Android Pay launches in the UK, but not for everyone

Android PayAndroid Pay has launched in the UK, good news for the 60% of the country who have a phone powered by Google’s Android operating system.

If your mobile is running Android 4.4 or higher, and you have a handset that supports NFC then you’re all set to go, unless you’re like me and bank with Barclays who don’t support Android pay yet.

Banks supporting Android Pay are Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, M&S, MBNA, and Nationwide. If you bank with anyone else such as Barclays, Natwest, Santander, Tesco or TSB then you’re out of luck.

Even if your bank is set up for Android Pay you may find that they don’t support all card types. I hear that some banks won’t allow contactless payments for customers using what’s known as ‘Basic Bank Accounts’. This is because contactless payments don’t check your bank balance and you’re not supposed to go overdrawn with a Basic bank account. This effectively disenfranchises the poorest in the country from using contactless payments. It also means, if you can’t pay with contactless, you’ll have to buy tickets on the London Underground and buses – TfL discount contactless payments to the same price as that Oyster card users pay.

Barclays typically drag their heels and didn’t support Apple Pay on it’s launch date either. Plus, Barclays are much more interested in launching their own contactless payment service due out in June to mess around with Android Pay at the moment, in fact it doesn’t look like they will sign up to Android Pay at all.

Barclays are also likely to upset iPhone users when they launch their own service, Apple won’t let outside companies like Barclays anywhere near the iPhone’s NFC so Barclays contactless payments will only work on Android devices.

First you download Android Pay to your mobile, then you’ll need to add a debit or credit card which is simple, just line your card up in Android Pay with your camera and it’ll auto capture your card details. You’ll also have to be willing to lock your phone with a fingerprint scan or passcode. Then when you want to pay, unlock your phone and tap and go for payments up to £30 anywhere that contactless payments are accepted.

One might have hoped by now that a mobile payment system would have launched which was universally available to everyone. That’s simply not how it’s playing out though. Apple Pay is only for people with iPhones, Android Pay is only for people with Android phones and that don’t bank with Barclays, PayPal’s solution will only be for people who’s mobile provider is Vodafone. Barclays’ own solution won’t work with iPhones. Samsung Pay is due to launch later this year and who knows which mobile providers and banks that’ll support?

In an age when there is so much focus on mobile technology and NFC which is a maturing technology, it’s surprising that it’s still so hard to find a payment provider, a mobile and a handset that supports contactless mobile payments.

We all complain about government red tape, but perhaps it’s time for Westminster to step in and mandate that all debit and credit card providers open up to allow mobile payments via any device and any operating system that the user wishes to select?