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What is Samsung Pay, and how does it work?

It's not the Swiss army knife it used to be, but it's still potentially useful on the go.

Published onApril 25, 2023

A Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 on a user's wrist displays the Samsung Pay screen.
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

While Apple Pay and Google Pay are better known, Samsung Pay remains one of the more important mobile payment platforms out there. Here’s a quick primer on what it is, how it works, and where you can use it.

What is Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay in 2022

Samsung Pay lets you make credit, debit, or loyalty/membership card-based payments, usually using one of the company’s phones or smartwatches. It’s primarily meant for retail, where the NFC (near-field communication) technology in your device talks securely with compatible point-of-sale (POS) terminals. It’s also available for some in-app and web payments.

The highlight of Samsung Pay used to be MST (magnetic secure transmission), which let it work with any magnetic card reader. The company killed off MST in its devices beginning with the Galaxy S21, however, so only older phones still have this option.

It’s also worth noting that Samsung Pay is now a part of the Samsung Wallet app, which encompasses a wide variety of purposes such as gift cards, digital keys, app logins, boarding passes, and COVID-19 vaccination records.

How does Samsung Pay work?

Samsung Wallet smartphone app
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Using Samsung Pay begins with adding one or more payment methods by tapping a plus icon in Samsung Wallet. The app can use your phone’s camera to scan the front of a credit or debit card, extracting its number and expiration date. You’ll still need to enter your CVV code and your name as it appears on the card. Alternately you can choose to enter all this data manually, or use NFC addition if your card supports it. Regardless, cards must be verified with their providers using  instructions they’ve chosen.

To make an in-person payment with a Samsung phone, you first need to launch Wallet by swiping up from the bottom of your screen. Your default payment card will show up, but you can swipe left or right to pick a different one. You then have to tap the fingerprint, iris, or PIN buttons to authenticate, and bring the back of your phone next to the POS terminal within 30 seconds. In some cases, you may have to enter your card’s PIN on the POS system.

If you’ve set up Samsung Pay on a watch like the Galaxy Watch 5, retail payments are simpler. You simply need to press and hold the back key, then unlock your watch using your PIN or pattern code. Hold the watch near the POS terminal and your transaction will complete.

For in-app or web payments, select Samsung Pay/Wallet when the option becomes available at checkout, choose your card, and authenticate.

Where can I use Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay is one of many NFC mobile payment apps.

The feature is available in at least 29 countries including the US, UK, and Canada, and should work in most places where NFC payments are accepted, among them gas stations, restaurants, and electronics shops. Some retailers are NFC holdouts however, like Texas’ HEB grocery chain. When in doubt, look for a “Samsung Pay” sticker where you’re shopping — just know that it might work even if that sticker is missing. If Apple Pay or Google Pay is an option somewhere, chances are Samsung Pay is as well.

In New York City, Chicago, Portland, and a variety of regions internationally like London and Taiwan, there’s a unique version of Samsung Pay for public transit. Called Tap and Pay, this lets riders board simply by bring their phone next to a ticket validator, with no need to manually activate Samsung Pay or even unlock. You do need to set a default transit payment method for this to work.

There’s no comprehensive list of apps and websites that support Samsung Pay, but some apps include Fancy, Raise, Exxon Mobil, and Samsung’s own.

Can I use Samsung Pay at an ATM?

Indeed you can, if you have a compatible debit card in Samsung Wallet and the bank it’s linked to supports withdrawals that way. In the US that includes Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and others.

You will however need to make sure an ATM supports cardless transactions. Search for locations via a bank’s app or website, then check which services are available at the ATM(s) nearest to you.

Can you get cash back with Samsung Pay?

Potentially, as long as a merchant has partnered with Samsung for a promotion. Look for that info in Wallet. The amount of cash back you’ll receive varies from merchant to merchant, and probably won’t be paid back directly — instead you’ll get things like vouchers or (for some purchases direct from Samsung) Samsung Rewards points.

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