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What are mobile payments?

Mobile payments let you make and accept payments from your phone and other devices. Here are your options in Australia – including Apple Pay, Google Pay and Square.

Mobile payments are still relatively new in Australia, with Apple Pay and other popular options first introduced around 2015. But data from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has found mobile payments made up 25% of all credit and debit card transactions in 2022, and they're steadily rising.

What are mobile payments?

Mobile payments commonly refer to payments made with Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or another mobile payment app. These payments are made with your mobile phone or another device and use a digital version of your credit or debit card, instead of a physical card or cash.

A broader definition of a mobile payment is any payment that is made with a mobile device instead of cash, a physical card or a fixed payment terminal. As well as mobile wallets, this can include accepting payments from your mobile phone or device (e.g. if you're running a food truck or market stall).

Mobile wallets

Mobile or digital wallets are apps for smartphones and other devices that allow you to add a credit or debit card and then tap your phone to pay.

  • Apple Pay, which is compatible with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and other Apple devices
  • Google Pay, which is compatible with Android devices running Lollipop 5.0 or higher
  • Samsung Pay, which is compatible with Samsung devices newer than S6
  • Fitbit Pay
  • Garmin Pay
  • PayPal app

As part of their security features, mobile wallets also typically have a quick ID verification process, such as a fingerprint at purchase.

Most major banks in Australia offer credit and debit cards that you can add to one or more of the mobile wallets available in Australia. To find out whether your card is supported by a certain app, check with your bank or credit card brand.

What mobile payment systems and mobile wallets exist?

Since a mobile payment is any payment you make with a mobile device, it includes everything from credit card payments via SMS, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) billing – where charges are applied directly to your mobile bill – and more.

There are also bank-specific digital wallets, such as Tap and Pay from CommBank. Be aware that these are more limited because they usually only work with cards from that bank.

Finder survey: How often do people use contactless payments?

ResponseFemaleMale
75% of the time26.9%25%
100% of the time16.55%19.36%
25% of the time14.48%14.1%
Never13.62%11.65%
50% of the time12.24%12.41%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1113 Australians, December 2023

Mobile payment systems for businesses

If you’re running a business and want to be able to accept mobile and contactless payments, you’ll need a point-of-sale device known as Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. This means that it can communicate with cards and devices that are a few centimetres away and can exchange the necessary information to complete a purchase.

The popular mobile payment systems listed below are focused around in-store transactions. If you’re interested in online payment gateways for your business, check out Finder's guide to online credit card payments.

Tyro

  • What: Standalone and integrated EFTPOS machines
  • Transaction fees: Pricing customised to each business
  • Features: Contactless payment, swipe/chip payments and Dynamic Surcharging
  • Price: $29 or $39 monthly rental fee excl. GST (depending on the machine model)

Tyro offers two EFTPOS machines – a countertop and mobile option depending on your business. Pricing is customised to each business. There's no lock-in contract, so it's easy to see if Tyro EFTPOS is right for you.

Square

  • What: Keypad-less card reader connected by Bluetooth to phone or tablet
  • Transaction fees: 1.9% (or 2.2% for manual-entry payments)
  • Features: Contactless payments, swipe/chip payments, comprehensive point-of-sale app and tips
  • Price: $59 + GST (includes free magstripe reader for cards)

Square offers some of the best features of any free point-of-sale app. Along with charging no monthly fees, it lets you create custom discounts, send invoices and maintain a product library plus many other useful features. You can also add employees as individual users with limited permissions for an extra $35 per month. Square can be particularly useful in retail and hospitality settings.

Albert (Commonwealth Bank)

  • What: Standalone seven-inch tablet
  • Transaction fees: A fixed monthly fee that scales with turnover (starts at $60 per month)
  • Features: Contactless payments, swipe/chip payments, barcode scanning, receipt printing, split bills and tips
  • Price: Rental included with merchant plan (additional tablets are $29.50 each)

The Albert tablet works by charging you a fixed monthly fee that increases with your monthly turnover. Additional purchases past your agreed-upon turnover will attract a 1.5% fee. It supports different business apps but is expensive for businesses that aren’t already making a lot of money.

How secure are mobile payments?

Mobile payments are highly secure, though actual security features vary. Some widely-employed security features include the following:

  • Tokenisation. Mobile payment apps replace your actual card data with a randomised 16-digit number that shares the last 4 digits of your credit card. This prevents secure data being exchanged during a purchase and is why your card details are shown as something like “**** **** **** 1234” when saved on payment sites.
  • Biometrics and passwords. Mobile wallet apps will commonly require some form of identification when you tap to make a transaction, such as face verification, a thumbprint or something else.
  • Fraud protection. Most banks will note down suspicious transactions recorded on your card and freeze further payments until you confirm the transactions were yours. There are also various systems in place from banks and online merchants to refund money lost through fraud that isn’t your fault.

What if someone takes my mobile phone?

If someone gets their hand on your mobile phone, they shouldn’t be able to do much if they can’t get past your lock screen. However, if they do, they will likely be able to make tap payments with your mobile wallet if you haven’t set up biometric checks like a fingerprint or face scan.

When you lose your phone, your best bet is to contact your bank so you can freeze payments until you can recover your phone or lock your card.

If you want to know more about protecting your cards and accounts, check out this Finder guide for tips on how to avoid scams and other security issues.

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Editor

Amy Bradney-George was the senior writer for credit cards at Finder, and editorial lead for Finder Green. She has over 16 years of editorial experience and has been featured in publications including ABC News, Money Magazine and The Sydney Morning Herald. See full bio

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Amy has written 596 Finder guides across topics including:
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Sam Baran is a writer for Finder, covering topics across the tech, telco and utilities sectors. They enjoy decrypting technical jargon and helping people compare complex products easily. When they aren't writing, you'll find Sam's head buried in a book or working on their latest short story. Sam has a Bachelor of Advanced Science from the University of Sydney. See full bio

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2 Responses

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    PittsburghMay 9, 2012

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      JeremyMay 18, 2012Finder

      Hi,

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      Jeremy

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