Published in: Banks | May 24, 2019

Is Samsung Pay Safe to Use?

We are committed to full transparency in our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. Offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money - and we have not reviewed all available products and offers. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.

Samsung Pay is picking up steam in the contactless payment market, but is it safer than swiping your credit card?
person in store paying with mobile wallet holding phone up to contact point with the screen displaying payment sentImage source: Getty Images.
Contactless payment options
 are becoming more widely accepted by merchants and consumers. As of August 2018, Samsung Pay had accumulated 1.3 billion transactions worldwide. While it’s still lagging far behind Apple Pay, this mobile payment app is quickly picking up steam. It may be convenient, but is it safe?

What is Samsung Pay and how does it work?

Samsung Pay replaces the need for traditional credit and debit cards by using near-field communication (NFC) and magnetic secure transmission (MST) to process transactions. The use of NFC puts Samsung Pay in line with other mobile payment apps, but it takes ensuring acceptance of payment a step further.

The primary difference between Samsung Pay and other contactless payment apps is its use of a unique MST for transactions. In short, when you make a purchase, your device is held against the payment terminal and a magnetic signal mimics the magnetic strip found on your credit or debit card. This major advantage allows Samsung Pay to work with virtually all point-of-sale systems except those requiring a physical card to be inserted into a slot. The seller doesn’t even need to update hardware or opt into a program. This means Samsung Pay will work in stores with older magnetic-strip terminals, making it more accessible than other systems.

Why Samsung Pay is more secure than using your card

If you’re worried that using Samsung Pay might make your information more vulnerable, you’re not alone. However, the idea that mobile wallet options like Samsung Pay are somehow less safe than using your physical card is a misconception. In fact, paying with a mobile wallet is often more secure than swiping.

That’s because Samsung Pay doesn’t store your personal or financial information directly on your device. Instead, it uses tokenization for transactions. Basically, each time you make a purchase, two pieces of data are sent to the payment terminal: a 16-digit token, or a virtual card number that represents your actual card number, and a one-time code generated by your phone's encryption key.

Because Samsung Pay uses these two layers of security, even if a thief somehow got ahold of your virtual card number, they still wouldn’t be able to process a transaction because they’d be missing the one-time code. Compare that with simply entering your credit card number into an online shopping portal, and you can start to see why mobile wallets are so safe.

If your phone is lost or stolen, your financials are still more secure than if your actual wallet had been stolen.

Samsung Pay requires additional authorization such as your fingerprint, personal identification number (PIN), or iris scan in order to function. As long as you don’t give out your PIN, an outsider won’t be able to access your information without you. For an added layer of protection, you can remotely lock or delete stored information by using Samsung’s “Find My Mobile” feature. This puts you back in control of your information even when you may be feeling vulnerable with a missing device.

If purchases are made without your permission, your bank or credit card’s fraud protection benefits carry over to transactions made with Samsung Pay. The best credit cards offer zero liability fraud protection. This assurance alone may give you the peace of mind you’ve been looking for to take the leap to join the mobile payment lifestyle.

How to keep your information safe while using Samsung Pay

You should always take your own steps to protect yourself from credit card fraud no matter what app or device you are using. Start by enabling two-factor authentication for your phone to provide an extra layer of security.

Also, make sure to register for the “Find My Mobile” service ahead of time, so you can remotely wipe your information if your phone is lost or stolen. When you get ready to enter new card information, make sure you are connected to your own password-protected private Wi-Fi network. Avoid using public Wi-Fi to enter credit card numbers.

Samsung Pay makes leaving your wallet and cards at home a reliable and secure option. As with any technology, no system can be 100% secure. Always take additional measures to secure your information and report any fraudulent charges immediately

Savings account rates are skyrocketing -- Earn 20x your bank

Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. Our picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 20x the national average savings account rate. Click here to uncover the best-in-class picks that landed a spot on our shortlist of the best savings accounts for 2020.