Why Samsung Pay is awesome & how anyone can use it

Mobile payments are all the rage these days; but with some forms working at one register and not another, it can be confusing. However, I’ve recently had the chance to test out a mobile payment technology that has intrigued me for a while and should be of interest to rewards enthusiasts & travelers: Samsung pay. Samsung Pay is awesome, and just about anyone with an Android or Apple smartphone (See update below; Samsung Pay is blocked on iPhones) in the US can get it and use it. After my initial experiences, it’ll be a game-changer in my household.

What is it and how is it different?

Like Apple Pay and Google Pay (formerly called Android Pay), Samsung Pay is a mobile payment technology that allows you to use a mobile device to pay for in-store purchases. However, Samsung Pay is significantly different from its competitors in the way the technology works.

Apple Pay and Google Pay, which are designed for iPhones and Android phones, rely on a technology called NFC (Near-field communication). I’m not a true techie, but my layman’s understanding is that this requires a credit card terminal equipped with this special NFC technology so you can tap your phone to it and pay. While newer terminals with this capability are being installed more widely all the time, the fact is that many places do not yet have the equipment to accept Apple Pay and Android Pay, and not everyone who has the equipment actually seems to have it enabled.

On the other hand, Samsung Pay uses a technology called MST (Magentic secure transmission). In a nutshell, this technology kind of “fools” the credit card machine into thinking that a card has been swiped, It sends a signal through the magnetic card reader portion of the terminal that emulates a credit card being swiped. The key difference here is that Samsung Pay should work at nearly any credit card terminal equipped with the ability to swipe a credit card. This means that Samsung Pay should work almost anywhere, and indeed it has in my initial experiments. Literally, all you have to do is hold your device near the part of the terminal where you’d swipe a credit card and it works.

But I don’t have a Samsung Phone…

That’s OK, neither do I. The good news is that we don’t need one. Samsung has built this technology into its latest smartwatches, enabling you to pay from your watch at just about any terminal — if you have an Android phone (see update below).

Greg recently sent me the most awesome random gift in the mail….

Who says working for Frequent Miler doesn’t have its perks?

Of course, I knew that this represented both Greg’s generosity as a great boss and an assignment: get out there and use Samsung Pay to see if it’s all it is hyped up to be. I have a lot more experimentation to do, but so far it is.

Since the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier (the model I’ve got, which you can check out here on Amazon – our affiliate link) works with just about any iPhone or Android phone, this means that most US-based readers with a smartphone can use this technology. Most US users with an Android phone (one running Android 4.4 or later) can use the Gear S3 with Samsung Pay.

Update: The Gear S3 is compatible with both Android and iPhone (using iOS 9.0 or later), but critically important is that Samsung Pay will not work with iPhones. Apparently, Apple has blocked that portion of the app and thus you can not pay if you have your watch paired with an iPhone. This will work with Android phones running Anroid 4.4 or later. See this page for device comparability.

The watch simply connects to your phone via Bluetooth (they also make an LTE version with a SIM card that you could add to your cell phone plan, though I don’t see much benefit in that as I’d rarely be without my phone – and the S3 will allow you to pay a limited number of times even when not connected to your phone). As long as you can load the Samsung Gear app from your app store, you should be able to use the Gear S3 Frontier and Samsung Pay.  One small gotcha: while you can use Chase Pay in conjunction with Samsung Pay, you will need a Samsung phone to do that. I was bummed about this as I’d hoped to be able to use Samsung Pay to earn the current Chase Pay spending bonus.

But it’s really easy to use. Really easy. See how easy:

Why Samsung Pay is awesome

I’ve only been using Samsung Pay for about a week, but I’m already thrilled with it. In fact, I think we’re going to eventually end up getting a second watch. I’ll explain why in a minute — but I’m going to split the reasons why I think Samsung Pay is awesome into two sections: convenience and benefits.

Convenience

Samsung Pay is really, really convenient. Like other mobile payment technologies, it allows you to carry almost your whole wallet without looking like George Costanza. You can load up most of your major credit cards (with a notable exception) and carry them on your wrist. That’s convenient for me for several reasons:

  1. Always have the card you want. Ever away from he house and realize you should have brought Card XYZ after all when you unexpectedly stop somewhere with a category bonus / Amex Offer / etc? Hate carrying around all of your cards every day? As long as you’ve added it to your Samsung Pay wallet, you won’t have to worry about that anymore.
  2. Amex Offers. Along the same lines as #1, you might have an awesome Amex Offer that is synced to a card that you don’t have in your physical wallet. With Samsung Pay, if you have that card loaded to your digital wallet, you should be able to use it and take advantage of the Amex Offer
  3. You can add your spouse’s card (may vary by issuer, may be YMMV). I had given it some Googling before trying this, and what I’d read made it sound as though this was possible, but I was still surprised when it worked. I was successfully able to add my wife’s Amex Gold card to my Samsung Pay account and use it at the local grocery store. That’s awesome because I’ll be able to earn 4x on that card’s category bonuses even when my wife isn’t with me without having to be added as an AU and potentially bumping up my 5/24 count.
  4. Keeping cards active is much easier. You know that old card you keep in the sock drawer? In order to keep it active, you have to break it out now and then and use it. I usually suggest that you dust it off and buy a pack of gum or something once every 6 months. That requires the forethought to take out that card and plan to bring it with you to purchase said “pack of gum”. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just have that card ready and waiting on your wrist when you happen to stop for gum…or some other inconsequential small purchase?
  5. Remembering the last few digits of your card. Sometimes, you need to know the last 4 or 5 digits of your card number for one reason or another. For instance, yesterday I heard that some people are now targeted for a better offer to upgrade the Chase Marriott Premier Plus card. Checking my upgrade offer required my name and some other info – including the last 4 digits of my card number. Having the number handy (it’s faster to pull up Samsung Pay than it is to log into Chase) is very convenient.
  6. It works nearly everywhere. I know I mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: the Samsung Pay technology is awesome because it doesn’t require a special terminal. I’ve used it from major retailers through small shops and had no problems thus far.

There’s no doubt that Samsung Pay is really convenient. I’m particularly excited about #1 and #6 above. While this gift is turning out to be awesome, I think it’s going to cost me some money. That’s because I think I’m going to have to get one of these for my wife as well. She hates carrying all of her cards at once…which inevitably leads to a purchase being put on a suboptimal card now and then. My nails on a chalkboard is earning 1x when we could have earned 5x. Another Samsung watch for Player 2 should really cut down on the number of physical cards she needs to carry.

Benefits

There are also some key benefits to using Samsung Pay in the right situations.

  1. Mobile Payment offers. In the race to get their card top-of-app, issuers are starting to offer incentives for adding their cards to your mobile payment solutions. There have been Amex Offers targeting mobile payments, Chase has offered extra points for using Chase Pay more than onace…even Capital One provided a $25 statement credit just for adding a card to Google Pay recently, with no requirement to even pay with the card to earn the credit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these. While you can probably take advantage of such offers with Apple Pay or Android Pay, the wider acceptance of Samsung Pay might make it more useful.
  2. Combine Chase Pay with Samsung Pay for wide acceptance. This one will unfortunately only work if you have a phone enabled with Samsung Pay (as opposed to just the Gear S3 watch like me). If you do have a Samsung phone, you should be able to first add your Chase card to Samsung Pay and then open the Chase Pay app. Instead of showing a QR code to pay in-store, you should be able to choose “Pay with Samsung Pay”. This should stack any Chase Pay benefits with the wide acceptance of Samsung Pay (i.e. Chase 5x 4th quarter, extra points offers, etc). The advantage here is that Chase Pay is extremely limited in where it works — but using Chase Pay through Samsung Pay means you have access to nearly any credit card terminal. And you can avoid the confused looks when you try to get a cashier to scan the Chase Pay QR code.
  3. Samsung Rewards. Samsung has a rewards program that gives you points for using Samsung Pay. It’s not much of anything…but then, I don’t need much incentive. I’ll take whatever they want to give.
  4. Earn 3x almost everywhere with the US Bank Altitude Reserve. The US Bank Altitude Reserve offers an uncapped 3x bonus category for mobile wallet payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. I didn’t open the Altitude Reserve among other reasons because Android Pay is hit-or-miss in its acceptance. With Samsung Pay, it should be possible to earn 3x almost everywhere with the Altitude Reserve thanks to Samsung Pay’s wide acceptance — and without even having a Samsung phone. Those points are worth 1.5c each when used towards travel, and real-time mobile rewards means you might even be able to book direct and use your points – making this feel close to a 4.5% cash back card (not quite since it is restricted to travel and there are some other hoops). Getting 3x at your mechanic, eye doctor, veterinarian, etc would be unparalleled.

There’s no doubt that having the Altitude Reserve for use with this technology would make for a really awesome “everywhere else” card when you’re not earning a category bonus that otherwise eclipses the return on that card. I’m bummed that I can’t take advantage of the bonus Chase Pay offers through the watch alone — I’ll have to seek out places that accept Chase Pay rather than having the convenience to tap my watch just about anywhere. Still, that’s hardly a complaint. This is a net win overall.

But it’s not quite perfect

For the first day or two, I wondered if I would ever carry my wallet again. Of course, the honeymoon ended and I realized that I would need to carry my wallet for several reasons.

First, it might not always work. I got up to the grocery store the other day and the terminal initially gave me a “card read error” when i tried to pay. I realized I’d left my wallet and home and thus had no other way to pay. I tried it again, and the payment went through successfully the second time. I must have either pulled my wrist away too soon or it was just a technical glitch. Still, this own’t replace carrying a wallet as a backup.

Second, not quite all cards can be loaded. Samsung has a page with issuers whose cards can be loaded. I’ll save you a click — it includes nearly every issuer, likely including your small regional bank. However, not all cards from each bank work. For instance, I wasn’t able to add my Chase or Bank of America business cards to Samsung Pay. That means I’ll still have to carry my Ink Plus for stops at office supply stores.

Third, I’ve read that not all merchants will accept mobile payments for all purchases. For instance, if you’re thinking about rushing off to your local mall to buy a stack of gift cards with your watch, be aware that I’ve read that the customer service desk likely won’t accept a mobile payment for a purchase like that. I’m not sure if it’s hard-coded at the register, but I think you’l likely not get that kind of thing to work.

Fourth, and along a similar thread, I’m not sure how it will work in places where the cashier asks to see your ID. Samsung Pay creates a virtual card number for each of your cards, so the phone actually tells you a new last 4 digits to tell the cashier if they want to verify that. But when a cashier wants to verify that your ID and card match, I’m not sure what will happen. I know that isn’t terribly common in most places, I run into it now and then. We have family in Myrtle Beach, and I find that I am often asked for my ID when shopping at outlet malls in that area.

The app does allow you to save a signature though. If you click on “card info” on your phone, it gives you an option to enter a signature, which you would draw on your phone and save so that you could show the signature to the cashier if they should ask. I’m not sure that would work with the more jealous fraud-busters out there, but it’s an option.

Lingering Questions

My initial experiments have led me to a couple of lingering questions that I hope to have answered in the near future (and that some readers may be able to answer in the comments here):

  1. Will paying through Samsung pay still trigger category bonuses? In other words, will I still get 4x at restaurants with card #1 and 2x at gas stations with card #2? I assume I will as I’m still paying the merchant rather than Samsung and the charges show up in my online statements as though charged directly by the merchant.
  2. Can Samsung Pay be stacked with in-store offers? In other words, if I have my card linked with in-store mileage programs, in-store cash back, Acorns Found Money, etc, will those things stack? Again, I expect they will.

I feel pretty confident that using Samsung Pay will allow for both of the above and just make it easier to earn rewards on these types of purchases.

Bottom line

I’m excited about Samsung Pay. So far, it works smoothly and makes it easy to carry (nearly) every card so I have the card I need in the right situation. This won’t eliminate the need to carry a wallet with physical cards — both to have business cards on you and for those times when you don’t have direct access to the payment terminal (like in a restaurant) or something just goes wrong. You’ll still need your physical cards to shop online as Samsung Pay is just an in-person payment solution at the moment. But it’s fast, it’s easy, and it has the potential to be very rewarding.

Last updated on October 17th, 2018

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

More articles by Nick Reyes »

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Alon
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Alon

I’ve been using Samsung Pay for several years now and can answer any question you may want to pose at me (pls keep my email confidential though)

Ed. C
Guest
Ed. C

I can confirm that using Samsung Pay with my Chase cards still earns you the bonuses. I even used it in conjunction with Chase Pay and my Freedom card to earn the 5X quarterly bonus this quarter for using Chase Pay.

Also, Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST. NFC works a lot faster than MST in my experience, but I have only had a couple of instances where I could not get MST to work. I think that had more to do with the old credit card terminals that I was trying to use it at.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Does MST payments using Samsung Pay count towards the 3x mobile payments for US Bank Altitude card? Because you then effectively have a 4.5% cashback everywhere card which is hard to beat unless you have a lot of 4x and 5x category bonuses.

jeph36
Guest
jeph36

Yes, it does. This has been me grocery and everything-else card since I got it in the spring.

Hari
Guest
Hari

To be clear, the latest Samsung watch (the Galaxy Watch) does not have MST. You’ll have to go with the Gear S3 to take advantage of it.

king
Guest
king

Hello Apple fan boys. You guys are so fully immersed into the apple env, and were not even ready to know what is happening around you (technology wise ) and take advantage of those . After 4 years of sam pay , now there is an article on how awesome it is. Funny thing is ,many people are still asking questions abt it here.

king
Guest
king

Thanks to you guys , my apple stocks are roaring high.

klrsmith
Guest
klrsmith

If they think Samsung Pay via watch is great, wait until they ditch the iPhone for a Galaxy S8 or S9 – but that probably won’t happen… they are in a cult that is difficult to extract from…

askmrlee
Guest
askmrlee

Well, as an Apple users, I used to have this on my iPhone. It was a LoopPay attachment. Everything was fine until merchants switched to EMV and Samsung acquired the company and killed Apple support

William
Guest
William

LoopPay could have been made to work with EMV/tokenization, but Samsung couldn’t have made it a unique feature for their phones if they continued to support it.

Greg The Frequent Miler
Admin

Funny comment considering that the author (Nick) doesn’t have an Apple phone

William
Guest
William

I carry around a cheapo Galaxy S6 Active to go with my iPhone SE. The iPhone is great for stuff like browsing and having stable and well-polished apps. The Galaxy S6 is great for weirdo stuff like Samsung Pay, talking to OBD2 dongles, reading transit cards, and other such things, but the battery life isn’t nearly as good.

wwllmm
Guest
wwllmm

Can add VGC?

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

Yes and all other store gift cards, frequent shopper memberships and other memberships such as fitness center!!

William
Guest
William

I don’t believe so. There has to be an agreement with the bank to work with SPay and I wouldn’t expect that the VGC banks would want to support it. If someone has a specific data point, it would be interesting to know. It didn’t even work with LoopPay.

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

William, You’re right!! I cannot do INK on my Samsung pay. However, I have used other VGC on my Samsung pay. These are VGC receieved through rebate type of things from office supply stores, I almost want to say the VGC from renting Silver car for the first time. I’m so sorry I did not pay attention to which bank adminstered the VGC.

Probably
Guest
Probably

Haha. I guess I’m not everyone. I still won’t be able to use it having only an iPhone 6splus. I don’t like Apple but I just hate android devices

Neil
Guest
Neil

I have iphone 6s. Does it say somewhere in this article that the watch will only work with later versions (i.e. iphone 7)?

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

I love Samsung Pay, have been using it for three years now. Samsung pay let you earn points for each transaction. I don’t earn enough to redeem for anything. But, as you all may do, when we can “earn points” without putting extra effort, we all may just do so, LOL. However, since I don’t earn enough points to redeem for any product, I just use points to enter for their sweepstake. Last November, I won a wonderful Universal Studios vacation from Samsung pay, the price included 4 RT airfare (from SLC) 3 nights at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, 4 Blue man show tickets, transport to/from airport, four 3-day 3-park park to park pass. We experienced this trip this past summer, Wizarding World of Harry Potter was AMAZING!!!

Hoyasaxa
Guest
Hoyasaxa

There’s additional % back with dosh/spent. Best deal I get is at Costco with an additional 1% on top of the 4.5%.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Dosh hasn’t done Costco in a bit, sadly

JohnSF
Guest
JohnSF

Does this work with the readers on gas pumps at gas stations? The reader part of these seems to me to be inside the pump so just curious if it works with those.

William
Guest
William

You can usually make it work, but there’s a mechanical switch that you have to trigger manually with a non-magstripe card while holding the SPay device nearby it. This will probably be easier when there’s EMV.

JohnSF
Guest
JohnSF

That is very helpful information! Thanks!

Ed. C
Guest
Ed. C

Where I live, some newer gas pumps have NFC capability. Because Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST, it should become easier to use the more gas stations upgrade their pumps.

William
Guest
William

A few comments:
> Always have the card you want.
You’re limited to up to 10 cards.

> It works nearly everywhere
It generally works, but paying at restaurants is inconvenient compared to say, LoopPay.

> Will paying through Samsung pay still trigger category bonuses?
Yes, it’s through the bank, so it’s rare that it doesn’t unless there’s a bug on the issuer’s side.

> Can Samsung Pay be stacked with in-store offers?
It depends on how they key it. If it doesn’t rely on the card number, it should work.

> I’m not sure how it will work in places where the cashier asks to see your ID.
Your name isn’t displayed on the virtual card, so it befuddles some cashiers. Most of the time they’ll just ignore that there’s no name, but it can be annoying.

> You’ll still need your physical cards to shop online as Samsung Pay is just an in-person payment solution at the moment.
That’s not accurate. It integrates with Visa Pay.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

From my understanding you cannot use Samsung Pay on the Gear S3 with an iPhone. It has to link to an Android. I use an iPhone as my primary so I used an Essential phone for this.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

Samsung Pay will not work on a watch, which is connected to an iOS device. I work at Samsung, let me know if you have any questions. Also watch “Wear” app is a bit buggy, as it’s developed in Korea, and SPay of a phone is developed in US.
SPay on a phone is much more superior and have many features, which watch version doesn’t have. The most interesting features are: The Store, where you can buy gift cards, sometimes with discount.
They recently introduced cashback portal
SPay – Chase Pay integration is now working as well.
None of those features are available on the watch.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Repost with I finally have iPhone news!

Tim
Guest
Tim

this is a terrible title that worked as clickbait. disappointed in you Jose

TomT
Guest
TomT

The first paragraph of this article got me excited about Samsung Pay because it states:

“Samsung Pay is awesome, and just about anyone with an Android or Apple smartphone in the US can get it and use it.”

However, a little further down in the same article it states:

“Update: … Apparently, Apple has blocked that portion of the app and thus you can not pay if you have your watch paired with an iPhone”

The introductory paragraph should always be updated when you find such important info. It should not only be buried in the article.

Christine
Guest
Christine

I have been using this for almost a year and feel that you missed the biggest benefit: discounted gift cards. Lowe’s cards are regularly 10% off…but so are Southwest and many other valuable vendors. The gift cards are stored by the app making it manageable to track them. I maintain the highest tier rewards status even if it has made me a McDonald’s addict, and yes you can use it at drivethroughs. Verifone stations are everywhere once you start looking. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Greg
Guest
Greg

1) The newest Samsung watch (stupidly) does not have MST technology, only NFC, which all smartphones now have. If you’re looking to be able to use it anywhere, make sure you get the S3 and not the newest model.
2) Regarding receiving category bonuses: I have, including DOSH at ExxonMobil, but that could be because they encourage you to use the Speedpass app, which uses Samsung Pay.

O.M.
Guest
O.M.

It seems great, but the limitation of having only 10 cards in the wallet is very annoying.
Especially if you want to use your wife card as well…

TimmyD
Guest
TimmyD

Can you do this on an android device that is not Samsung? My wife has some sort of amazon phone