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Guide to mobile wallets: Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay

In a few short steps, you can have an organized digital wallet that lets you earn rewards or get discounts.

Summary

Got questions about mobile wallets? Our guide to Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay has all the answers about operation, security and rewards.

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If you have considered ditching your old-fashioned plastic credit card and switching to a mobile wallet but haven’t yet, you have plenty of company.

According to WorldPay’s Global Payments Report 2022, the use of mobile wallets to make purchases in stores in the U.S. will increase to 15% by 2025 from 10.3% in 2021.

The study suggests that while the majority of consumers will still prefer using old-fashioned debit and credit cards for their purchases in 2025, the runner up will likely be mobile wallets.

WorldPay predicts that fewer consumers will choose cash as their payment method at point-of-sale transactions by 2025, decreasing from 11.4% in 2021 to 5.7% by 2025.

If you’re debating whether it’s time to start using a mobile wallet, here’s a guide to how they work, what features they offer and how secure payments are.

How  mobile wallets work

The most common mobile wallets are Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay, and all come pre-installed on the devices on which they can be used.

  • To start using them, add your credit cards to the mobile wallet app of your choice.
  • When you are at a store that accepts mobile payments, launch the mobile wallet app on your phone and tap the payment terminal to initiate a payment. Follow the instructions on the app to complete payment.
  • Make sure the mobile wallet you choose works with the credit cards you use – especially if the card was issued by a regional bank. Wallet providers are constantly adding banks and credit unions, but there’s no guarantee your bank’s card will work within a given mobile wallet. Call your card issuers and ask what mobile wallets they support.
  • With mobile wallets, you can add not only credit and debit cards but also loyalty cards and even electronic movie tickets, boarding passes and your COVID-19 vaccination card.
  • You also can see your card’s most recent transactions directly on your mobile wallet, as long as your card issuer allows transactional information. Some issuers may limit the number of transactions displayed on mobile wallets.
  • Some card issuers are now offering rewards incentives to encourage mobile wallet adoption. For example, consumers with the Apple Card can earn 3% cash back when using Apple Pay at select stores and 2% cash back on all other Apple Pay purchases. Cardholders with the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® card can earn 3X points when they make eligible mobile wallet purchases.

Here is an overview of the major mobile wallet providers today in terms of security, rewards, functionality and acceptance:

Apple Pay

How to use

  • You can tap to pay at retailers with NFC technology at supported terminals.
  • Unsure whether a retailer accepts Apple Pay? Look for the Apple Pay logo.

Security

  • When you make a purchase, Apple Pay generates a device-specific number and unique transaction code.
  • Your credit card number is never stored on your device or on Apple servers.
  • You must create a passcode on your device to use Apple Pay. For even more protection, you can use Face ID or Touch ID.
  • When you add a credit, debit, prepaid or transit card to Apple Pay, the card information is encrypted and sent to Apple servers.

Rewards

  • With the launch of Apple Card, Apple boosted the rewards you can earn by using Apple Pay. You’ll earn 2% cash back on every purchase you make with your Apple Card through Apple Pay.
  • You’ll also earn 3% back when you make purchases from various merchants with your Apple Card through Apple Pay, including T-Mobile, Walgreens and Nike.

Supported cards

  • Apple Pay has agreements with banks across the globe.
  • Like other mobile wallet providers, Apple Pay is constantly adding banks and credit unions to its network.

Supported devices

  • iPhones starting with the iPhone 6 line.
  • It also works with Apple Watch, iPad devices and the MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar.

Google Pay

How to use

  • Tap to pay at retailers that offer NFC-supported terminals.

Security

  • Google Pay relies on encryption, too, to protect your data during transactions.
  • It uses tokenization, in which retailers receive a 16-digit number instead of your actual account number during a transaction.This token is generated in the cloud.
  • Before adding cards to or using the Google Pay app to make in-store purchases, you’ll have to set up a screen lock on your device.

Rewards

  • Google Pay will provide reminders and offers connected with any loyalty cards or rewards cards you use.
  • It offers incentives and promotions. For example, you can get discounts at retail stores and earn cash back with an eligible card when using your mobile wallet or if you invite friends to start using Google Pay.
  • You also can earn rewards in bonus categories that include credit card payments made with mobile wallets.
  • You can earn up to 10 referral rewards points by inviting new users to Google Pay. Once the referred user makes his or her first payment, both users will receive the referral rewards.
  • You can also win cash prizes when you use Google Pay. If you use Google Pay to send money to or receive money from someone, you’ll receive a Google Pay Scratch Card in your Rewards section. You can then virtually “scratch off” that rewards card to see if you’ve won a cash prize.

Supported cards

  • Google Pay works with credit cards from hundreds of banks and is always adding more banks to its network.
  • PayPal can be added to Google Pay if you have an Android phone.

Supported devices

  • Android phones, tablets and watches that run the Lollipop 5.0 operating system or better.
  • iPhone or iPad consumers with iOS 12.0 or more advanced.
  • The devices must be NFC-enabled.

Samsung Pay

How to use

  • Tap your phone to pay with NFC at supported terminals.
  • You also can use Samsung Pay at multiport service terminals (MST), which sends your payment using magnetic waves to a card reader.

Security

  • Each Samsung Pay transaction is covered by your bank’s fraud protection services and authenticated by your fingerprint, PIN or iris scanner.
  • Samsung also offers tokenization, which replaces data with identification symbols.
  • Your card’s information is encrypted in a separate data vault.
  • The Samsung Knox feature monitors your phone and protects it from malware.

Rewards

  • Samsung Rewards let you earn points with every purchase you make with Samsung Pay. The amount you earn will depend on the merchants from which you buy. Certain merchants will offer 2% cash back, while others might offer as much as 5% cash back.
  • You can redeem these points for gift cards or use them to enter instant-win games.
  • You also can earn rewards in bonus categories that include credit card payments made with mobile wallets.

Supported cards

  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover cards offered through partner banks.
  • More than 1,000 banks and credit unions are working with Samsung Pay.

Supported devices

  • Samsung devices with NFC technology.
  • MST coverage may be different by country.
  • This includes most newer Galaxy smartphone models and Gear smartwatches.

Are digital wallet transactions secure?

Glenn Fodor, senior vice president of competitive intelligence at First Data, said one of the reasons only a small percentage of consumers use mobile wallets is security issues.

Consumers worry purchases made with their phones and mobile wallets aren’t secure, and their personal financial data could be exposed, he said.

Mobile wallets, however, provide plenty of security for your purchases. These services rely on data encryption and tokenization to prevent retailers from ever seeing your credit card number.

While mobile wallet transactions are secure, replacing your plastic with your phone comes with other risks. Chief on that list is losing your phone.

In this case, the providers of mobile wallets offer services such as Samsung’s Find My Mobile or Apple’s Find My, which help you locate your phone, lock its screen or block access to the mobile wallet apps remotely.

Cyber thieves or a malware infection are other risks for which you should be on guard. There are things you can do to try to avoid or prevent these attacks, such as installing security software.

Which mobile wallet should you use?

You probably will use the mobile wallet associated with your phone because today there is little difference between the major mobile wallets available.

“No one is going to switch from a Samsung phone to an iPhone just because of a mobile wallet,” said Daniel Csoka, former managing director of Mobile Money Matters.

This means it’s easier to use Apple Pay if you have an iPhone, Samsung Pay if you have a Samsung phone and Google Pay if you have an Android.

You also might use a third-party mobile wallet like Walmart Pay, which you can use when shopping at Walmart stores.

Bottom line

By using mobile wallets, consumers can worry less about sensitive information being stored by retailers during a transaction, as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay protect their consumers’ information through data encryption and tokenization.

Mobile wallets are also convenient and safe for consumers who seek to minimize the number of cards they carry in their pockets and for those who are looking to earn rewards on digital platforms.

*All information about the Apple Card and U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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