How Safe Is Google Wallet?

by Dan Stone

The Google Wallet app is a secure e-commerce platform as long as users utilize the dual-layer password and PIN protection provided by Android and the app itself. With Google Wallet, people can safely pay at both online and physical stores with a phone and linked payment account. Advanced Android users who change the operating system on their devices through a process known as rooting or jailbreaking risk exposing security breaches in Google Wallet.

Hacking NFC Is a Long Shot

Google Wallet utilizes near-field communication technology, which is built in to many smartphones, to transfer payment data at a register or terminal in a manner similar to credit card readers. While NFC transfers a substantial amount of personal account information during the transaction, it is difficult to intercept because someone trying to steal that information would need to be inches away with another NFC device. Additionally, NFC features only turn on during the actual data transfer at the terminal, so it's almost impossible for someone to walk by and intercept your data.

Breaking the Phone Password

Your Google Wallet account and personal information are safe as long as a potential thief can't get in to the app itself. The phone-access password or PIN is your first line of defense: A person can't access your device unless he knows or guesses the credential information. Android devices have an option that wipes all data if someone enters the wrong password or PIN 10 times in a row. The wipe-protection feature gives a phone thief only 10 guesses out of thousands of possibilities to guess your password before losing any chance of stealing your Google Wallet account. However, enabling this feature means you run the risk of wiping your own device if you forget your PIN and enter it incorrectly 10 times in a row.

Google Wallet Protects Itself

Even if you don't use a lock screen PIN or password on your phone to protect your phone, Google Wallet requires a four-digit PIN to access the app on launch. Google Wallet disables itself after five consecutive incorrect PIN guesses and prevents intrusion unless the thief knows the PIN or makes a lucky guess. However, the PIN only offers 10,000 possible combinations, making it less effective at protecting your information than a password drawn from millions of possible combinations .

Rooting Leaves You Vulnerable

Google recommends not using Google Wallet on rooted smartphones because rooting disables vital security features designed to keep hackers out of your information. Enabling root access on an Android device eliminates vital built-in security systems and allows thieves to run brute-force password and PIN hacks while bypassing the lock-out features. If you run Google Wallet on a rooted Android device and your device is stolen, protect yourself by immediately disabling your Google Wallet account at While Google Wallet Fraud Protection covers all your financial losses from unauthorized transactions reported within 120 days, further protect yourself by reporting attached accounts as stolen and receiving new account numbers.

About the Author

Dan Stone started writing professionally in 2006, specializing in education, technology and music. He is a web developer for a communications company and previously worked in television. Stone received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in communication studies from Northern Illinois University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Andersen Ross/Blend Images/Getty Images