Samsung Pay: Everything you need to know

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It’s easier than ever to leave your wallet at home and only carry your phone to pay for things thanks to mobile wallets like Samsung Pay. Once you’ve added credit, debit and even gift cards, simply tap your phone (or even your watch) to pay. What differentiates Samsung Pay from its rivals like Apple Pay and Google Pay is that it promises to work almost anywhere you pay for things. It will even work with older magnetic-stripe terminals without the store having to update anything. This is what you need to know to start using Samsung Pay.

Where is Samsung Pay available?

It’s currently available in 25 countries around the world (deep breath): the US, UK, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Which phone, bank, card and carrier do I need?

Samsung Pay works with recent Galaxy phones, all the way from the newest Galaxy S10 Plus to the Galaxy Note 5 from 2015. It’s also available on smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Watch Active, Gear S2 (only for transactions on NFC terminals), Gear S3 and Gear Sport.

All major carriers in the US support Samsung Pay: AT&T, Cricket, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and US Cellular. You will also need a Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express card. See the full list of supported banks and cards in the chart below.

How do I set it up?

Once the Samsung Pay app is installed, sign in with your Samsung account if you haven’t already. The app will prompt you to register a PIN, fingerprint or iris scan if you don’t already have one set up. You can now add a credit, debit, gift or membership card by scanning it with the camera. You’ll also have the option to add your PayPal account as well.

Check that the number, name and expiration date from the scanned cards are all correct. Samsung Pay will verify a credit or debit card with your bank and you’ll have the option to get an SMS, email or make a phone call to confirm.

A total of 10 cards can be added to Samsung Pay.

How does it work?

Samsung Pay uses two technologies that allow it to work almost anywhere. The first is near-field communication (NFC) for tap-to-pay transactions at contactless terminals. The second is magnetic secure transmission (MST) for older terminals where you would normally swipe a card. The phone emits a magnetic signal to simulate the magnetic strip found on the back of a credit or debit card when you hold the phone against one of these readers.

How do I make a payment with Samsung Pay?

From the lock screen, swipe up from the small Samsung Pay bar. Select the card you want to pay with, then place your finger on the fingerprint scanner to verify, use the iris scan or enter your PIN. Hold the back of the phone against the payment terminal. If you’re using a debit card through Samsung Pay, you may still need to enter the card PIN on the terminal. Once the payment is made you will get a notification that confirms the merchant name and the amount of your purchase. This information is also listed in the Samsung Pay app. From a watch, press and hold the appropriate button to launch Samsung Pay, then tap the watch against the terminal.

Samsung Pay vs. Apple Pay vs. Google Pay

Samsung Pay Apple Pay Google Pay
Compatible devices Samsung Galaxy phones since the Galaxy Note 5, Gear Watch and Gear Watch Active, Gear S2 and S3 Apple iPhones since the SE, Apple Watch, MacBook Pro with TouchID, iPads since 5th generation, iPad Pro and iPad Mini Android phones with NFC and HCE support running KitKat (4.4) or higher
Availability (see note below) 25 countries worldwide 41 countries worldwide 29 countries worldwide
Authentication Fingerprint, PIN or iris FaceID or fingerprint Fingerprint, PIN, pattern or password
Where can you use? Works with NFC, magnetic stripe or EMV terminals, in-app purchases Works with NFC terminals, in-app purchases and web purchases in Safari Works with NFC terminals and in-app purchases
Cards Credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards Credit, debit and loyalty cards Credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards
Which banks? Wide variety of banks: full list here; PayPal Wide variety of banks: full list here Wide variety of banks: full list here; PayPal