Slowly but surely, we’ve been moving to a society where cash becomes obsolete. Over the last few decades, Credit and Debit Cards have made us rely much less on physical currencies swapping hands but we’re approaching a phase where even those will become obsolete. I remember someone mentioning a study where people realise and report lost phones much faster than a lost wallet. So it only makes sense that the product that’s most important to you holds information that’s most important to you. And Samsung makes that possible for consumers in the Middle East with Samsung Pay.
I’ve been using Samsung Pay for the last couple of weeks to pay for everything from parking to coffee. The service was introduced by Samsung in preview mode with Mashreq Bank but with the official launch, there are many local banks that work with it such as EmiratesNBD and RAK Bank amongst others other banks will join in soon. At the moment Samsung Pay is supported on the Galaxy Gear S3 smartwatch and the following Samsung phones: Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy Note 5 Galaxy A5/A7 (2016) and the Galaxy A3/A5/A7 (2017 models.)
Once the app is on your phone, you need to add a Visa/Mastercard Credit or Debit card by a supporting bank. This is done by either entering the card information manually or use the camera on your phone to scan the card and capture the details. After entering the card details, you set up a four digit PIN code to authenticate your transactions. Alternatively, you can also use the fingerprint sensor for this purpose which is something I recommend as it makes the process faster and easier. You can add up to ten cards to Samsung Pay and any card can be tied to multiple Samsung devices which is good for families sharing a card.
Once your card is added, you’ll see a small “Samsung Pay” tab at the bottom of your screen that can be swiped up to start transactions. You can do this in standby mode as well so your screen doesn’t need to be active to initiate a transaction. After you’ve done this, you’ll feel a heartbeat pattern vibration which means the phone is ready to use for payment. Simply bring your phone within 5 cms of a credit card terminal and authenticate yourself using the PIN or your fingerprint and you’re pretty much done.
Unlike Apple’s payment solution which does not work on credit card machines that don’t support NFC and has yet to be announced for the Middle East, Samsung Pay works on pretty much all machines in the UAE- whether they’re MST (Magnetic Secure Transaction) that make up 75% of the machines or NFC that is the rest of the 25%. According to a Samsung representative, 99.98% of machines used in the UAE work with Samsung Pay.
There are two ways you conduct a transaction using Samsung Pay. At some places like Starbucks, the cashier initiates the transaction and you simply tap on a terminal to complete the process. The second way, which I found was more widely used was that you initiate the transaction by tapping on the credit card terminal, following which the cashier enters the amount and asks you for the last four digits of your card that are always shown on the Samsung Pay app.
I used Samsung Pay at a variety of locations during a week of testing- from gas stations to restaurants and cafes as well as retail stores- even a parking lot. While most of the time my experience was good, I did face a few issues. For example, while the card worked across Enoc petrol stations, it didn’t work on Emarat stations. I also faced issues at one particular branch of Costa coffee but it worked at other Costa locations.
These issues are expected with any new technology and did not deter me from using Samsung Pay as my preferred method of payment. Like any other new technology, it will only improve over the next few months. And these problems will be solved sooner than later because all that’s needed is a simple software update on the credit card terminal- remember, 99.98% of the machines in the UAE are capable of accepting Samsung Pay.
That being said, I had no problems using Samsung Pay at a variety of places such as Virgin Megastore, Shakespeare & Co, ENOC petrol stations and Green Parking areas. The staff at all of these place were bewildered when I told them I’ll be paying using my phone and were wowed when the transaction went through. They kept asking me in amazement on what this is and how it works. I simply told them that it’s the way almost everyone will be making payments in the next few years.