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

How they work, security features, card compatibility and rewards

Dan Rafter
Personal Finance Writer
Specializes in mortgages, credit and credit scores

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

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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.

In its 2018 study on the use of mobile wallets, Pymnts.com reported that only 13 percent of adult smartphone users had ever tried Apple Pay, only 7 percent have tried Google Pay and just 5 percent Samsung Pay

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 made with the most popular mobile wallets are.

See related: Bonus card rewards for mobile payments aim to win over users, How to ditch your wallet without going mobile

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 in 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.

  • See “How to set up the right “default” your mobile wallet or the video below for further details.

  • 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 and boarding passes.

  • 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. Chase Freedom’s rotating categories for the first quarter of 2018, for example, included Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay (formerly known as Android Pay) and Chase Pay.

The chart below provides a quick rundown and comparison of the major mobile wallet providers today in terms of security, rewards, functionality and acceptance:

Quick guide: Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay, at a glance

Check out a comparison of features:  

Security

Apple Pay
  • 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.
Google Pay
  • 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.
Samsung Pay
  • Each Samsung Pay transaction is covered by your bank’s fraud protection services and authenticated by your fingerprint, PIN or iris scan.
  • Samsung also offers tokenization, which replaces data with identification symbols. Samsung Knox technology monitors your phone.
  • Your card’s information is encrypted in a separate data vault.

Rewards

Apple Pay
  • Apple Pay doesn’t offer its own rewards program.
  • The wallet does support loyalty cards, meaning that you can rack up rewards points for using the credit cards stores in your Apple Pay app.
  • You also can earn rewards in bonus categories that include credit card payments made with mobile wallets.
Google Pay
  • Google Pay will provide reminders and offers connected with any loyalty cards or rewards cards you use.
  • It offers incentives and promotions. You can get, for example, credit dollars to spend at the Google Play Store when you start using the 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.
Samsung Pay
  • Samsung Rewards let you earn points with every purchase you make with Samsung Pay.
  • You can redeem these points for gift cards or use them to enter instant-win games.
  • Instant-win games allow you to enter online raffles for various prizes. A recent promotion included the chance to win a one-year subscription to puppy gift provider BarkBox.
  • You also can earn rewards in bonus categories that include credit card payments made with mobile wallets.

Supported cards

Apple Pay
  • 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.
Google Pay
  • Google Pay works with credit cards from hundreds of banks and is always adding more banks to its network.
  • It also works with Visa Checkout and PayPal.
Samsung Pay
  • 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

Apple Pay
  • 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
  • Android phones, tablets and watches that run the KitKat (4.4) operating system or better.
  • The devices must be, however, NFC-enabled.
Samsung Pay
  • Samsung devices with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
  • This includes most newer Galaxy smartphone models and Gear smartwatches.

How to use

Apple Pay
  • 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.
Google Pay
  • Tap to pay at retailers that offer NFC-supported terminals.
Samsung Pay
  • Tap your phone to pay with NFC at supported terminals.
  • You also can use Samsung Pay at Multiport Service Terminals (MST) in which you swipe your card and EMV terminals in which you insert them.

Where accepted

Apple Pay
  • More than 4 million locations.
Google Pay
  • More than 1.5 million locations.
Samsung Pay
  • More than 30 million locations.

Are digital wallet transactions secure?

Glenn Fodor, senior vice president and head of information and analytics solutions for Atlanta-based payments technology firm First Data, said one of the reasons only a small percentage of consumers used 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.

 

Video: How to set up your mobile wallet

Mobile wallets, however, provide plenty of security for your purchases. These services rely on data encryption and tokenization so retailers never even see 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 iPhone, which help you locate your phone, lock its screen or block access to the mobile wallet apps remotely.

Cyberthieves or a malware infection are other risks for which you should be on guard. See “3 major mobile payment security risks, and how to avoid them” for further advice on how to prevent these attacks.

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.

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

This means that if you have an iPhone, it’s easiest to use Apple Pay. It’s easiest to use Samsung Pay if you have a Samsung phone. If you have an Android phont, Google Pay is and Google Pay if you have Android.

You also might use a third-party mobile wallet, such as Chase Pay, which is available for both Android and Apple phones.

Chase Pay’s acceptance, however, is comparatively limited. See “Chase Pay: How to use it and rack up cash back rewards” to learn more about Chase’s proprietary mobile wallet.

See related: Will mobile wallets make us poor?


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Updated: 06-17-2018