The complete guide to Samsung Pay in the UK

Everything you need to know about Samsung's payments app

card and contactless reader

Smartphones have become an indispensable part of modern life due to their versatility and limitless applications.

For a number of years, they've also been able to make mobile payments, ensuring they become an even bigger necessity for most people. After all, who needs a wallet full of debit and credit cards when you can simply scan your phone at the checkout?

The days of having wallets full of coins and notes are gone as we increasingly adopt contactless technology. And, according to the latest statistics, many of us are thinking this way as cash machines are closing at a rate of 300 per month.

Almost 1,500 machines on the Link network shut down between November 2017 and April 2018, partly because the dramatic increase in contactless payments for small transactions has made cash less necessary for almost all of us.

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The number one mobile payment method is Apple pay, followed by Android Pay, but Samsung Pay is catching up fast. Although relatively new, being available on arguably the most popular smartphone brand in the world means that Samsung Pay has every chance to become the number one mobile payment service. But, how does it differ to Apple Pay and Android Pay and why is its adoption behind the other two mobile payment leaders?

What is Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay is the Korean tech giant's mobile payment platform. It enables owners of Samsung smart devices to use them to pay for anything via a contactless NFC card reader terminal just by tapping on one of these devices.

It can also be used as a digital wallet as it stores a user's card details on a device to make online purchases too. Once a card is set up on a device, it can be used as a payment option by any retailer that supports it. You can just pay via Samsung Pay and you are done. No need to enter card details online.

Picture credit: Samsung

Which banks support Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay means you don't need to use your debit or credit card when you want to pay for something in-store or online. It stores the details of your payment methods securely on your phone, meaning you can just tap your device on a contactless card reader if you want to pay for something in-store or use its Samsung Pay Mini service to make online transactions in areas where the full version of Samsung Pay isn't available.

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However, this way of paying is only supported in some countries and by some banks. Although as other payment options like Google Pay and Apple Pay are becoming more popular, banks around the world are increasingly accepting contactless and mobile payments. 

To keep up with the competition, stores know they must support these methods of payment. As more devices are shipping with contactless payment solutions, consumers are choosing not to carry their cards around with them, so businesses risk losing out on a sale if they don't offer a credible alternative.

So far, Samsung Pay has signed partnerships with American Express, MasterCard and Visa payment card networks and is in talks with some of the leading US banks. Currently, more than 650 banking institutions and credit unions support the technology, including Chase, Citi, HSBC, and Wells Fargo.

While the service continues to expand all the time, a number of the UK's largest banking institutions, such as NatWest and Barclays, have yet to start supporting Samsung Pay.

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Payments provider Contis also recently announced a partnership with Samsung Pay, integrating the platform into its service across 150 credit unions in the UK.

Which devices support Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay is currently available on the Galaxy Note 8, S8/S8+, S7/S7 edge, S6/S6 edge, S6 edge + as well as Samsung's budget range the 2017 versions of the A3 and the J5, and the 2016 and 2017 models of the A5.

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The Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch can also use Samsung Pay when paired with compatible smartphones running Android 4.4 KitKat and above.

As of today, payments through Samsung Pay can now also be authorised using the built-in iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 8, S8, or S8+, although you can still use the fingerprint scanner or a passcode if you prefer. 

The service is also available on the recently released Galaxy S9 and S9+, however, early reports suggested that users were having difficulties getting it to work. Users have complained that the pre-loaded version of the application prompts owners to download an update, only to find the app listed as incompatible on the Play Store.

A stripped down version of the app called Samsung Pay Mini has also been released on some mid-tier devices, including the Galaxy J7 Pro and J7 Max, which launched in India this year.

Reports also suggest that Samsung is having internal discussions with its manufacturers about bringing Samsung Pay to devices outside of Samsung's own in order to expand its user base, which would require the manufacturers to develop the same unique chips that allow for magnetic secure transaction (MST) payments on Samsung devices. According to those speaking to Gadgets360, however, this is already a part of these talks.  

Samsung plans to bring the app to its new range of mid-tier phones shipping later in the year, which will arrive with embedded chips similar to those found in the S8, according to the same sources.

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Samsung Pay sits in an unusual position in the market. Until recently, Android devices offered two official contactless payment services to rival Apple, leading many customers to become confused over which to use. Android Pay, which was supported on Samsung smartphones, was effectively drawing customers away from Samsung's own payments service.

To make matters worse, Google has now ditched the Android Pay brand and has folded its functionality into a new G Pay platform, once again placing into competition with Samsung Pay and creating two options for users. Samsung does have an edge in the US by offering some services that rivals currently don't, such as the magnetic secure transaction (MST) payments.

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It's currently unclear whether Samsung will continue to push for its own payments service, or if it will consider blocking Google's own product.

Samsung Pay in the UK

Samsung Pay officially launched in the UK in May 2017, going head-to-head with Apple Pay and Android Pay to offer Samsung Galaxy users an alternative contactless payment method.

"Samsung Pay's primary competition is Android Pay and Samsung will need to offer some very attractive incentives to users if it wants to compete," Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, told the Guardian in May 2017. "Even more of a challenge will be getting existing Android Pay users to start using Samsung Pay it is hard to see why someone would want to switch at present."

"Samsung is determined to get consumers to think of it as more than just a company that makes devices. Samsung Pay is just one of several initiatives where it is trying to add value to its products while establishing an ongoing relationship with its customers over the lifetime of a device," Wood added.

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The UK implementation of Samsung Pay will add a few extra-value features compared to the service in other countries, including a tie-up with TfL, which allows you to choose which of your cards is a travelcard in London. Even if you have multiple payment methods set up on your device, you can specify which you want to be used when you enter or leave a TfL station. Users are able to pass quickly through the station without having to authenticate the transaction.

Samsung also declared a partnership with the banking solutions company Contis on 6 March, which will give Samsung Pay access to 150 credit unions across the UK, and make it a more viable option for UK users.

The MST payments that give Samsung a leg-up over Google Pay and other options in the US, but don't have as big of an impact in the UK, where most terminals have moved away from the old magstripe system.

But Samsung has taken the fight to Google by supporting PayPal in the US, finally putting it on a par with the tech giant's native service in an area in which it previously suffered in comparison. This makes the decision to use Samsung Pay over Google Pay easier for Samsung device users who have PayPal accounts. However, at the moment it's only available in the US. IT Pro has asked Samsung if and when it plans to support PayPal in the UK. 

The app was originally meant to be available in 2016, but Samsung pushed this back to 2017. However, the May 2017 release date may have been encouraged by the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8, which received a number of very good reviews.

Now it's available in the UK, Samsung Pay should work wherever contactless payments are accepted and in contrast to Apple Pay, it can be used with older retail terminals and also works for in-app purchases.

How does Samsung Pay work?

Picture credit: Samsung

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The Samsung Pay app can be downloaded from the Google Play store but will also be pre-installed on selected phones. You simply need to activate the service by signing into your Samsung account, scan your fingerprints and create a pin for future authorisation. Then you will need to add your cards by taking a picture of them- as long as your bank supports Pay.

If you've done all this then Samsung Pay will be ready to use. Swipe up on the screen the access your preferred card and hover the phone over a contactless payment terminal. Samsung has even made sure that the service can be used when the display is off meaning its easy to pay for stuff when you're out and about.

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