Mobile payments has come a long way after Apple made a huge push into the space with Apple Pay in 2014. Google introduced Android Pay last year, and Samsung has joined the fray with its own mobile payment system called Samsung Pay. Here’s what you need to know.
Samsung has announced Samsung Pay will expand to Spain, Brazil, the U.K., Australia, and Canada sometime this year. At the end of April, it formally confirmed that Singapore would soon get Samsung Pay, but didn’t give an exact date, only that it would be before the summer. The announcement came quickly after Apple Pay launched in Singapore, but only for American Express card holders. Samsung will support MasterCard an Visa, and plans to make the mobile payment service available to customers of the DBS Bank, Standard Chartered, and Oversea-China Banking Corporation.
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 will also support Visa and American Express, along with other major payment networks. The full list can be found here. Samsung has also signed a partnership with point of sale equipment company Verifone, helping adoption in the U.S. and internationally.
Samsung launched Samsung Pay in South Korea on August 20, and in the U.S. on September 28. At first, only Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular supported Samsung Pay in the U.S., but Verizon Wireless subsequently announced on Twitter it had evaluated the service, and would also provide the feature to its subscribers.
Related: Read our review of the Galaxy Note 5, and the Galaxy S6 Edge here
Verizon promised an over-the-air software update to enable Samsung Pay on compatible phones, and reports started to spread in mid-October that the software had begun to arrive on some phones, while a post on Verizon’s support pages detailed the update, suggesting a wider launch is imminent. Samsung then released a statement saying that from October 21 from midday ET, Verizon Galaxy phone owners would gain access to the Samsung Pay app on the Google Play Store, which suggests the majority will have received the update by that point, or will do in the very near future.
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 dollars in its first six months of existence.
On March 29, 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.
Samsung Pay launches with a healthy list of supporting banks and credit card providers in China. 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, and future compatibility with Bank of China, Bank of Beijing, and others is promised soon.
The service is available anywhere swipe or tap-to-pay features are already offered, but Samsung Pay only works on the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy Note 5, and the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus.
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. next year. In an interview with Reuters, 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.
Samsung added 19 new issuers of credit and debit cards in December, including 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.
It comes two months after Samsung added 14 banks in October, 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.
Thanks to 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.
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, and 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 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 is currently limited to the Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, and Note 5, but in the near future we will see further support for Samsung devices and perhaps others.
Samsung chief executive officer of Samsung’s mobile division, JK Shin, confirmed that last month, and executive vice president Injong Rhee — in charge of Samsung Pay — followed up in an interview with ZDNet, saying:
“Despite the strong push from headquarters, and high expectations for it to become a big business, our sales team initially had its doubts. But when Samsung Pay rolled out here, handset sales rose concurrently, and the sales team saw the benefits first-hand. Now our sales teams in other regions all want to do the same.”
Rhee didn’t confirm any of the devices set to receive Samsung Pay support, but did confirm that the update is coming in a few months to “non-flagship” devices. Samsung’s Thomas Ko, an executive working on Samsung Pay, told Reuters in late December “low priced Samsung phones” will have Samsung Pay support in the next year, but didn’t offer any precise dates.
In mid-November, a report in the Korea Herald quotes a Samsung analyst, who states Samsung Pay may come to low and mid-range phones in the first half of 2016. Additionally, an industry source says Samsung will add fingerprint sensors to some of its ‘budget smartphone models,’ an essential part of Samsung Pay integration.
Samsung may not limit Samsung Pay to its Android phones, and the Korea Herald report mentions the possibility the feature may be added to Samsung’s Tizen smartphones, although the aforementioned analyst says this “would have little impact on the market,” given Tizen’s limited market reach.
Returning to Samsung’s VP Injong Rhee’s comments, he also confirmed the next Gear smartwatch will feature full Samsung Pay support. Currently, the Gear S2 supports Samsung Pay in a limited capacity. It works at NFC-enabled terminals, but not at regular terminals. As such, the application of Samsung Pay with the Gear S2 is less widespread than it is with compatible Samsung phones, which have MST technology that enables mobile payments at non-NFC terminals. The next Samsung smartwatch would, in theory, have MST and work at ordinary registers, too — just like the phones do now.
Samsung Pay might also be supported by other manufacturers in the future, with Rhee claiming there were internal talks on working with partners to push the payments service onto Android. That might disrupt the peace with Google — the creator of Android Pay — but would be a good way for Samsung to attain more users in the mobile payments market.
Rhee followed up saying “right now global expansion is happening so quickly for Samsung Pay that we are focusing all our energy on deployment,” which means it is unlikely we will see any partnerships in the near future.
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.”
Related: How to root your Android phone or tablet in 2015 (and unroot it)
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.
Samsung’s positioning Samsung Pay as a platform, not purely contactless forms of payment. To that end, the company has announced Samsung Pay on TV, 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.
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 will use 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 will leverage 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.