Barclays is spoiling for a fight with Android Pay (Opinion)

iPhone being held over a contactless payment terminal with the barclays mobile contactless payment app open

Warning, dangerous levels of déjà vu.

Tell us if this story rings a bell. A tech giant is about to launch its mobile payment service in the UK and almost all the major UK banks are signed up with one notable exception. That notable exception actually goes on to promote its own payment service and tries to compete with the tech giant, much to the consternation of the Venn diagram people who bank with the exception and buy the tech giant’s products.

That’s right, like some sort of payments version of a fighter who just keeps picking the wrong fights, Barclays is taking on Android Pay by releasing its own contactless payment for Android phones service in June. Google’s Android Pay is going to be released in the UK sometime this year.

Barclays' new contactless mobile service being used against a contactless terminal

“Thank you for putting all my purchases around this contactless POS card machine!”

The bank did the same to Apple Pay last year when it refused to sign up, instead heavily promoting its own service Pingit, popular among Barclays customers, by opening it up to everyone – not just Barclays clients. It then partnered with Zapp and Verifone. And then there was the focus on its wearables range. How did all those initiatives turn out? Did Apple execs quake in their boots? No, no they didn’t. The bank ended up performing a u-turn on the day of Apple Pay launch by saying that actually it WILL work with the service. And a short nine months later, it did.


‘Giving customers the choice’

Barclays says the new service will allow its customers with an eligible NFC-enabled Android phone to pay at any of the ‘400,000 contactless locations’ in the UK and across the London transport network. It said the introduction of the service “is a natural extension for customers,” which is certainly true now more than ever since Europeans made three billion contactless transactions in the last 12 months, with the UK leading the pack.

In terms of user experience, it doesn’t seem to be any different from Apple Pay or Android Pay. The only difference is that the customer doesn’t have to input card details into the Barclays app, a good but ultimately insignificant bonus. Once the user has selected a default card, paying anything within the £30 is the same as Android Pay: just tap the phone against the terminal.

So it’s not offering anything new, it’s deciding to take on Android Pay on Android phones. We wonder which service will be better integrated with Android phones…


See all PaymentEye articles on contactless payments.



“This is so funny! I was just at another shop and they laid out my purchases in exactly the same way!”

“Giving customers the choice about how to make everyday payments while making it really easy for people to use our services is why we’ve designed this new contactless payment functionality which will sit at the heart of our already popular mobile banking app.  It’s all there, in one place, ready to go with no need to enter card details, delivering a brilliant experience in an instant,” said Ashok Vaswani, CEO of Barclays UK.

We’re also not sure how excluding Android Pay as an option is giving customers the choice, but at least that’s it, right? Barclays won’t be starting fights with any other payment giants. Right?

What’s that, the bank said it’s not planning to work with Samsung Pay?

Oh dear.

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