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Is Google Wallet the Same as Google Pay? We'll Explain

Google announced the release of Google Wallet for contactless payments, but isn't that what Google Pay already does?

Google Pay will soon be replaced by Google Wallet, but not in every country.
Patrick Holland/CNET

At Google I/O 2022 on Wednesday, the tech giant announced the release of Google Wallet for Android: an online wallet for your payment cards, boarding passes and more. Sound familiar? Well, yes, because Google Wallet has been around for over a decade in various iterations.

Is Google Wallet replacing Google Pay? Will Google Pay still be around? And what's the difference between them? Here's everything you need to know about the history of Google Wallet, what that means for your contactless payments and what kind of information, aside from credit cards, you can use in this new edition of Google Wallet.

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This isn't the first time that Google Wallet has been around

Google originally launched Google Wallet back in 2011 as its initial mobile payment service app, allowing Android users to tap their supported phones against readers at select shops to make payments.

This first iteration of Google Wallet was very restrictive. It only worked on the Nexus phone and required users to sign up for a Citi MasterCard account or get a Google Prepaid Card to make payments. It was a pain to use, requiring you to open the app and enter a pin to access your cards. About four years later, Google Wallet was succeeded by Android Pay.

Google Wallet first released back in 2011.

CNET/Marguerite Reardon

Android Pay eventually replaced Google Wallet

Android Pay was released during Google I/O in 2015 as a replacement for Google Wallet. The new service allowed Android users to make contactless payments through their phones, which was exactly what Google Wallet did. So why create Android Pay?

In short: It was easier to use. Unlike Google Wallet, Android Pay didn't require you to download an additional app because it was built-in, so all you had to do was unlock your phone and place it against a terminal to make a payment.

It also arrived after the 2014 debut of Apple Pay and contactless payments on the iPhone 6, which may have provided even more reason for Google to promote that Android phones already had tap-to-pay capability.

Android Pay replaced Google Wallet in 2015.

James Martin/CNET

And then Google Wallet tried to become PayPal

Although Android Pay did replace Google Wallet for contactless payments, the latter brand continued to exist as a peer-to-peer payments service à la PayPal, Venmo and Cash App. All you needed to do to send money to friends and family was enter a linked email address or phone number.

If you were the one receiving money, you could withdraw the money directly to your bank account, or you could use a Google Wallet Card to make in-store payments or withdraw cash from an ATM. The Google Wallet Card was eventually discontinued; Google Wallet was merged with Android Pay.

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Google Wallet + Android Pay = Google Pay

In 2018, Google announced a merger between Google Wallet and Android Pay, creating Google Pay. This service is probably the one you are most familiar with if you regularly use an Android phone for contactless purchases. Google Pay took features from both services: contactless payments in-store and peer-to-peer payments online in a single app.

Google Pay eventually took over as the primary "wallet" for Android users, becoming a hub for flight passes, transit cards, event tickets, gym memberships, gift cards and more. It also replaced Chrome's autofill feature, allowing Android users to use Google Pay for online purchases. 

Google Wallet and Android Pay eventually became Google Pay.

Taylor Martin/CNET

There was also something called Google Pay Send

Although Google Wallet and Android Pay merged, it took a few months for the peer-to-peer payment features to make their way over to Google Pay, and so Google redesigned Google Wallet into Google Pay Send for sending and receiving payments online.

Google discontinued Google Pay Send in 2020 as the online payment feature was eventually ported over to Google Pay.

Google Pay was then discontinued and redesigned

Google had been testing out a redesigned version of Google Pay in India, known as Google Tez. This new version of Google Pay offered several new features, such as in-app messaging, personalized offers, transaction history, receipt scanning and much more. It also started charging small percentage fees for debit card transfers.

Eventually this version of Google Pay appeared as a new app in the Google Play Store, while the older version of Google Pay stuck around as well. In April 2021, Google discontinued the old Google Pay version in the US.

And now Google Wallet is back

During Google I/O 2022, Google announced the return of Google Wallet for Android and Wear OS, which much like Google Pay, allows you to store debit and credit cards, flight passes, event tickets, vaccination cards and more recently, digital IDs and driver licenses.

Google Wallet was announced at Google I/O 2022.

Screenshot/Google

If I'm in the US, which service should I be using?

Google Wallet will completely replace Google Pay, via update, in 39 countries, including Mexico, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and France.

If you're in the US or Singapore, Google Wallet will become the primary Android payment service and wallet where you store your hotel keys, driver's license, boarding passes and more, as well as make contactless payments. Google Pay will stick around, but only as a service to send payments to friends and family. 

And last, users in India won't receive the Google Wallet update and instead will continue to use Google Pay as their everyday digital wallet.