Mobile payments are really heating up in 2015. First, Apple made a huge push into the space with Apple Pay. Next Google announced that it had purchased Softcard, after rumors surfaced that Google Wallet would soon get a major refresh. And at Google I/O, Android Pay was introduced. Samsung has also joined the fray with the announcement of Samsung Pay.
Updated on 09-28-2015 by David Curry: Added news about the official launch in the United States and bank/carrier partners.
Official launch in the United States
At a mid-August press conference in New York City, Samsung announced that Samsung Pay would launch in South Korea on August 20, and a stateside launch would follow on September 28. That day is finally here, and now, those with compatible Samsung phones can use the feature in the United States. Samsung Pay will hit the UK, Spain, and China later this year.
Samsung Pay — which will be enabled on the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 via an over-the-air software update — works a lot like Apple Pay. Once you’ve added credit, debit, and loyalty cards, you just swipe up from the bezel to turn on the Samsung Pay app, 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.
Samsung extended a partnership with MasterCard overseas, which will allow Samsung Pay users in European territories to activate debit, credit, and reloadable prepaid cards on MasterCard’s payments platform. The company also launched a trial program in South Korea for which only “select customers” were picked.
In the United States, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and US Cellular support Samsung Pay. Verizon is noticeably absent from the list, as it was when Google announced its own Wallet service. The two companies are still working on a deal to bring Samsung Pay to the largest carrier in the country. All the carriers supporting the payments service will send over the air updates to the four compatible devices later this week.
To download Samsung Pay, head to Settings > System > About Phone > Software Update.
Samsung is offering a free wireless charger or wallet flip cover to customers who recently purchased a Galaxy Note 5 or S6 Edge Plus for activating a credit card on Samsung Pay. The promotion is valid until October 11 and has to be redeemed by November 15, 2015.
Which banks and stores will support it?
The MST technology ensures that Samsung Pay supports private label credit cards (PLCC), thanks to partnerships with Synchrony Financial, Blackhawk Network, 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 US Bank. JPMorgan Chase were expected to support Samsung Pay, but the two companies are still in talks.
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. It 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.
It’s not going to work in rooted Android phones
Now that the service is live in South Korea, there is evidence that rooting the Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge 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 S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge 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 Pay is coming to smart TVs
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 Beta launched in the U.S.
Samsung Pay will officially launch to the public at the end of September, but Samsung has initiated a beta program ahead of that time, to help ensure everything’s running smoothly. The good news is, if you meet the requirements, you may be able to get in on the Samsung Pay Beta action. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Either a Samsung Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, or a Galaxy Note 5 smartphone.
- A current Samsung Account. You’ll probably have one of these if you own a Samsung smartphone, as it’s used for Samsung’s own apps and services. If not, you can always sign-up for one here.
- Connected to either AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular.
- A Visa or MasterCard from the Bank of America, or a U.S. Bank Visa card. There are several restrictions on which cards qualify, and it’s explained in greater detail on Samsung’s site here.
Provided you meet these standards, and have the email address to which your Samsung Account is registered, you can sign-up for Samsung Pay Beta on this page. Expect to receive further details from Samsung by email shortly afterwards.
Updated on 08-27-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in Samsung Pay Beta program news, and information on how you can join in.
Updated on 08-13-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added launch dates for the U.S. and South Korea.
Updated on 08-05-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details of Samsung Pay for TV.
Updated on 07-30-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added news of a Samsung partnership with MasterCard in Europe.
Updated on 07-24-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in news that rooting may disable Samsung Pay.
Updated on 07-16-2015 by Williams Pelegrin: Added details of Samsung Pay trial program in South Korea.
Update on 06-03-2015 by Kyle Wiggers: Added details of Samsung Pay’s delay until September.