Tired of carrying around a bulky wallet filled with credit, debit, and loyalty cards? Then switch to mobile payments and a digital wallet. While you have a growing number of options here, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay are three of the top choices available. They’re similar services, but each offers very distinct features. All three let you pay for purchases online and in-store (where available).
To figure out which is best for your needs, see how each option fares in terms of features, ease of use, and availability.
By itself, Apple Pay is a contactless mobile payment solution. When combined with Apple Wallet and Apple Cash, it matches the digital wallet feature set provided by Google Pay and Samsung Pay. However, we refer to Apple Pay as a digital wallet here to avoid confusion.
One of the key factors for adopting digital payments is availability. Despite the growing popularity of mobile payments, they’re still not accepted everywhere. Plus, many countries still don’t have the technology in place to support them, and some features may only be available in specific countries and locations (such as individual retailers).
For contactless payments, loyalty cards, tickets, gift cards, and boarding passes, Google Pay is currently available in 42 countries. However, if you’re paying online or in apps, the digital wallet is available in 75 countries. There is one major limitation, though. Google Pay for iOS only works in the US and India and only for online or in-app purchases. The Google Pay iOS app doesn’t support contactless payments in stores.
Google Pay also lets you send money to friends and family. Currently, this feature is only available in the US, India, and Singapore.
While you can use Google Pay with some transit systems, it’s only accepted in nine countries.
One great benefit is that 40 countries allow you to use Google Pay via Wear OS. This can make it even more convenient, as your wallet fits on your wrist.
Samsung Pay isn’t quite as popular as either Google Pay or Apple Pay due to it only being available on Samsung devices and supported in fewer countries. At the time of writing, it’s available only in Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, U.K., U.S., and Vietnam.
You can also send money to friends and family in the U.S. The only downside is that both you and the recipient must sign up for a Samsung Pay Cash debit card.
Samsung Pay is also accepted at many transit systems across the world in supported countries.
You can use Samsung Pay on both phones and watches, though not every Samsung device is compatible. Also, some devices don’t support MST (magnetic secure transmission) compatibility. View the full list in Samsung Pay’s compatibility section.
Apple Pay is available in 70 countries. This includes both in-store contactless and online payments. It’s also accepted at over 85 percent of retailers in the U.S, at the time of writing. It’s compatible with any transit system worldwide that accepts mobile payments.
When it comes to paying friends and family, Apple Pay only works in the U.S. You’ll need to use Apple Cash, but then you can easily send money through the Messages app.
In most cases, digital wallets in general are secure and often considered safer than an actual wallet. This higher level of security also assumes you lock your phone and don’t lose it. You also have to be diligent about avoiding phishing scams and malware, as both could compromise any digital wallet app, just like any other app.
Digital wallets also use unique tokens with every purchase versus transmitting your credit card number and PIN, so retailers never receive or store your actual card number, adding an extra layer of security.
A good digital wallet goes a step further and provides secure authentication options to protect your wallet on top of your phone’s authentication method.
In this category, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay all take security seriously:
- Google Pay – Passcode, PIN, fingerprint, pattern
- Samsung Pay – PIN, fingerprint, iris
- Apple Pay – FaceID, fingerprint
Reach and Flexibility
In most cases, anywhere NFC (near field communication) payments are accepted, you can also use Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. This is the same technology many credit cards are now using with the tap and pay feature. All you have to do is hold your phone near the NFC symbol (looks like a sideways Wi-Fi symbol) to pay.
As you might already be aware, not every retailer and location offers NFC payments. Unless you’re using a store app to pay that accepts a digital wallet, you won’t be able to use Google Pay or Apple Pay in these locations.
Samsung Pay is the exception and offers more payment flexibility and compatibility. Payment terminals that only accept slide payments where you slide your card’s magnetic strip in the machine can also accept payments through Samsung Pay. Samsung currently uses MST technology, which mimics the magnetic strip on a card; you just need to hold your device next to the terminal to pay.
There is one problem with that, though. Samsung is no longer building MST technology into new Samsung devices. This is because more and more retailers are opting for NFC payment terminals. If you get a new Samsung phone, it may only work with NFC payments.
Types of Cards and Banks
Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay all support the addition of credit, debt, loyalty, and vaccination cards. Note that Samsung Pay requires you to use Samsung Pay to add the vaccination card.
Overall, Google Pay works with most consumer credit and debit cards. However, many prepaid debit cards and company credit cards aren’t supported. For example, all Capital One cards are compatible, except U.S. Partnership Credit, Corporate Credit, and non-U.S. Credit.
Google Pay is also compatible with numerous banks. Before you decide whether it is right for you, check out the full list of compatible cards and banks by clicking your country in this supported payment method list. Google Pay is also compatible with PayPal.
Samsung Pay works similarly to Google Pay and is widely compatible with major credit card issuers and banks, along with PayPal. Some types of cards aren’t compatible, such as corporate credit cards and certain types of prepaid or ATM cards. However, Samsung offers a much easier-to-use interface for checking compatibility.
Simply search Samsung’s Compatible Cards site to look up your particular bank or card issuer and see which cards are compatible. You can also check out types of compatible gift cards and in-app partners.
Apple Pay has partnered with most major banks and card issuers to offer maximum compatibility. Of course, some types of cards aren’t supported. Apple Pay doesn’t list these cards like Samsung Pay does, instead recommending that you contact your bank or card issuer to check whether Apple Pay is supported or not.
However, you can easily browse the list of participating banks before you choose Apple Pay as your digital wallet. Note that to add cards you’ll need to open the Wallet app on your phone.
The good news is that any perks you might have with your credit or debit cards still apply to a digital wallet. However, the best digital wallet takes perks a step further by offering its own benefits.
The Google Pay rewards program gives you additional perks and cashback at participating retailers, online and offline. It works similarly to loyalty cards in that you get a discount for buying a particular item, a certain number of items, or making transactions during a set promotional period.
Another benefit is being able to keep track of all your transactions in one place. You can even scan in physical receipts. This is ideal for managing a budget or just getting a better overall picture of your spending habits.
Samsung Pay offers its own Cash Back program. New offers are regularly added. When you activate an offer and shop at a participating retailer, you’ll get cash back rewards either as a set amount or a percentage of your purchase. For instance, certain food delivery services offer as much as five percent cash back.
You can also apply for Samsung’s SoFi Mastercard. It’s a debit card that works like a savings account. It offers competitive interest rates to help you grow your money and will also help you build credit and set spending limits. There are no account fees, even at ATMs.
Of course, all your transactions are available in the Samsung Pay app and through the SoFi card management page in the app.
As one final perk, the Samsung Pay app works as a digital key with the Hyundai Genesis GV60.2 EV.
Apple Pay only offers cash back through the Apple Card, which is a Mastercard credit card. You’re able to earn cash back as a percentage of every purchase. This amount is then added to your Apple Cash account to use immediately as normal cash. You’ll have to apply and be approved in order to get the card, though.
Add family members to your account, set spending limits, and keep an eye on your transaction history. Of course, you can also monitor spending habits on any of your wallet’s cards using the Apple Pay app.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if a retailer accepts my mobile payments app?
Most retailers that accept tap and pay cards also accept mobile payment systems and usually list these along with the types of credit cards they accept. If you’re uncertain, consider carrying a single credit card with you just in case a retailer doesn’t accept the payment app you use.
What happen to my digital wallet if my phone gets stolen?
Digital wallets are safer than physical wallets in this scenario. Of course, it’s still possible for a thief to break into your device, especially if you don’t lock it. For optimal security, use biometric authentication on your device and your digital wallet.
You should also immediately contact your bank and credit card provider(s) to freeze your accounts or cancel your cards in the event a thief is able to break in. The good news is that the time it’ll take to hack your device is enough for you to make those calls before you start getting hit with unauthorized purchases.
Is there any benefit to using two digital wallets?
Not really. Juggling two digital wallets will only make things confusing. Based on availability, it’s best to use Apple Pay on an iOS device. Unless you’re using a Samsung device, Google Pay is the more widely accepted Android digital wallet.
Do I have to add all my cards and information to my digital wallet again if I get a new device?
Data should carry over when you log in to your digital wallet app on the new device. However, it’s possible you may need to re-add your cards.
What do I do with all my physical cards once they are added to the digital wallet?
Store them securely at home. If you’re going to a new retailer that you’re not sure accepts digital payments, choose a single credit card to take with you. It’s safer to use a credit card, as most credit cards offer protection against unauthorized purchases versus debit cards that take money out of your account immediately.
Are there any other digital wallets?
Image credit: Unsplash
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