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A week with Samsung Pay, and why Android Pay might still be better

Florence Ion | Oct. 7, 2015
Despite a successful week of using Samsung Pay and Android Pay, I'm still a little wary about leaving my wallet at home.

emv issuer image2
Some EMV-enabled machines require that you insert your credit card all the way in to process the transaction. 

I gave up and took out a different credit card than the one associated with the Samsung Pay app to pay for my items, but I felt defeated. It’s always embarrassing to have a card declined—even virtually. Eventually, I learned that my bank had put a hold on my account for suspicious activity. I called the next day to request that they release the hold, but not without asking the bank representative to explain what activity flagged my card in the first place. The representative told me that three mobile payment transactions in a row within two hours seemed like unusual behavior for my account, especially since I was paying from a phone number that wasn’t mine. (Verizon Wireless wasn’t in the Samsung Pay beta, so Samsung loaned me an AT&T-variant of the GS6 Edge+ to use for this article.)

Fortunately, this isn’t a common occurrence, because it’s unlikely you’d pay with a phone with a different number than the one you have associated with your bank account. I learned that banks have specialized categorization for mobile transactions, too, along with metadata attached detailing which app you used to pay for something. My bank eventually removed the hold and I went back out into the shopping wilderness. I then used Samsung Pay at both CVS Pharmacy and at Daiso, a Japanese dollar store, without a hitch.

I like Android Pay better

androidpay screen
Android Pay only allows you to choose one payment method as the default, though you can swipe through different credit cards and loyalty cards at the bottom of the app. When you’re ready to pay, you’ll see just the card you’re paying with on screen to let you know it’s okay to swipe.

After all the excitement with Samsung Pay, it was time to switch to Android Pay. It uses NFC, so if you don’t have an NFC-enabled phone, you won’t get much use out of the app. And, since Google acquired Soft Card earlier this year, three of the four major carriers already support Android Pay. All you have to do is download it from the Google Play Store

I didn’t start my mobile payment excursion with Android Pay because I didn’t expect it to be accepted at as many places. I was soon surprised to learn that a majority of the big box shops and small businesses I frequented accept NFC payments—they just don’t openly advertise it.

I started with Android Pay at two of my favorite places to shop in San Francisco: a clothing store called Ambiance in Noe Valley, and the ever-eclectic Green Apple Books in the Inner Richmond. Both stores have NFC-enabled credit card machines and both transactions went off without a hitch. I turned on NFC from the Quick Settings, fired up the app from my Home screen (no special Lock screen shortcut here, unfortunately), tapped on my debit card at the top of the app screen, and held it up to the credit card machine. There was no chirp or vibration to alert me the transaction had gone through, however; instead, I had to look to the clerk’s face for confirmation, and then wait for the receipt to start printing.

 

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