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Innovations and Payment Systems

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

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.

In its Mobile Wallet Adoption 2020 study, PYMNTS.com reported that few consumers use mobile wallets to make purchases in stores. According to the research, just 5.1% of consumers reported using Apple Pay at the point-of-sale in early to mid-March 2020, while just 3.3% said they used Walmart Pay.

The PYMNTS study suggests that the vast majority of consumers still prefer using old-fashioned debit and credit cards for their purchases. When PYMNTS asked consumers what payment methods they used to make purchases in the last seven days, just 3.9% of seniors and baby boomers said they used mobile wallets, while just 11.8% of Generation X members said the same. Just 18.5% of bridge millennials said they used mobile wallets, while 19.3% of millennials and 15.5% of Generation Z members said the same.

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: Online and mobile payment statistics

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’ card on 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. The Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card offers 1.8% cash rewards on Google Pay™ and Apple Pay® during the first 12 months. The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card provides three times the rewards points when you make eligible mobile wallet purchases using Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung 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.
  • You must create a passcode on your device to use Apple Pay. For even more protection, you can use Face ID your Touch ID.
  • When you add a credit, debit, prepaid or transit card to Apple Pay, these cards’ information is encrypted and sent to 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.
  • 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.
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.
  • The Samsung Knox feature monitors your phone and protects it from malware.

Rewards

Apple Pay
  • 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 with your Apple Card through Apple Pay at T-Mobile stores and Nike stores.
  • You’ll get 3% Daily Cash back on everything you buy from Apple when you use your Apple Card to make these purchases. You’ll also get 3% cash back when you use your Apple Card to pay for services from Uber, Uber Eats, T-Mobile, Duane Reade and Walgreens. This is technically an Apple Card reward because you can use your physical Apple Card to make these purchases without going through Apple Pay.
  • If you want to make a purchase at a store, website or app that doesn’t take Apple Pay, you will receive 1% Daily Cash back when you use your physical Apple Card.
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.
  • You can earn up to 10 referral rewards points by inviting new users 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 virtual “scratch off” that rewards card to see if you’ve won a cash prize.
Samsung Pay
  • 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%.
  • 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. Up through April 2020, for instance, you had the chance to win a Samsung Notebook 9 Pro.
  • 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 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 Lollipop 5.0 operating system or better.
  • The devices must be NFC-enabled.
Samsung Pay
  • Samsung devices with 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 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.

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, 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 and Google Pay if you have an Android.

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

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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