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How to Pay With Your Phone While On A Trip

Paying with your phone has fast become the preferred method of payment for some credit card users. Particularly, for those people who are part of the younger demographic. When you travel abroad though, you may not be able to access the same type of phone coverage that you’re used to locally. This is something that can certainly impact your ability to pay through your phone. At the same time, where you travel could heavily dictate the payment options that are available to you. If you want to figure out how to pay with your phone on a trip, there are at least a couple of things that you’re going to want to account for apart from configuring your phone to be able to make the payment.  

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For the most part there are two main apps that are being used to pay through your phone. You’ll be using Google Pay if you’re an Android user, and Apple Pay if you have an iPhone. Although the interface of the two apps certainly varies, the concept is pretty much the same. What you need to do is access the app, and fill out all of the details that are required to set up a card with which you can pay through the app with. Certain banks now have digital cards that you can pay with, and you may need to insert those details into the app instead of the ones on the actual plastic to be able to get the card to work. The problem with that, is that these cards tend to have a changing CVV number. That could be an issue that you’ll have to contend with. 

How To Pay With Your Phone While On A Trip – Configure A Card On The App 

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The first thing that both of the main apps, Apple Pay, and Google Pay are going to ask you to do is enter your account. For this what we’re talking about is your Gmail account or your Apple account that you use on the app store. There are certain devices where this process is going to be done automatically when you download the app to your phone. In any case, you need to access those accounts to be able to get to the next step in the process. In both cases the next step in the process is going to be to configure a card on the app. You’re going to want to make sure that your card is accepted by the app. 

It’s not a major issue though, both Google Pay, and Apple Pay accept payments from the main credit card providers. Those being Visa, Master Card, Discover, and American Express. At this point these 4 essentially dominate the entire market. What you’re going to need to do is fill out the registration form for the card. As previously stated, if you’re setting up with a digital card, keep in mind that you may have to change the CVV number every time that you want to process a transaction. That can be a real pain, so if you can configure a plastic regular card on your app you’re going to be better off.  

Should You Still Carry Around A Plastic? 

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There will probably come a time when that’s not necessary. In fact, we’re sure that locally a ton of people don’t carry their cards anymore. However, when you’re traveling abroad you’re going to come across multiple establishments that don’t accept payments through these apps. It’s going to be awkward because in some cases you’ll see that they have the exact same machines that you use to pay back home. The problem is, a lot of waiters, and even restaurant owners in certain countries where paying with your phone isn’t common aren’t even sure how to complete the process. What ends up happening is that as a customer it’s just easier to pull out the card, and not argue with the person that is charging you.   

At this point in time it’s probably still a better idea to carry around your plastic when you travel. There are certainly spots in the main cities across the globe where you won’t have any trouble paying with your phone. Yet, you could just as quickly find yourself in a smaller town or a rural area, and things can change drastically. Every time that we have to make this point we want to make sure it’s properly understood. We’re not criticizing any travel destination out there where you maybe can’t pay with your phone. It’s a fact though that not all countries or cities across the globe have embraced technological advancements equally. You’re going to want to account for that. 

Make Sure You Do Have Phone Coverage To Be Able To Pay 

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One of the things that could hamper your ability to pay with your phone is the lack of reliable phone coverage. If you have a local SIM card on the phone you are more or less going to be able to use all of the apps on the device as you normally would. With Google or Apple Pay you shouldn’t have a problem because those apps are going to be connected with your device through your Gmail or Apple account. If you logged in through your phone number then you could be in some hot water. The device may recognize that there’s currently an active SIM with a phone number that is different from the one that you registered with.  

If you’re using your regular wireless service provider to get coverage that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re 100% safe. You could run into trouble if the coverage isn’t fast enough for the phone to connect to the bank, and then back to the device that you’re getting billed with. Of course, we’re just detailing the worst case scenario here. There’s a good chance that you’ll be just fine. If something comes up though you may want to check your coverage before you make a call to your bank about a payment being declined. These are issues that you wouldn’t necessarily have with your regular credit card. That may be something that you want to think about.   

Is It Safe To Pay Through An Open Wi-Fi Network?

This is one of the dilemmas that you’re certainly going to have to face. In how to pay with your phone while on a trip you may be offered the opportunity to pay with your phone connected to an open Wi-Fi network. These networks are typically not the safest option on the planet. There’s an argument to be made that you may very well be better suited paying with the plastic, particularly if the card terminal is not connected to the open Wi-Fi network. If you find yourself in a bit of a compromising situation when you feel that it’s not that safe to use any payment method, but you’ve already consumed the meal, use a credit card. If anything happens it’s going to be easier to settle a dispute than it tends to be with a debit card. 

You could make the argument that we are throwing up too many red flags and making payments abroad is not that big a deal. You’d be right in a certain sense. Both the payment apps and the plastic itself are encrypted with software that should be able to process payments without trouble even on a spotty network. The reason why we want to throw up these red flags is just to help you keep your guard up. The last thing that you want is for an average meal at a sketchy spot to ruin your vacation because you’ll have to spend hours on the line with your bank to get reimbursed. So just being extra careful can help at the very least give you that peace of mind that’s needed in certain instances.   

How to Pay With Your Phone While On A Trip – Is It A Good Idea? 

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It all comes down to where you’re traveling. If you’re going out to an urban center that is very similar to your home country then you really shouldn’t think twice about changing your payment methods. Now, if you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily pay using their phone on a regular basis, and you want to change that for your upcoming trip you may run into some hurdles particularly with your bank or card provider. How would a charge in another country made through an app that you’ve never used before look to your bank? You better hope in fact that they would decline such an odd transaction. If you want to make changes to your payment methods you should probably start before you go on your trip abroad. That’s going to help you get familiar with the app and things like that. 

As far as it being safer to pay through an app on your phone and not your regular card, that’s potentially debatable. In theory the idea is not bad, you’re adding a layer of protection to the purchases that you make. When you look at it that way it’s not so bad. The issue is that you need to make sure that you have reliable coverage abroad to be able to process those transactions. If you can’t seem to get that reliable coverage then it’s pretty clear that you should probably stick to the plastic. Paying with your regular credit card is not the worst thing in the world now that you can pay with your phone.   

Fees & Things To Be On The Lookout For  

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This is something that we cover a bit more in depth in some of our other payment methods and credit card articles. For the most part fees are not something that you should be too worried about. What you do want to be worried about is exchange rates. As a general rule the best thing that you can do is have your credit card company set the exchange rate. You may be offered the option to pay in your own currency and that can seem tempting. The problem is, the exchange rate that is set by the payment processor is usually not a favorable one for you. You can always decline and choose to pay in the local currency. We know that sounds counterintuitive, but we’ve tested it for years, and it’s the best way to go. 

There are transaction fees at a minimum of 31 cents for Google Pay for example. What you can do though is use your card to transfer money to your Google Pay balance. When you do that you don’t have to pay any fees when you make purchases. So actually, it may be a better idea to use a debit card with an app like Google Pay. All that you’re going to be doing is transferring the amount of money that you need for a given day or trip. Just make sure the merchant takes Google Pay or any other app that you’re going to want to use as a payment method.  

How to Pay With Your Phone While On A Trip – Conclusion 

There are certain countries and places that you could potentially visit where paying with your phone won’t be as easy to do. As previously mentioned, sometimes it’s actually the people at stores that don’t really know how to make the charges correctly. Having said this, the fact that you can use your Google Pay account almost as a prepaid debit card is an interesting way to be able to control your spending when you travel. In that sense we would certainly say it’s a good option. You just have to make sure that wherever it is that you go, paying with your phone is widely accepted.  

Although this is certainly set to change at the time of writing for this article we would not recommend traveling to Mexico, Central and South America with your phone as the only payment method. Parts of Africa, and Asia fall under the same category. As do certain cities in Europe you may find that cash is still king in certain parts of the old world!