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What is Samsung Pay?

Can mobile payment app Samsung Pay take on rivals Apple Pay and Android Pay? Find out which banks support it and what sets it apart.

In this article
What is Samsung Pay? Is Samsung Pay better than Apple or Android Pay? Is Samsung Pay safe?
How does Samsung Pay work? How do I pay with Samsung Pay? Which banks support Samsung Pay?

What is Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay is a mobile payments service that launched in the UK in May 2017, competing with tech giants such as Apple and Google. 

It lets you buy goods and services in any shop using your Samsung device where you can swipe or tap your card. Samsung Pay acts like a digital wallet by storing all of your payment cards.

Browse our Samsung smartphone reviews to see how we’ve rated compatible models. 


Is Samsung Pay better than Apple or Android Pay?

In the US, one thing that sets Samsung Pay apart from rivals Google Pay and Android Pay and Apple Pay is that it can be used much more widely – because it works with older magnetic stripe terminals, not just those that use near-field communication (NFC) to process contactless payments. 

Technology called magnetic secure transmission (MST) sends a small signal from a smartphone to the card reader and this mimics the signal produced when you swipe a physical card.

For now at least, the UK version doesn't support MST, so it can only be used with contactless readers.

With little else separating the various mobile payment apps, users may choose to stick with Android Pay for now, which is compatible with more devices and supported by more banks.

Find out more: Apple vs Samsung mobile phones – head to head in our lab tests

Is Samsung Pay safe?

As with Apple Pay and Android Pay, Samsung Pay uses tokenisation and biometric technology to protect users:

Card details are never stored on the device or shared with the retailer. Each card stored in the app is replaced with a device account number (also called a token).  

Every time you make a payment, this token is used instead of your actual credit or debit card number.

Payments must always be authorised via fingerprint or Pin so this should stop most thieves in their tracks. 

The latest Samsung phones, including the Galaxy S9, are equipped with iris-scanning technology, enabling users to verify payments using their eyes. 

Samsung says 'iris patterns are almost impossible to replicate' and you can only register the iris pattern of one person on each device.

If you’re registered with Samsung’s 'Find My Mobile' service, you can remotely lock your phone and delete payment cards stored the Samsung Pay app. 

If you find your phone later, you can unlock your cards by scanning your fingerprint or entering your Pin.

How does Samsung Pay work?

Samsung Pay is compatible with Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S7, S7 Edge, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, as well as the newer S9 and S9+.

The app is pre-installed on most Galaxy models, but if this isn't the case you can download it for free from the Google Play Store. 

Adding cards is easy – you can do this manually, or by pressing ‘Add’ which opens up your phone’s camera (align your card inside the frame so that the app can detect your card number and expiration date automatically). 

You can add up to 10 payment cards in total (credit, debit and store cards) but there’s no limit on gift cards. You’ll be asked to verify your cards via a one-time password.

How do I pay with Samsung Pay?

To pay, simply swipe up from the bottom of your phone’s screen to launch the app. Your default card is selected automatically, or you can swipe left/right to pay with a different card. 

You’ll then be invited to authenticate the payment by placing a finger on the home button. If you’re using your Samsung Pay Pin instead, you’ll need to enter your 4-digit code.

The entire process takes seconds and a notification instantly confirms the transaction (this information is also saved within the Samsung Pay app).

Your phone doesn't need to be online for in-store payments, although you always need an active internet connection to add payment cards and access transaction history.

You can return items just as you would if you had paid with a physical card. The retailer can simply match the information on your receipt to the last four digits of your digital card number in Samsung Pay (and you simply place your device near the payment terminal to complete the refund). 

Which banks support Samsung Pay?

The following banks and credit card companies support Samsung Pay:

  • American Express
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • Cornercard UK
  • Danske Bank
  • Engage
  • First Direct
  • HSBC
  • John Lewis Finance
  • M&S Bank
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • Santander
  • Starling Bank

But, if you bank with anyone else, you'll need to choose an alternative mobile payment service (in some cases, such as Barclays, the bank will offer its own payment app).