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Everything you need to know about Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay adds support for HSNC and M&S Bank in the United Kingdom

Update: Samsung Pay now supports HSBC and M&S U.K. banks.

Mobile payments have come a long way since Apple made a huge push into the space with Apple Pay in 2014. Google introduced Android Pay in 2015, and Samsung has joined the fray with its own mobile payment system called Samsung Pay. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Which countries support Samsung Pay?

Galaxy S7 Edge

Samsung Pay is currently available in the U.S. on all major carriers’ networks, as well as in Spain, South Korea, China, Thailand, and most recently the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Switzerland.

Samsung initially promised Pay would expand to the U.K. and Canada sometime in 2016, but has backtracked on its promise to the former. In a statement, Samsung said, “Following successful launches of Samsung Pay around the world, we are planning to launch the service in the U.K. in 2017.

Now, the service is finally available in the U.K. — and it supported MBNA, Nationwide, and Santander banks at launch. Now, a month later, a few more banks have joined up — including HSBC, First Direct, and M&S Bank.

The service fully launched in the UAE and Sweden in April following beta testing. Those two are the first Middle Eastern and Nordic markets to receive Samsung Pay. For users in Hong Kong and Switzerland, the platform is only available in early access form at the moment, with a limited number of supported banks.

It was first brought to Thailand in October 2016, but the system is now much more widely available in the country. In Thailand, Samsung Pay is compatible with MasterCard and Visa cards, and a range of banks are supported, including KCC Bangkok Bank, and Citibank.

Samsung Pay arrived in Brazil in July 2016. It’s supported by the county’s largest institutions, among them Banco do Brasil, Brasil Pré-Pagos, Caixa, Porto Seguro, Satander, Banrisul, Bradesco, Nubank, and Itaú-Unibanco. And it will support both Visa and MasterCard accounts.

The payment service is now available in Puerto Rico as well — cards from U.S. territory’s largest bank, Banco Popular, are now supported and Samsung Pay is available on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Claro networks.

In mid-June 2016, through a partnership with Citibank and American Express, Samsung Pay formally launched on Galaxy devices in Australia. Availability varies by “local operator,” Samsung warned, but users in the Land Down Under should be able to pay at any sales terminal that accepts conventional debit and credit cards.

Also in June, Samsung Pay went live in Spain. Unfortunately, users in Spain will miss out on one major feature of the payment service: support for magnetic point of sales. In other words, Spanish residents can only use Samsung Pay at NFC terminals, with Samsung giving no indication as to whether that will change.

That same month, Samsung formally brought the service to Singapore as well. The announcement came quickly after Apple Pay launched in Singapore, but only for American Express card holders. Samsung will support MasterCard and Visa in the country, and Samsung Pay is available to customers of the DBS Bank, Standard Chartered, and Oversea-China Banking Corporation.

On March 29, 2016, Samsung Pay went live in China through Samsung’s previously announced partnership with China UnionPay. The deal, announced in December 2015, is crucial, as UnionPay is China’s main credit provider. In addition, Samsung partnered up with Ant Financial Services Group, Alipay’s parent company, which will further expand Samsung Pay’s presence in China. The partnership will allow users of Alipay, China’s largest third-party payment processing service, with over 450 million users, to use Samsung handsets to pay for products and services.

Driving these international launches forward is Samsung’s extended partnership with MasterCard overseas, helping Samsung Pay break into Europe, and for people to activate debit, credit, and reloadable prepaid cards. It also supports Visa and American Express, along with other major payment networks. The full list can be found here. Additionally, Samsung has signed a partnership with point of sale equipment company Verifone, helping adoption in the U.S. and internationally.

Which devices support Samsung Pay?

Samsung Pay Phones

Samsung Pay is limited to the Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, Note 5, Gear S2, and, most recently, the Galaxy J7 Pro. It also now works with Samsung’s new smartwatch, the Gear S3 — and you don’t need to connect a Samsung phone for it to work.

With the J7 Pro receiving support, Samsung has finally expanded its mobile payment system to non-flagship smartphones. Another budget device, the J7 Max, will receive Samsung Pay Mini, a lighter version of the software that is designed for online payments only. Both these phones are expected to become available in India starting in late June through mid-July, where the J series is very popular. Launching on those devices could be a way for the company to jump-start adoption in the country after recently launching the service there.

Going forward, all of Samsung’s devices will support Samsung Pay. That’s according to Koh Dong-jin, president of the company’s mobile business division. “We have decided to preinstall Samsung Pay devices in Samsung Electronics’ smartphones to be released from [2017],” he told Business Korea.

The idea that Samsung Pay will come to all of Samsung’s phones is further corroborated by a previous report from Mashable, which noted that Samsung was exploring ways to bring Samsung Pay to its nonpremium devices in order to play a bigger role in mobile payments in India.

Gear S3 owners with an Android phone can use Samsung Pay

A recent update to the Gear manager app allows for Gear S3 users to use Samsung Pay, even if they don’t own a Samsung smartphone. Most Android devices running 4.4 KitKat and above should work, but Samsung says there are a few exceptions at the moment — notably, the Google Pixel.

To get started on paying with your Gear S3, you’ll need to add your cards via the Gear manager app. You can launch Samsung Pay by holding down on the back button.

What’s unique about the update is that unlike the Gear S2, the Gear S3 supports MST, not just NFC. That means it will work at most payment terminals — just hold your watch near the checkout terminal when you’re ready to pay.

Support for the Gear S2

Samsung announced late last year that the company’s flagship smartwatch, the Gear S2, would gain support for contactless payments. After a lengthy delay, it finally arrived in the beta program for the S2 during the summer for the Bluetooth-only model.  In October, users with the cellular model of the Gear S2 reported that they are able to use Samsung Pay as well.

Samsung Pay Mini

Samsung has announced Samsung Pay Mini, a slimmed-down version of Samsung Pay designed to work on other Android phones, and not just those made by Samsung. Samsung Pay Mini will initially be available in South Korea, where the app will be ready to download over the coming few months.

What’s the difference? Samsung Pay Mini is only for online payments. Offline payments, that’s those used in stores, will require ownership of a Samsung phone and the full Samsung Pay app. This is due to Samsung Pay Mini and phones not made by Samsung not supporting the magnetic secure transactions (MST) hardware that allows Samsung devices to complete wireless payments at legacy payment terminals.

The app is compatible with Android phones running version 5.0 Lollipop and later, provided the device’s screen has a resolution higher than 1280 x 720 pixels, which should cover most models released over the past few years. In addition to online payments, the app will feature Samsung Pay features for membership cards, transportation cards, and lifestyle options. And it’ll boast a Shopping feature that connects directly with famous local online shopping malls that are partnered with Samsung.

The final launch date hasn’t been confirmed, but a trial version for existing Samsung Pay users to try out will be released on February 6 through Google Play in South Korea.

The announcement follows earlier rumors published by ET News, a report which also discussed Samsung Pay Mini’s chances of reaching iOS in the future. Sadly, it’s highly unlikely, but it’s not entirely Samsung’s fault. The company told ET News that Apple had rejected the Samsung Pay Mini app for iOS devices, adding, “After Apple rejected registration of Samsung Pay Mini onto its app store, we have decided to focus on smartphones with Android OS.”

Samsung hasn’t made any announcements regarding Samsung Pay Mini’s launch outside of South Korea at this time.

The first system to let you pay with your eyes?

A report from Yonhap News Agency in South Korea claims Samsung plans to enable payment by iris scanning in the region, at the recommendation of the country’s credit card firms. These companies reportedly wanted to enable the feature in last year’s Galaxy Note 7, but ultimately only used it for account verification, rather than transactions. According to the article, experts regard this method as more secure than passwords and fingerprints, saying it makes fraud “virtually impossible.”

Iris scanning is one of three biometric authentication methods on the new Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus — the others being the aforementioned fingerprint sensor and facial recognition. With iris scanning, users can unlock their devices simply by looking at them. Samsung’s rival, LG, is reportedly seeking to enable face-sensing tech on its recently released G6, with the ambition to use it for payments. Yonhap provides no timetable for release of the feature on the Galaxy S8.

Samsung Pass

At the Samsung Galaxy S8 Unpacked event, Samsung unveiled a new way to use Samsung Pay on websites and other online services — Samsung Pass. But what does it do? The main goal here is to make Samsung Pay easier to use, so Samsung Pass stores your passwords and lets you use biometric data — like your fingerprint — instead. That means you won’t have to waste time trying to remember and enter your individual passwords for each service.

It’s really a very handy feature, and Samsung hopes it will help convince people to use Samsung Pay more often in apps and online — rather than just in stores.

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