

If you’re an iPhone user, here’s how to set up Apple Pay:

First, open the Wallet app on your iPhone. Tap the plus sign, then follow the instructions to add a new credit card to Wallet. You might be required to download an app from your bank or credit card issuer before you can add your credit card to Wallet.

Once you’ve added the card, your bank or card issuer will verify the card. From there, you can begin using the verified credit card on Apple Pay.

To pay with a credit card by phone, unlock your iPhone with either Touch ID or Face ID. Hold your unlocked phone over the contactless credit card reader, and Apple Pay will automatically activate. If you are using Touch ID, rest your thumb or finger on the Touch ID button until the payment process is complete. Once the payment goes through, you’ll see a “done” icon on your phone screen.

Apple Pay lets you designate a default credit card to use for the majority of your payments, but you can add multiple credit cards to Wallet and toggle between those cards on Apple Pay as well. To switch between cards, simply hold your phone over the credit card reader and tap the image of the card you’d like to use. If your iPhone has Touch ID, make sure to tap the card before resting your thumb or finger on the Touch ID button.

Google Pay

If you have an Android phone and want to use Google Pay, begin by adding at least one credit card to the Google Pay app. Use the app to take a photo of your credit card, or enter the information manually. Allow your bank or credit card issuer to verify your card, and you’ll be ready to begin making payments.

To make Google Pay payments from your phone, simply unlock your phone and hold it over the contactless credit card reader. If a blue checkmark appears, your payment is complete.

Google Pay lets you set a default credit card to use when making payments. If you want to pay with a different card, open your Google Pay app and swipe through your available cards until you find the one you want to use. Then hold your phone over the credit card reader to make the payment.

Samsung Pay

If you’ve got a Samsung phone, you’ll want to set up Samsung Pay. The app comes pre-installed on most Samsung phones. Open the app, tap “Get Started,” and create a unique PIN. Then follow the instructions to add credit cards to Samsung Pay.

Once your credit cards are set up within the app, you can begin using Samsung Pay to make credit card phone payments. First, open the Samsung Pay app on your phone. Confirm your identity by entering your PIN, letting Samsung scan your iris, or putting your thumb or finger on your phone’s fingerprint scanner. Then hold your phone over the contactless card reader, and the payment will process automatically.

Samsung Pay’s Favorite Cards feature makes it easy to switch between credit cards before making payments by phone. Simply swipe up from the bottom of your phone’s screen to access your Favorite Cards and choose the card you’d like to use for your next Samsung Pay purchase.

Bottom line

Knowing how to use your credit card on your phone can make shopping trips go a lot more smoothly and keep you from having to make contact with the card terminal.

Instead of having to dig a credit card out of your wallet, you can simply unlock your phone and hold it over the contactless credit card reader. Look for your mobile wallet’s logo or a contactless symbol (which looks like a WiFi signal turned sideways) on the card reader to verify it can accept mobile payments.

These mobile wallet apps also work for online purchases with many retailers, turning online shopping into a near-seamless process. Paying with a credit card by phone is easy to set up and as secure as a traditional credit card transaction, why not give your mobile wallet a try the next time you make a purchase?