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Which tap to pay system is best?

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Our smartphones have become powerful mini-wallets, eliminating the need to fumble with physical cards. But with two major players dominating the tap-to-pay scene — Google Pay and Samsung Pay — choosing the right one can feel like navigating a financial maze. Both cater to millions of Android phone users equipped with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology, but each has unique features and compatibility considerations. These apps are available on most Android phones and our favorite Android smartwatches.


If you live in the US, Singapore, or India, Google Wallet is available alongside Google Pay. This article refers to the Google Pay app, which is currently available in the same countries as Google Wallet. Not sure exactly how tap-to-pay works? Check out our guide on NFC technology and how it’s used.


History and evolution of Samsung Pay and Google Pay

Samsung Pay and Google Pay have undergone several changes over the years. If you’re confused about the constantly shifting terminology, here’s everything you need to know.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay launched in 2015 and was rebranded to Samsung Wallet in some countries in June 2022. The new app combined the Samsung Pay and Samsung Pass apps to become a hub for everything related to payments, digital IDs, digital keys, and loyalty programs on Samsung Galaxy phones. The app was not renamed in South Korea despite functioning the same as Samsung Wallet.

Google Pay

Google Pay followed a similar but more complicated history to Samsung Pay. Google launched Google Wallet in 2011 and Android Pay in 2015. These apps were merged into a single app (Google Pay) in 2018 before being renamed to Google Wallet in 2022. Today, Google Wallet is the world’s predominant name for the app. However, the action of making payments through cards stored in the wallet is referred to as Google Pay.

In 2020, Google launched Google Pay (2020) alongside the existing Google Pay (2018) app. This app, sometimes called GPay, is only available in India, Singapore, and the US and is useable alongside Google Wallet in Singapore and the US.

Confused? Despite the different names, today’s Google payment apps have broadly the same features. The app below is the one we refer to throughout this article.

Installation and device integration

The significant difference between Samsung Pay and Google Pay is the devices they support. If you have a Samsung phone, you can install any payment service. If you own another Android device or iOS, you can only use Google’s payment platform, as Samsung Pay is locked to Galaxy phones.

While you can use Google Pay on iPhones, the tap-to-pay functionality doesn’t work as it’s restricted to only Apple apps. Google Wallet is not available for iPhones.

Regional availability and local card support

Samsung Pay is available in 24 countries. Google Pay, with its functionally identical sibling, Google Wallet, is available in 80 countries. Google Pay is only available in the US and India for iPhones and iPads.

Google Pay and Samsung Pay work with almost any card in the US. Most newly added banks are smaller local networks and credit unions. At this point, there are so many supported banks that it’s hard to find ones that aren’t listed.

Google Pay and Samsung Pay also support membership cards, gift cards, and transit passes in a few places. Some airlines have added plane tickets. However, the app’s reliance on your phone number for logins is a bit annoying.

Online and in-person payment options

Google Pay and Samsung Pay support NFC technology, allowing you to make physical payments by tapping your NFC-supported Android phone on a compatible card reader. Not all merchants have NFC-compatible payment terminals, so this isn’t always an option.

Samsung phones used to have a technology called MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) to push the magnetic stripe data from your card to non-NFC terminals, but not anymore. The latest Samsung Galaxy S24 series lacks the feature. Samsung moved away from that with the Galaxy S21 family when it dropped MST support in the US, eliminating one of Samsung’s major advantages over Google Pay.

As far as online payments go, many retailers have both platforms as accepted payment gateways, and the number continues to increase. However, Google Pay is the commonly accepted platform.

Data security

NFC payments are, despite what you may hear, highly secure. As long as your phone is protected with a code or biometric unlock method, NFC is more secure than using a physical credit card. That’s not only because of the extra authentication layer. Your actual credit card number is not stored on your phone with NFC payments. Instead, a virtual card number is assigned to you, which the card reader sees when you use tap-to-pay, making your real card number harder to compromise at the point of sale level.

Samsung Pay might have a data security edge over Google Pay. Both services have data encryption and built-in authentication. Samsung’s solution is secured by Knox, the company’s mobile security platform and robust encryption solution. Knox is built into Samsung phones, from the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note 10 to the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It’s also available on several Galaxy Tab tablets, M series phones, and A series phones.

Rewards

Samsung Pay and Google Pay support gift and membership cards. Samsung offers numerous discounts and special deals (which can be spammy). Although, odds are you won’t care about most of the retailers offering discounts in the app. Google Pay offers more robust rewards, cashback from several merchants, and various in-store and online coupons.

The best aspect of Samsung Pay is Samsung Rewards. It allows you to earn points while shopping on the service and later redeem them through purchases on the Samsung app or official website. While its loyalty cards, vouchers, and other offers are great, Google Pay falls short in this regard, as it lacks its own rewards system.

Google Pay vs. Samsung Pay: Which should you use?

hand holding samsung phone with Samsung Pay open at an NFC terminal

Deciding between Google Pay and Samsung Pay boils down to your phone brand loyalty and spending habits. Even if you’re locked in the Samsung ecosystem and own one of our favorite Samsung phones, you might find that Google Pay is a better option due to its wider store acceptance. But that’s the beauty of choice. You can use both apps simultaneously. If Google Pay wins your vote, switching gears is easy. Follow these simple steps to deactivate Samsung Wallet (and Pay) on your Galaxy phone, and you’ll be Google Pay-ing in no time. Let’s get you tapping those payments with confidence!

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