Your complete guide to Samsung Pay
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No joke — I first bought a Samsung phone almost entirely because of Samsung Pay.
Samsung Pay is one of the most dynamic tools in the miles and points enthusiast’s utility belt. Many of us have a large quantity of rewards credit cards that we use strategically at certain merchants and for specific activities. I currently have 20+ credit cards, but I only spend on perhaps five at a time, depending on rotating category bonuses, minimum spending requirements and other variables. Using a mobile wallet like Samsung Pay allows me to carry all my frequently-used cards in my pocket without the extra bulk.
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Let’s explore the virtues of Samsung Pay and give you instructions (with pictures) for how to set it up on your device. It’s hands-down the best mobile wallet for travelers at the moment, though Samsung has begun to phase out its best feature.
What is Samsung Pay?
Samsung Pay is a mobile wallet available for most Samsung Galaxy smartphones, as well as most Samsung Gear smartwatches. It’s an Android app that comes pre-installed on your Samsung phone. The feature allows you to pay for transactions with a tap of your phone — no cash or credit card necessary. Just load credit cards to the app, swipe to find the card you want to use, and your purchase will be charged to that card. It even works for debit cards, gift cards and memberships (think Kroger, Planet Fitness, Sam’s Club etc.). One notable exception is Priority Pass.
Can you see why this is such a miles and points superpower? No four-inch thick wallet stuffed with the best travel credit cards in a messy attempt to maximize each unique bonus category. They’re all stored in a single device you’d be carrying around anyway. This is great if you’re the kind of person who has a bunch of credit cards that you use deliberately for:
You might also be carrying around a new travel credit card to try and earn its elevated welcome bonus. Throw in a Global Entry ID card, and you’ve got everything you need without a bulky wallet weighing you down.
Which banks support Samsung Pay?
Whether your credit card is an American Express, Mastercard, Visa or Discover, you can likely add it to Samsung Pay. The app currently supports more than 1,000 banks and credit unions, as well, and they’re adding more all the time. This means you can load any of the best credit cards for travel, as well as most cash back credit cards onto your device, then leave the physical versions at home.
Where can I use Samsung Pay?
Here’s where the app’s magic lives — for now.
Most mobile wallets implement NFC (near-field communication) technology, which allows you to tap your phone on the front of the credit card machine (you may have used this method with your compatible credit card, too). However, not all merchants have this feature at checkout. If a credit card terminal is older and doesn’t have NFC capabilities, you’re out of luck. But not with Samsung Pay.
Samsung Pay includes something called MST, or magnetic secure transmission. You can just touch your phone to any credit card machine around the area where you swipe your card, and the machine will think you just swiped a card. It essentially mimics what happens when you swipe a physical credit card at a payment terminal.
In other words, this will work at nearly every establishment with a credit card terminal — from Girl Scout booths outside Walmart to small-town bodegas to third-world souvenir shops. Samsung Pay trounces the competition regarding participating locations, especially if you travel.
However, the Samsung Galaxy S21 phone lineup doesn’t come with this MST capability, and nor will future Samsung phones. They will rely solely on NFC to transact. Samsung feels that a sufficient number of establishments now offer NFC. Still, the phaseout of MST, which was the main differentiator between Samsung Pay and other digital wallets, is a big loss.
How many cards can I add to Samsung Pay?
You can add a maximum of 10 credit/debit cards at once. You can also add unlimited gift cards.
This is below average for competitors like Google Pay, which offer an unlimited number of payment methods.
Popular cards to use in Samsung Pay
As stated above, Samsung Pay gives you an easy opportunity to load enough cards to make sure you get the most rewards for every dollar you spend. Read our posts on the Chase Trifecta, Amex Trifecta and Citi Quadfecta for an idea of what we mean.
An example of a good mix of cards on your device might be:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- 3 Chase points per dollar on travel (after earning the $300 annual travel credit) & dining, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
- 10 points per dollar on all Lyft rides booked with the card (through March 31, 2022)
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express:
- 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1%) and select U.S. streaming subscriptions
- 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit
- Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card:
- 4% back on dining
- 4% back on entertainment
- 4% back on popular streaming services
- 3% back at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target)
- 1% on everything else
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card
- 5% cash back (5 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on phone, internet, and cable TV services each account anniversary year
- 2% back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account anniversary year at gas stations and restaurants
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- 5% cash back on Chase Travel booked through Ultimate Rewards
- 3% back on drug store purchases
- 3% back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
- 1.5% cash back (1.5 Chase points per dollar) on all purchases
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You can cover pretty much all your purchases in various bonus categories while getting a decent return on your spending with a card mix like this — without even carrying a physical wallet!
Do I earn rewards with Samsung Pay?
You earn cash back, similar to an online shopping portal, when you begin your shopping spree with Samsung Pay. The app used to earn “Samsung Rewards” for every in-store purchase, but that ended in Dec. 2020.
How to set up Samsung Pay
Once you have downloaded Samsung Pay, open the app and click “Get started.” You’ll associate your Samsung account to Samsung Pay. If you’ve previously used the app, it will import your saved cards. You will have to tap each one and re-authenticate them, however.
Inside the app, you’ll see a spot to add credit/debit cards near the top. To the right you can add membership cards and gift cards.
When adding a card, you can choose to input the details manually or point the phone camera at the face of your card for a more automated experience. You’ll still be required to enter the security code and your zip code.
After filling out your card details, you’ll go through another stage of authentication. Samsung Pay will email/text/call you (depending on the card) with a security number. If you choose to receive the number via text, Samsung has the capability of autodetecting the number within your text thread, if you allow it.
Your card will be instantly added to Samsung Pay to be used immediately. From this screen, you can add more cards or simply exit.
If you are adding a card for which you are an authorized user, the verification number and email will be the primary accountholder’s information, not your own. Even though your name is on the card, you’ll have to get the security code from the primary cardholder.
Which countries support Samsung Pay?
You can use Samsung Pay anywhere with a credit card terminal that takes magnetic stripe (although there will sometimes be a mystifying error). Or, if you’ve got one of the newest Samsung Galaxy S21 phones, you can use it anywhere NFC is supported.
You can add cards issued in the following countries and territories to Samsung Pay:
- United Kingdom
- Puerto Rico
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
Is Samsung Pay secure?
Talking of using Samsung Pay abroad, it’s one of the most secure ways to shop. It doesn’t even store your credit card numbers (or any account numbers, for that matter). It creates its own account number for each card. In other words, when you use one of your cards through Samsung Pay, the credit card machine receives a different 16-digit number representing the card you’ve chosen, as well as a single-use code created by your phone’s encryption key.
Samsung Pay acts as a proxy of sorts between your credit card and the store.
If you happen to lose your phone, someone would need your PIN number, fingerprint or iris scan to access your credit cards. You can also remotely wipe information on your phone via the Samsung Find My Mobile website.
Is there a fee?
There is no fee for using Samsung Pay.
Samsung Pay blows Google Pay and Apple Pay out of the water because of its unique ability to transact with old credit card terminals that aren’t NFC compatible. This MST technology means you can use it practically anywhere credit cards are accepted. It’s a shame Samsung has chosen to equip their latest smartphones solely with NFC and plan to omit MST from their future devices, as well.
On the whole, though, the app is fantastic, and a big plus to Samsung smartphones. But due to the app’s new trajectory, entirely dependent on NFC, it will become no better than Apple Pay or Google Pay, and access to Samsung Pay will no longer be a deciding factor in the phone I buy.
Featured image by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.
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