With contactless payment points now pretty much ubiquitous, there’s never been a better time to use your phone or smartwatch to pay at the checkout. It's also a fantastic backup if you’re ever out and realise you've left your wallet or purse at home.

We show you how to make this a reality by setting up payment apps on your iPhone, Apple Watch and Android devices.

And in case you're wondering if all this is safe and even a good idea, it's actually more secure to pay with your phone or watch because your actual card number is not used. This means retailers don't get to find out your real bank details so they can't be abused.

How to use Apple Pay on your iPhone

Apple Pay works on your iPhone and Apple Watch, plus it can be used online with certain iPads and MacBooks. To use Apple Pay when out and about you'll need one of the following supported models: (all Apple Watch models support Pay)

  • iPhone 6/6 Plus
  • iPhone 6S/6S Plus
  • iPhone 7/7 Plus
  • iPhone 8/ 8 Plus
  • iPhone X/XR/XS/XS Max
  • iPhone SE

You’ll also need to check that your bank supports Apple Pay. Most do, but to be sure you can check Apple’s up-to-date list of supported banks.

You’ll need to add a credit card or debit card to use Apple Pay, so open the Wallet app and tap the button. The app will then take you through the steps needed to register the card.

how to make payments with your phone or watch  

Your bank will then process the information, send a verification text or email and, once you've entered the verification number your card will appear in the Wallet app.

How can I use Apple Pay in stores?

Paying with your phone is very easy. Simply look for the symbols pictured below to see whether the store in question accepts Apple Pay.

 how to make payments on your phone or watch

Traditionally, contactless payments have been limited to £30 in the UK, but this not the case in many stores now, with the limit removed on Apple Pay and the others services in this list. 

Depending on whether your iPhone has Touch ID or Face ID, the process of paying is slightly different. For Touch ID models, place the top end of the phone on the contactless payment point on the checkout. You should see the Apple Pay graphics appear - there's no need to wake your phone or launch the Wallet app. You'll be prompted to authorise and authenticate the payment by putting your finger on the Touch ID sensor.

how to make payments with your phone or watch

Face ID requires you to double-click the side button then stare at the screen until you’re told to Hold Near Reader. When you see this message appear, hold the top part of your iPhone close to the contactless pay-point and your purchase will be completed. 

For a more detailed description read How to use Apple Pay on iPhone.

How to use Apple Pay on Apple Watch

If you want to use your Apple Watch to make payments, you might be surprised to learn that you have to go through a similar setup process to add your cards to your Watch. That's because it has its own separate Wallet app, to which you can add the same or different payment cards as your iPhone. 

To add them you will still need your iPhone though. Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone then tap the My Watch tab. Next, select Wallet & Apple Pay, then you’ll be taken step-by-step through the process of activating the service on your device. It’s very similar to the method used on iPhone, including the bank verification stage at the end.

Now you’ll be able to use your Apple Watch to pay for things in shops, even if you don’t have your iPhone with you.

To do so, double-click the side button on your Watch (the one directly below the digital crown). This will bring up your card - but you can swipe to change cards - with a message underneath stating Hold Near Reader to Pay. Follow the instructions and you should feel a slight vibration as the payment is completed. In some stores you also need to type in your PIN at the pay point.

For a more detailed breakdown, read How to use Apple Pay on Apple Watch.

How do you use Google Pay?

Google Pay is the new version of what was once called Android Pay and Google Wallet. Both have been merged and replaced by the new app called Google Pay. To use it you’ll need an Android phone that has NFC capabilities. You’ll need to check your manufacturer's website for the tech specs to see if your model has this feature, or take a look in Settings to see if there’s an option for NFC. If so, turn it on.

Setting up Google Pay is similar to Apple’s offering, in that you open the Google Pay app (download it from the Google Play Store if it’s not on your device) then tap the Get Started button. 

Choose whether you want to use a Credit/Debit card or a PayPal account, then you can use your phone's camera to scan your card so you don't have to type the information in manually. Your bank will verify that you’re who you say you are, this is usually via a text that you receive instantly, after which the service will be available to use. Exactly like Apple Pay.

Using Google Pay in stores

Once you have the app set up, it’s easy to use your phone to pay just as you do with your contactless card. Look for the symbols below to see if payments are accepted via the service.

how to make payments with phone or watch

If so, simply take out your phone, unlock it, then hold it close to the contactless payment device at the checkout. You should hear a ping, then the payment will be completed. If you have multiple cards, just swipe left or right to pick the card you want to pay with. The card you set as the default will be used if you don't swipe.

How to pay with Google Pay

Like Apple Pay, you can also use Google Pay in certain apps to pay for things. They include Airbnb, Wetherspoon, Deliveroo, Dice and more.

Using a smartwatch with Google Pay

If you have an smartwatch which runs the Android Wear operating system, such as the Huawei Watch 2, then you can also use this to make payments. You’ll know whether your device is compatible or not by the fact that it will have the Google Pay app already installed. If not, then your watch doesn’t provide the service.

To set up Google Pay, first you’ll need to add your bank card (PayPal doesn’t work on watches). Open the Google Pay app then tap Get Started. Follow the instructions and you’ll have the service up and running in no time.

With this done, you’re ready to go shopping. So, when you want to make a payment, open the Google Pay app on your watch then hold the device close to the contactless pay-point at the checkout. You’ll feel a slight vibration, which indicates that the payment has been made.

How do I use Samsung Pay?

If you have a Samsung phone from the past few years then you should be able to set up and use Samsung Pay if you prefer it to Google Pay. The steps are practically the same as Google’s. To go it working you’ll need to download the Samsung Pay app from the Google Play Store or the Samsung Galaxy Store.

Launch the app, sign into your Samsung account, then follow the onscreen instructions on how to add your bank card details.

With this done, you’ll now be able to make purchases in stores by opening the app, using your iris/fingerprint/PIN code to verify your identity, then holding the device close to the contactless pay-point until you hear a ping that notifies you the transaction is complete.

For more on the service, read What is Samsung Pay and where can you use it?