Mobile payments have come a long way since Apple made a huge push into the space with Apple Pay in 2014. Google introduced Android Pay in 2015, and Samsung has joined the fray with its own mobile payment system called Samsung Pay. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Which countries support Samsung Pay?
Samsung Pay is currently available in the U.S. on all major carriers’ networks, as well as in Spain, South Korea, China, Thailand, and most recently the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.
The service fully launched in the UAE and Sweden in April following beta testing. Those two are the first Middle Eastern and Nordic markets to receive Samsung Pay. For users in Hong Kong and Switzerland, the platform is only available in early access form at the moment, with a limited number of supported banks.
Samsung Pay was first brought to Thailand in October 2016, but the system is now much more widely available in the country. In Thailand, Samsung Pay is compatible with MasterCard and Visa cards, and a range of banks are supported, including KCC Bangkok Bank, and Citibank.
Samsung initially promised Pay would expand to the U.K. and Canada sometime in 2016, but has backtracked on its promise to the former. In a statement, Samsung said, “Following successful launches of Samsung Pay around the world, we are planning to launch the service in the U.K. in 2017.
No reason for the delay has been given, but negotiations between Samsung and U.K. banks are speculated to be the issue by The Telegraph. No exact timeframe other than 2017 has been given, meaning it may be up to two or more years after Apple Pay launched in the U.K., that Samsung joins the market. Android Pay, which launched earlier in 2016, operates on most Samsung smartphones already.
Samsung Pay arrived in Brazil in July 2016. It’s supported by the county’s largest institutions, among them Banco do Brasil, Brasil Pré-Pagos, Caixa, Porto Seguro, Satander, Banrisul, Bradesco, Nubank, and Itaú-Unibanco. And it will support both Visa and MasterCard accounts.
The payment service is now available in Puerto Rico as well — cards from U.S. territory’s largest bank, Banco Popular, are now supported and Samsung Pay is available on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Claro networks.
In mid-June 2016, through a partnership with Citibank and American Express, Samsung Pay formally launched on Galaxy devices in Australia. Availability varies by “local operator,” Samsung warned, but Samsung Pay users in the Land Down Under should be able to pay at any sales terminal that accepts conventional debit and credit cards.
Also in June, Samsung Pay went live in Spain. Unfortunately, Samsung Pay users in Spain will miss out on one major feature of the payment service: support for magnetic point of sales. In other words, Spanish residents can only use Samsung Pay at NFC terminals, with Samsung giving no indication as to whether that will change.
That same month, Samsung formally brought the service to Singapore as well. The announcement came quickly after Apple Pay launched in Singapore, but only for American Express card holders. Samsung will support MasterCard and Visa in the country, and Samsung Pay is available to customers of the DBS Bank, Standard Chartered, and Oversea-China Banking Corporation.
On March 29, 2016, Samsung Pay went live in China through Samsung’s previously announced partnership with China UnionPay. The deal, announced in December 2015, is crucial, as UnionPay is China’s main credit provider. In addition, Samsung partnered up with Ant Financial Services Group, Alipay’s parent company, which will further expand Samsung Pay’s presence in China. The partnership will allow users of Alipay, China’s largest third-party payment processing service, with over 450 million users, to use Samsung handsets to pay for products and services.
Driving these international launches forward is Samsung’s extended partnership with MasterCard overseas, helping Samsung Pay break into Europe, and for people to activate debit, credit, and reloadable prepaid cards. It also supports Visa and American Express, along with other major payment networks. The full list can be found here. Additionally, Samsung has signed a partnership with point of sale equipment company Verifone, helping adoption in the U.S. and internationally.
The first system to let you pay with your eyes?
A report from Yonhap News Agency in South Korea claims Samsung plans to enable payment by iris scanning in the region, at the recommendation of the country’s credit card firms. These companies reportedly wanted to enable the feature in last year’s Galaxy Note 7, but ultimately only used it for account verification, rather than transactions. According to the article, experts regard this method as more secure than passwords and fingerprints, saying it makes fraud “virtually impossible.”
Iris scanning is one of three biometric authentication methods on the new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus — the others being the aforementioned fingerprint sensor and facial recognition. With iris scanning, users can unlock their devices simply by looking at them. Samsung’s rival, LG, is reportedly seeking to enable face-sensing tech on its recently released G6, with the ambition to use it for payments. Yonhap provides no timetable for release of the feature on the Galaxy S8.
At the Samsung Galaxy S8 Unpacked event, Samsung unveiled a new way to use Samsung Pay on websites and other online services — Samsung Pass. But what does it do? The main goal here is to make Samsung Pay easier to use, so Samsung Pass stores your passwords and lets you use biometric data — like your fingerprint — instead. That means you won’t have to waste time trying to remember and enter your individual passwords for each service.
It’s really a very handy feature, and Samsung hopes it will help convince people to use Samsung Pay more often in apps and online — rather than just in stores.
Which devices support Samsung Pay?
Samsung Pay is limited to the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, Note 5, and Gear S2 for now. It also now works with Samsung’s new smartwatch, the Gear S3 — and you don’t need to connect a Samsung phone for it to work.
Going forward, all of Samsung’s devices will support Samsung Pay. That’s according to Koh Dong-jin, president of the company’s mobile business division. “We have decided to preinstall Samsung Pay devices in Samsung Electronics’ smartphones to be released from ,” he told Business Korea.
The idea that Samsung Pay will come to all of Samsung’s phones is further corroborated by a new report from Mashable, which notes that Samsung is exploring ways to bring Samsung Pay to its nonpremium devices in order to play a bigger role in mobile payments in India. The phones supported will include the budget J series, which is popular in that country.
Gear S3 owners with an Android phone can use Samsung Pay
A recent update to the Gear manager app allows for Gear S3 users to use Samsung Pay, even if they don’t own a Samsung smartphone. Most Android devices running 4.4 KitKat and above should work, but Samsung says there are a few exceptions at the moment — notably, the Google Pixel.
To get started on paying with your Gear S3, you’ll need to add your cards via the Gear manager app. You can launch Samsung Pay by holding down on the back button.
— Samsung Pay (@SamsungPay) November 25, 2016
What’s unique about the update is that unlike the Gear S2, the Gear S3 supports MST, not just NFC. That means it will work at most payment terminals — just hold your watch near the checkout terminal when you’re ready to pay.
Support for the Gear S2
Samsung announced late last year that the company’s flagship smartwatch, the Gear S2, would gain support for contactless payments. After a lengthy delay, it finally arrived in the beta program for the S2 during the summer for the Bluetooth-only model. In October, users with the cellular model of the Gear S2 reported that they are able to use Samsung Pay as well.
Samsung Pay Mini
Samsung has announced Samsung Pay Mini, a slimmed-down version of Samsung Pay designed to work on other Android phones, and not just those made by Samsung. Samsung Pay Mini will initially be available in South Korea, where the app will be ready to download over the coming few months.
What’s the difference? Samsung Pay Mini is only for online payments. Offline payments, that’s those used in stores, will require ownership of a Samsung phone and the full Samsung Pay app. This is due to Samsung Pay Mini and phones not made by Samsung not supporting the magnetic secure transactions (MST) hardware that allows Samsung devices to complete wireless payments at legacy payment terminals.
The app is compatible with Android phones running version 5.0 Lollipop and later, provided the device’s screen has a resolution higher than 1280 x 720 pixels, which should cover most models released over the past few years. In addition to online payments, the app will feature Samsung Pay features for membership cards, transportation cards, and lifestyle options. And it’ll boast a Shopping feature that connects directly with famous local online shopping malls that are partnered with Samsung.
The final launch date hasn’t been confirmed, but a trial version for existing Samsung Pay users to try out will be released on February 6 through Google Play in South Korea.
The announcement follows earlier rumors published by ET News, a report which also discussed Samsung Pay Mini’s chances of reaching iOS in the future. Sadly, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s not entirely Samsung’s fault. The company told ET News that Apple had rejected the Samsung Pay Mini app for iOS devices, adding, “After Apple rejected registration of Samsung Pay Mini onto its app store, we have decided to focus on smartphones with Android OS.”
Samsung hasn’t made any announcements regarding Samsung Pay Mini’s launch outside of South Korea at this time.
What can you do with Samsung Pay?
Samsung Pay isn’t just for typical transactions at your local grocery store or pharmacy. The Korean company is now implementing a “Pay It Forward” program for users that refer the service to family and friends. Samsung also continues to add new forms of payment, including everything from online payments and gift cards to taking cash out at ATMs. Of course, some of these features are only available in select countries.
Pay It Forward
Samsung wants to reward its customers that use its payment service over rivals such as Android Pay, and it’s doing so with the High Five Referral Rewards program. Every time someone you referred makes their first “qualifying purchase,” you’ll earn $5 in Samsung Rewards, which is automatically deposited in the Samsung Pay app, the same way rewards cards are added.
It only applies for 30 people that you refer, meaning you’ll only be able to make $150. Still, you’ll be able to use this money at any merchant that accepts Visa debit and Samsung Pay.
“We believe that anyone who tries Samsung Pay will see the benefits for themselves. That’s why we’re encouraging our users to join us, and help pay it forward,” the company said.
The company says 85 percent of Samsung Pay users say they would recommend it to friends and family, according to its own customer survey.
Membership and loyalty cards
As of mid-May 2016, you can now add all your membership and loyalty card accounts to Samsung Pay. Adding a card is as easy as scanning the bar code on the physical card itself or manually entering the account number.
All cards added will show up in a separate tab. Unfortunately, there is no search function, and cards appear in the order they were entered, not in alphabetical order. However, you can reorder the list by long pressing and dragging accounts.
Sadly, American ATMs aren’t high-tech enough yet to work with Samsung Pay, but in South Korea, you can use the service at select ATMs to take out cash. At the moment, only Samsung users who have accounts at the following banks can use the service, according to the Korea IT Times: Woori Bank, KB Kookmin Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea, NH Nonghyup Bank, and Shinhan Bank.
The Times stated that Samsung pay works at 40,000 ATMs in the country, and Samsung has plans to bring its service to more ATMs in the future. You can even watch a transaction occur in the CNet video above.
Samsung’s Thomas Ko, co-general manager for Samsung Pay, has said the mobile payment service will be updated to cover online payments in the U.S. in 2016. In an interview with Reuters in December 2015, Ko said online Samsung Pay payments were coming to the U.S. soon, but didn’t provide an exact date outside of 2016, or mention any other countries expected to receive the new feature. Apple Pay operates online through supporting apps, while PayPal and Visa provide a more widespread online payment system already.
In October 2015, through a partnership with Blackhawk Network, a pioneer of prepaid gift cards, Samsung announced gift card support for Samsung Pay from 50 retailers including Babies R Us, Toys R Us, Domino’s, and Nike. The app also features a gift card store that allows users to buy gift cards from merchants either for themselves (which seems odd) or to be gifted to friends and family directly from the app. It’s a neat addition that certainly removes the need to carry multiple cards. In a nutshell, Samsung Pay allows you to purchase, store, pay with, and share gift cards.
Paying with a gift card doesn’t utilize the MST technology that paying with credit or debit cards uses. Instead, as with Apple Pay or Android Pay, it provides a code that retailers can scan or type in. The company indicated that more gift card options will be added in the coming months.
A new Featured area was added to Samsung Pay in mid-May 2016. It’s basically a rolling banner at the top of the app. Samsung will use this area for promotions or information on how to get more out of Samsung Pay.
Which banks and stores support Samsung Pay?
Since Samsung Pay works in different countries, the company has had to work with banks and credit card providers to ensure that the service is accessible to its users. Here’s a breakdown of the banks and card issuers that are on board for each country.
Samsung Pay in the U.S.
Samsung Pay works on most major U.S. credit cards, and the company is always adding more to the mix. A total of 38 banks and credit unions in the U.S. were added in mid-May 2016, including 1st United Credit Union, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union, AmegyBank of Texas, Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, Arsenal Credit Union, Bank & Trust Company, and many more.
An additional 39 banks and credit unions in the U.S. were added in early May 2016. They included Achieva, Alcoa Tenn Federal Credit Union, American Heritage Federal Credit Union, Bangor Savings Bank, and more.
Samsung also added 19 new issuers of U.S. credit and debit cards in December 2015. They were Visa issuers PNC, TCF Bank, CFE Federal Credit Union, Financial Center FCU, Greater Kinston Credit Union, Keypoint Credit Union, Numerica Credit Union, Utah Community Credit Union, Amegy Bank, California Bank & Trust, PenFed; and MasterCard issuers KeyBank, AchievaCU, Associated Bank, Bayport Credit Union, Bethpage Credit Union, Cambridge Savings, USCCU, and Navy Federal Credit Union.
That was two months after Samsung added 14 banks in October 2015, including Citizens Equity First Credit Union, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, Security Service Federal Credit Union, State Employees’ Credit Union, SunTrust, Virginia Credit Union, and Navy Federal Credit Union Visa. The company also announced that Discover Cards will be supported early next year.
Samsung announced that you can now use “eligible” Wells Fargo credit and debit cards with Samsung Pay — bringing its number of supported banks and credit unions up to 70. Recently, the Korean giant said its mobile payment service hit 5 million registered users and processed around $500 million in its first six months of existence.
The MST technology ensures that Samsung Pay supports private-label credit cards (PLCC), thanks to partnerships with Synchrony Financial, Blackhawk Network, and First Data Corporation. The company also joined forces with the two biggest credit card providers, the aforementioned MasterCard and Visa, in making Samsung Pay a reality. In the United States, Samsung Pay is supported by American Express, Bank of America, Citi, U.S. Bank, and JPMorgan Chase credit cards.
The company estimates that some 30 million merchant locations worldwide will accept Samsung Pay at launch. In other words, Samsung believes that it has come up with the only mobile payment system that is universally accepted. In contrast, both Apple Pay and Google Wallet only work at select locations where NFC is accepted. Samsung Pay won’t work everywhere — credit card readers that require a physical trigger, like U.S. ATMs and gas pumps, aren’t compatible. But Samsung says the Samsung Pay will work at 80 percent of point-of-sale systems when it debuts.
Samsung Pay will be secured with Samsung’s own Knox security software, which is widely regarded as one of the best security systems for mobile devices, as well as ARM TrustZone. Just like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay doesn’t store personal account numbers on the user’s device, and uses tokenization to protect your credit card information whenever you make a purchase. If you should lose your phone, you can lock and disable the device remotely to turn off access to Samsung Pay, thanks to Samsung’s Find My Mobile feature.
Samsung Pay in China
Samsung Pay launched in China with a healthy list of supporting banks and credit card providers. These include, China CITIC Bank, China Construction Bank, China Everbright Bank, China Guangfa Bank, China Minsheng Banking Corp., China Merchants Bank, Hua Xia Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Ping An Bank. The complete list can be found on Samsung’s website here. Future compatibility with Bank of China, Bank of Beijing, and others is promised to come soon.
Samsung Pay in Spain
Samsung Pay launched in Spain with only CaixaBank and ImaginBank as bank partners. However, the payment service will expand to Abanca and Banco Sabadell customers in the near future. Furthermore, El Corte Inglés is the first private card issuer in the country to support Samsung Pay. Finally, at launch, Samsung Pay is compatible with business like Cepsa, Cervecería La Sureña, Domino’s Pizza, Fridays, Ginos, Grupo DIA, MediaMarkt, Mercadona, Phone House, Repsol, Rodilla, Saba, Starbucks, The Good Burger, The Wok, VIPS, VIPSmart, and 100 Montaditos, with more following in the near future.
Samsung Pay in Thailand
Samsung Pay launched in Thailand in October, and the payment system is now widely available in the country. In Thailand, Samsung Pay works with both MasterCard and Visa cards from KCC, Bangkok Bank, Citibank, KasikornBank, KTC, and Siam Commercial Bank.
Samsung Pay in Sweden
Samsung Pay initially made its way to Sweden in beta form, but has since fully launched in the region. According to Samsung, the service is available with a number of banks and cards, including SEB, Visa, MasterCard, and Nordea. Not only that, but support has been extended to Entercard, Handelsbanken, ICA Banken, Rikskuponger, and Swedbank.
It won’t work on rooted devices
Now that the service is live, there is evidence that rooting your Galaxy phone will disable Samsung Pay. This isn’t surprising since a rooted device is less secure. If a user tries to use Samsung Pay on a rooted phone, they will will be prompted with a message saying, “Samsung Pay has been locked due to unauthorized modification.”
Rooting a device is the process of obtaining complete administrative control of the operating system, which can make it more susceptible to hacking, and less secure. There are some advantages to rooting, but the security concerns more than outweigh them for the average person.
If you’re wondering if your Galaxy phone is rooted, it most likely isn’t. Samsung (and most other) phones aren’t rooted out of the box, and you would have needed to go through many complicated steps in order to achieve root, of which you would probably remember.
It can be used for payments on Smart TVs
Samsung’s positioning Samsung Pay as a platform, not purely contactless forms of payment. To that end, the company announced Samsung Pay on TV in August 2015, a feature coming to select Samsung smart TVs that’ll expedite the process of paying for content.
The service, which Samsung said was developed in partnership with PayPal, ties your credit cards, debit cards, PayPal account and other billing options to a personal identification number. After you complete an “initial registration setup,” Samsung says buying a TV show, movie, or app on your TV is as easy as entering your PIN and hitting the “Pay Now” button that subsequently appears.
That first-time setup could be a headache. (You’ll have to add each funding source individually to Samsung Pay on TV.) If you’ve got a Samsung mobile account with saved billing details, though, they’ll transfer automatically. Owners of the electronics giant’s 2014 and 2015 smart TVs will begin to see games that integrate Pay on TV. The list of supported titles will be quite small initially — about seven — but Samsung says it’ll add content “within new and world-renowned games” in the near future.
How do you set it up?
Samsung Pay first became available on the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, and Note 5 devices, and required an over-the-air update to work. In 2016, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge were added to the list. Once you’ve added credit, debit, and loyalty cards, you open the Samsung Pay app with a swipe, choose the card you want to use, and authenticate the purchase with your fingerprint.
Just like most forms of mobile payments, Samsung Pay uses Near Field Communications (NFC) to make payments at point-of-sale systems that accept tap-to-pay. However, unlike Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Samsung Pay leverages the same technology standard credit cards use, called Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST), which will let the system work at most cash registers, regardless of whether or not they accept NFC payments. So long as the register accepts mag-stripe credit cards, which is something that nearly every single cash register can do, Samsung Pay should work.
Article originally published in June 2015. Julian Chokkattu, Kyle Wiggers, Williams Pelegrin, Christian de Looper, Robert Nazarian, and Andy Boxall have contributed to this report. Updated on 04-28-2017 by Adam Ismail: Added United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Sweden, and Hong Kong to list of supported countries.