What's the difference between Android Pay and Samsung Pay?

Well this is all pretty confusing, isn't it? If you have a Samsung phone in the U.S. chances are you have two new apps on your phone — Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. Well, you have an Android phone from Samsung so we suppose that makes sense, but while these apps both aim to do the same thing — handle your mobile payments — they aren't actually related in any way. On the other side of things if you don't have a Samsung phone but you're starting to see plenty of advertising for Samsung Pay, you may be confused as to why you can't have it.

We're here to clarify the situation, explain the differences between these two payment platforms and help you choose which one to use and care about.

Android Pay

Android Pay

We already highlighted the main features of Android Pay in a comparison to the new Google Wallet, so here we're going to focus on what Android Pay does versus Samsung Pay, which it directly competes with.

Android Pay is Google's second swing at mobile payments, replacing the old Google Wallet system. But just like Google Wallet did, Android Pay uses NFC (Near Field Communication) to transmit payment information between your phone and properly-equipped payment terminals at supporting stores. You load all of your debit or credit cards into the Android Pay app once, then you can pay with them virtually using your phone in the store. Android Pay requires that you phone has a secure lock screen (pattern, password, PIN or fingerprint) to work, and the payment information is sent completely securely.

Android Pay has a better chance of success than Google Wallet, but there's work to be done.

Not all banks or card types inside each bank are supported by Android Pay, which leads to some bit of confusion. Google lists supported cards and banks (albeit roughly), but you may want to contact your bank before you get too excited about having full compatibility. For example you may be able to add a card, but you will have to enter a secondary authentication PIN to pay with it and may not get proper rewards or points from your credit card issuer when paying via Android Pay until it's fully supported. To add another level of confusion, cards previously added through Google Wallet will continue to work in Android Pay for a limited time, even though they wouldn't be considered compatible if they were added as new in Android Pay. It's a slight speed bump, but the fact that Google is working with banks this time around is important, as you likely won't hit as many snags with payment or seeing transactions properly on your bank or credit card statements.

Android Pay also supports loyalty and gift cards. You can enter them in to the Android Pay app, and it will display them on your phone's screen as a barcode for the merchant to scan. You can only add loyalty and gift cards from programs that are recognized by the system, so you can't manually enter any random number or merchant like you could with Google Wallet in the past. And as of Dec. 10, Samsung Pay now supports gift cards, too.

Android Pay works on phones running Android 4.4 and later that have NFC and HCE (Host Card Emulation) support. The carrier you use doesn't impact your ability to use Android Pay, and though it only works in the U.S. right now you can still use it on an international phone when you're in the U.S. If your phone is compatible, you'll either get an update to your old Google Wallet app, or the new Android Pay app will be available in the Play Store. Of course the bigger issue is likely to be finding stores that support NFC payments — major chains like McDonald's, Macy's and Walgreens all support it, but it's far from being universally adopted.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay

Samsung has actually been talking about its new mobile payment platform, Samsung Pay, for quite a while now, but until the release of the Galaxy Note 5 we didn't have many details on the launch. On the surface, Samsung Pay works very similarly to Android Pay. It's an app that lets you load up your supported debit, credit, loyalty and gift cards, which can then be emulated using the phone to pay in stores.

Samsung Pay will work in stores that support NFC payments, but its big trick is a technology called MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission), which it picked up with the acquisition of a company called LoopPay. MST lets your phone with Samsung Pay emulate an actual physical card swipe, meaning it can work at virtually any payment terminal where you can swipe a card. You activate Samsung Pay on the phone, authenticate with your fingerprint (or a PIN if you prefer), and then hold the phone over where you'd normally swipe a card — it'll make the terminal react as if you had swiped a card through it, and process the payment. Just like Android Pay the payment is made with a virtual card number and a one-time authorization token, so it's super safe and there's no way you can have your payment information compromised.

Samsung Pay is accepted virtually everywhere, but there are other restrictions to be aware of.

Making a payment in a store using MST doesn't require "support" from the retailer in the same way that NFC payments do — if they accept credit cards, they should accept Samsung Pay. One big exception is card readers that require you to insert your card and pull it back out, like you'd find at an ATM, public transit station, parking meter and the like — these kinds of readers don't work with the system, so you'll still need to use your old physical card there. Another thing to keep in mind is situations in which you are handing over your card to the retailer — like at a store where the merchant swipes the card on their side of the counter, or at a restaurant where the card is taken away altogether. (Of course Android Pay doesn't work in these situations either, but it's worth mentioning when you say "virtually anywhere".)

Though it works with more retail locations by far, Samsung Pay only works with a small number of banks and cards compared to Android Pay. At launch Samsung has (opens in new tab) Bank of America, Citi and U.S. Bank on board, as well as MasterCard, VISA and American Express. The slight difference here is that if you're able to add your card to the Samsung Pay app, you'll have the exact same experience between cards. There's no grey area, like on Android Pay, where you can add a card but it's only somewhat supported — if you can get it in the app, it'll work flawlessly.

Perhaps the biggest issue (though not a surprising one) with Samsung Pay is compatibility. It's only supported on the Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ and Note 5 — and presumably future high-end Samsung phones as well — but has the added restriction of needing a U.S. model of one of those phones on a supported carrier (at launch Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and AT&T). That means you can't bring an international version of the Note 5 to the U.S. and use Samsung Pay, and if your carrier — like Verizon at launch — isn't on board, you can't use it either.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

136 Comments
  • Andrew, have you run into any problems having both Android Pay and Samsung Pay on your phone simultaneously? I'm waiting for Samsung Pay to go live, and I'm wondering if you'd recommend disabling Android Pay on my phone for before using Samsung pay, or if they can peacefully co-exist
  • Good question! Probably won't interfere since there's an option in your NFC switch to select the Tap To Pay application, but still, good to know if it interferes. Most likely once Samsung Pay goes live I won't be needing Android Pay, but still keeping it around...just in case. Also, no mention of it yet, but at least American Express on Android Pay states that they won't differentiate the use of physical card VS Android Pay for offers, rewards, etc. I wonder if it'll be the same for Samsung Pay (would be a huge deal breaker if it weren't); for instance, if you use your card to pay through PayPal, even though you're using the card in the end, the rewards and offers for a certain merchant are not recognized nor honored by Amex.
  • I was in a publix and I tried using samsung pay and it wanted me to swipe again but was in a firehouse subs and it worked fine. Wasn't sure what I did wrong doing it at Publix
  • I've been using Samsung Pay for a while now, and I did accidentally have Android pay running at the same time the first 2 times. Android pay alerted me when I was in the stores that they take Android Pay. I paid with Samsung Pay and it worked fine (ignored Android pay). And you can give out a referral code that earns new users $5 cash as well as a $5 gift certificate. If anyone wants to use mine, it is
    *** 94EB2A *** So far LOVING Samsung Pay. Works everywhere I tried, and is faster than the old way. Plus it displays a short text after the transaction so I can easily see what was spent without having to take a receipt. And I don't have to unlock my screen to use it. I'm not sure it can be used at gas stations though. I haven't tried it. And PenFed says it takes it, but then to "confirm" while adding the card I'm supposed to "call the bank". Not sure how that would work, so I didn't bother.
  • Unless the gas station has a swipe terminal, nope, it won't work. It'll work at the register, though, as those usually do have swipe terminals. And as far as I've been told, Lowe's and Home Depot have begun requiring all credit card transactions to be with a chip-card, so Samsung Pay won't work there unless you use debit (as that's the only thing they'll be accepting via card swipe).
  • Hmmm I thought I used it at Home depot the other day. I do usually use PayPal at Home Depot so I was probably mistaken. That sucks. I wonder what kind of technology they use to block the transactions. I'm may go to check it out this afternoon. I think I need some paint :)
  • It's not all stores yet, but they told me they will do that for all by the end of the year. If your store has that, there'll be stickers on the terminal saying 'debit' pointing to the swipe side and 'credit' pointing down to the chip slot.
  • Nope, you explicitly select in your phone settings which one you want to use. And you can even select to have both active at once, with whichever one you have on-screen at the time of payment being selected.
  • I'm screwed at every angle, I have greedy Verizon and a Note 3. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Me too :-[
  • Android Pay = a fresh cost of paint on an otherwise limited NFC reliant payment system. Not very useful. Samsung Pay = far superior MST tech that works everywhere a regular magenetic card works. There really is no comparison. NFC terminals are still hard to find and often turned off. Samsung Pay fixes all of this. It really is something. If Apple had MST, the iCrowd would be aggressively claiming superiority. Nope, not this time. Samsung has a winner on its hands, full stop. Posted via the Android Central App
  • MST is great and fixes a lot of issues present with NFC-only services, but let's not act like this is changing the world right away. We're talking about a service only compatible with 3 banks in the U.S., and four phones from four carriers in the country. And it still only works at stores where you swipe a card through a terminal yourself, which means it wont work at sit-down restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, and the like. We're still a good ways away from something like this being a universally used payment system.
  • But it's also in Beta or testing phase, right? IIRC, the official launch is next week (for the US). I'm sure most banks will get behind it when that happens. But I guess we'll see! I for one am looking forward to using Samsung Pay because of what coolbreeze described, most POS terminals where I shop either don't have NFC or have NFC turned off. http://pocketnow.com/2015/08/13/samsung-pay-us
  • Yup it exits beta on the 28th. And I'm not expecting a flood of banks to be announced on that day, but ready to be surprised. Samsung doesn't just need to add like 5 or 10 more banks... they need to support like 75 more banks. It's tough, I know, but it needs to happen if it wants people to care about it.
  • Why can it not be universal? If the store takes Mastercard, it takes then all? +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • Issue isn't on the store side, it's on the bank side. Unless Samsung and your bank have worked out the details on how to link the two, you can't add your card to Samsung Pay.
  • Agreed. Speed of adoption is the issue with all services. The blueprint for MST is the basis for the future success. That was really my point. Magnetic terminals will be around 20 years from now, card issuer threats aside. The US is glacially slow with change. Samsung Pay will work with the random freeway exit diner card terminal, today. That's pretty novel. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well the security chip technology is going to cause many retailers to switch from magnetic to other forms of hardware anyway. And that hardware, you can bet, will be NFC based. Why? Because Apple. Say all you want about Apple, but if it is using NFC, new tech is going to use NFC. I think the one thing that is being left out here is that the security chip cards are already being embedded in many new credit cards going forward here in the U.S. And retailers are adding hardware to support it. That hardware will most likely also include NFC to support mobile payments better. I would not make the assumptions you are making.
  • NFC being integrated into these terminals is certainly a thing that's happening at an increasing rate, but we're still looking at a decade or more before magnetic swiping machines even start to be phased out.
  • From what I have read, after October 2015, any merchant who has not upgraded their POS equipment to accept secure payments with chipped cards, will be liable for any fraudulent purchases made at their business. So this has been a great incentive for merchants to upgrade equipment. Whether they turn on the NFC component of their shiny new equipment is another matter....
  • Most places I go already have the new readers in for the chipped cards. 98% of them don't have nfc turned on. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm in Canada, and we've had the chip card tech for a few years now. Although all our terminals are chip compatible (and most are NFC compatible), they also all still support the swiping of a mag strip, so Samsung Pay will work with all of these terminals. Adding the chip does not cause any potential problem for Samsung Pay.
  • Not if your card has a chip & PIN (EMV) - they will refuse to process the "swipe" and you'll see an error message telling you to insert your card & enter your PIN (I'm sure you can find examples to the contrary, but they are exceptions). MST is purely for the US market any ways, Samsung Pay will never officially come to Canada or any where else in the world. Every other market has already adopted EMV and NFC. In fact, EMV was a solution to the limited communications systems in 3rd world countries, which is why developed countries are so far behind the curve on this one. We think "oh! ahh!! wow!!!" but most of the world's population never had a credit card with a mag-stripe to begin with.
  • > Not if your card has a chip & PIN (EMV) - they will refuse to process the "swipe" Not for Samsung Pay they won't. It uses a virtual card number that's different from your real physical card number, and that virtual card obviously supports "swipe", and only "swipe". (I know, I know, necrothread).
  • I've actually tried both and there not Close if you ask me I had to run all over the place trying to find one shop that took android pay . Where as my samsung pay I just walked down to the local doll store and bingo . The girl behind the counter was shocked haha love that Posted via the Android Central App
  • No not necessarily. In the Netherlands for example these magnetic swipe card readers are already being phased out by the banks in favor of the more secure chip kind of payments where you insert the card. These terminals are also supporting wireless payments up to 25 Euros and one of the banks is experimenting with mobile payments. So in short. No it does not necessarily stay around for twenty years. Maybe in the US but in Europe i am not too sure. In the Netherlands alone the swipe payment systems are getting rarer every day.
  • Sorry, that's 4 phones from "3" carriers. Didn't mean to bust your bubble but I wish it was carried on all "4" carriers. Hopefully when the App launches on the 28th, Vzw will release the reins and give it to us.
  • It's available on Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and US Cellular Samsung phones. That'd be 4 carriers, but yes, Verizon is missing.
  • Loving it on my Cricket phone!!
  • Reading is fundamental. Posted via Android Central App
  • I don't know about USA, but MST is barely ever used in Europe. It's more common to use a chip-reader
  • Indeed magnetic stripe cards are still the primary payment method in the U.S., but we too are getting in on the secure chip cards now. You'll see a lot of retailers now offering chip terminals and banks are issuing chip cards, because this year they'll start to be phased in as the "default" payment method. Of course magnetic stripe readers will still be around for some very long time to come, as there will always be a huge legacy of cards out there that need swiping.
  • Come October 1 banks and visa etc will no longer cover fraudulent purchases made without a chip.. So youll see things change rather quickly when businesses start being held liable for fraudulent charges and not getting paid when they would be if it were made with a chip. Posted via the Android Central App
  • But we're already seeing the results of that — new payment terminals hitting tons of stores can now take chip cards. But of course those terminals always also have a magnetic swipe slot on them, too. We're not going to see them stop accepting card swipes because of the new regulations. Too much legacy and too many potentially lost sales if they just don't accept swipes. Just look at most European countries, where chip & PIN is the norm — almost every chip & PIN payment terminal still has a swiper on the side as well, and cards are still issued with the mag stripe on them. That's happening now even though Europe is way ahead on chip adoption. I was in Paris earlier this year and the only places I found that were chip-only were metro station ticket vending machines ... and even then, that was only the case on some of them.
  • So... You're saying samsung pay won't work with my s5? You'd think they'd surely manafacture a magnetic replacement back or something... But it makes more profit for them in the end anyways. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I think they're focused on getting people to buy new phones and continue to include the new Samsung Pay tech in future phones. I'm not sure exactly how the tech works or what they need inside the phone to do MST, but I'm going to assume it's more than what could be included in a replacement back. Just based on the size of the phone case that LoopPay (the company Samsung acquired for the technology) sold for phones, it needs quite a bit of stuff.
  • I notice that it's all the models that have built-in wireless charging, so maybe a wireless charging back WOULD be the answer. Having said that, I doubt they'll commit to the development costs, for a handful of people that would opt for that.
  • Loop pay had that kind of thing already. I would think that if Samsung wanted to continue it they would, but it doesn't look that way +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • Not sure where you are seeing "tons" of the chip terminals. Based on most current information pertaining to chip (EMV), merchant acceptance is very low (and a bit concerning to the industry). The adoption of EMV by merchants in Europe and Canada was much higher just prior to liability shift date. So it will be interesting to see what happens come October 1st.
  • Not really true. If a bank has not issued you a chip card they are still responsible for the fraud. Banks / card issuers can only pass on the liability when a transaction is done with a chip card and merchant uses a less secure (non-chip) transaction type (such as mag stripe).
  • Sorry to show my ignorance - again, but does MST offer tokenization? Will cashiers be able to see your real credit card number?
  • I hope you found your answer, but if you haven't, the answer is yes. MST does use tokenization, just like NFC. The merchant never sees your real credit card number, name, anything...
  • And if you were to leave Samsung for an Android smart-phone by another manufacturer? Don't get me wrong, I don't see using either one now, particularly since I will still need to carry my credit cards with me.
  • I'm part of the Samsung pay beta and I also have Android pay because not all of my cards are supported by Samsumg pay. They can live on the device together. There is actually a setting in you phone find tap and pay in settings that will let you use which ever one you have up on the screen at time of purchase. Samsung pay has worked everywhere. I've used it at sit down restaurants I've gone up to the terminal with the waitress and paid with Samsung pay. The problem with giving them your phone to go up and pay without you besides trusting them not to go though your phone is that Samsumg pay times out on about 15 seconds so instead of giving her my phone and say hurry and tap it I went with her when she was ready I handed her my phone and had her tap and it worked flawlessly there and everywhere else. I've been to about 30 stores and its worked everywhere. You can't pay at the pump but you can go inside and pay. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have a note 5. I bank with Chase. I tried to load my Chase debit card on my Samsung pay, but it will not load. I use google wallet and now Android pay. I don't understand why Samsung pay would be compatible with Bank of American and not Chase bank.
  • I just got my Samsung Galaxy Note 5 at the end of Dec 2015, I added all 8 of my Chase cards, all Visa or Debit. I also added three Amex cards, one from Bank of America, but the max cards in Samsung Wallet is 10, so I use android pay for some. It would not add Wells Fargo, Discover, Sears, Home Depot, Paypal, Capital One, and none of my Master Card cards at all. Also could not add any of my xmas gift cards, or Walmart gift cards.
  • I may be wrong, but I just can't see Samsung Pay succeeding with Android Pay there.. As with most things in the market there ususally only is place for 2 major players in a Product category.. Sort of like we have iOS and Android.. I just don't see why corporations would show eager support for Samsung pay, when Android pay would work on all Android phones including Samsungs phones as well.. We've seen alot of examples like this where Samsung just throws out stuff just to match apple, and keep the Samsung-exclusive, and in most cases they have never succeeded
  • What corporations are you speaking of? On the merchant side, they don't have to actually "support" Samsung Pay, since you're just using the hardware that's already in the store. As for carriers and banks, yeah that could be the case ... but none of them are asking for or will get an exclusive deal to load phones w/ Samsung Pay or Android Pay, and in the case of the banks it's in their best interest to support all mobile payment systems — it's just more money passing through them, which is always good.
  • Stores don't need to support Samsung pay like they do Android or Apple pay. Samsung pay uses the credit card reader that is in every store where Android and Apple pay need the store to have NFC. That is why Samsung pay is far superior but you have to have one of the latest generation Samsung phones to use it. It's actually a big reason I got the Galaxy S6. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm not sure what you're talking about. Samsung has the technology so why not use it? Corporations don't need to show eager to support it. They already do. It's been there for years. It's in the card readers. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm just ready for VZW and Samsung to release Samsung Pay for my Galaxy S6! (and I know the biggest contingent is VZW, those suckers).
  • Yo what's the wallpaper in the header image?
  • I love my Samsung pay on my gs6. It works great and is quicker than pulling out my wallet. I actually want to ditch my gs6 but the camera and Samsung pay are the only things keeping me from pulling the trigger. Damn you Samsung.
  • Ha-ha, same here. Except I can't use Samsung Pay yet. Come on VZW and Wellsfargo Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm with you there except I'm rocking a Note 5. C'mon Vzw and Wells Fargo!!!!
  • Which phone are you thinking of getting? If you ditched the GS6, just curious.
  • For me, I'm tempted by the Nexus 5x, but only if it works on VZW and has a camera at least as good as the new Moto X Pure. Otherwise, not sure. I may just stick with the GS6 if the N5X doesn't fit the bill. I just wish the GS6 had bettery battery life and didn't slow down once or twice a day due to TouchWiz. Plus I just like stock Android and want to get Android M quickly.
  • You could always look toward the nexus 6p for that, unless you don't want a big phone. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Too big. I had a 2015 Moto X Pure Edition and a Note 5 and both were too big. Im not going to buy a phone bigger than my GS6 Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is there a reason Samsung Pay does not work with the Galaxy S5?
  • The new MST tech requires special hardware in the phone, which was only acquired by Samsung earlier this year before the launch of the Galaxy S6.
  • It uses a tech from a company called loop pay that Samsung bought before the S6 but after the S5. Loop pay's tech isn't built into the Galaxy S5 only Samsang newest generation phones have it built in. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well why doesn't Verizon update our S5's so we can use Samsung Pay?????? We are still on Lollipop 5.0. When the heck will they release 5.1.1 and if they EVER do.....will it support Samsung Pay?
  • No, it's hardware. Just like you can't use NFC on the iPhone 5S. You want Samsung Pay, you have to get a S6 family phone
  • Or just buy the LoopPay card:
    https://www.looppay.com/products/#looppay-card
    And get the LoopPay app? I'm not sure about that last part.
  • Well, the LoopPay app does exist:
    https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F2F...
    Not sure if the card works with Samsung Pay (eventually, or even if you side load it).
  • Well, ok then. That's no fun, but a valid answer. I didn't want to Samsung Pay (is that a verb?) anyway...
  • I would guess it's the built-in wireless charging, which uses magnetic induction. If the device doesn't have the wireless charging antennae, it probably won't support Samsung Pay.
  • If it's as simple as that then, then just go and buy a wireless charging antenna and plug it in since you can (still has the removable battery advantage). I guess I'll have to actually do some research here and find out.
  • I used Samsung pay on my S6 edge+ (T-mobile) to pay for my golf round and it worked flawlessly! I've used google wallet (Nexus 4/5) before with success, but this Samsung pay is a game changer. Not having to support NFC is obviously a huge convenience. You literally just swipe up to open the card app, fingerprint scan, then place your phone near the credit card swipe section of the machine and boom, its done. Very useful, very simple and a nice way to innovate tech into re