Samsung Pay vs. Google Pay (Formerly Android Pay): How to Choose the Right One

Mobile wallets are handy but there are subtle differences between apps

Samsung Pay and Google Pay (formerly Android Pay) are digital wallets systems. Both allow you to pay for goods in real life and over the internet without using a physical credit card to complete the transaction. They work the same way, but they are different systems. Here's how they compare.

Samsung Pay vs. Google Pay

Overall Findings

Samsung Pay
  • Works with most credit card machines.

  • Use PayPal in stores.

  • Store all your cards in Samsung Pay.

  • Rewards from Samsung.

Google Pay
  • Compatible with most Android and some iOS devices.

  • Pay in stores and send money to friends and family.

  • Store all your cards.

  • Store tickets and coupons.

Samsung Pay and Google Pay are similar in many ways, including the basic functionality: swipe your phone at the register to pay. The main differences between the two are:

  • Samsung Pay is available only on Samsung devices.
  • Google Pay is available on most Android smartphones, including Samsung devices.
  • Some Google Pay functionality is available on iPhones.
  • Samsung Pay can be used on payment terminals that accept credit cards.
  • Google Pay can only be used on terminals that accept contactless payments over NFC.
  • Google Pay will send and receive money to and from friends and family.
  • Google Pay is available on desktops.

Samsung Pay Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Has technology that works with most credit card machines.

  • Can use PayPal for in-store purchases.

Disadvantages
  • Available only on Samsung devices.

The information below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Samsung Pay is a contactless mobile payment app built into most new Samsung smartphones that support NFC (near-field communication), including most of the Galaxy S series. It's also compatible with the latest Samsung smartwatches, including the Galaxy Watch. The Samsung Pay app is not compatible with non-Samsung devices, though.

In addition to NFC, Samsung Pay uses a technology called magnetic secure transmission (MST), which puts out a signal that mimics the magnetic strip on a credit card. The benefit of MST technology is that any payment terminal that takes credit cards can take Samsung Pay. Mobile payment apps without MST technology are compatible only with terminals that have been upgraded to accept contactless payments.

You can store all your credit and debit cards in Samsung Pay as well as loyalty, membership, rewards, and gift cards. In stores, you can also make purchases via PayPal by connecting your account to Samsung Pay. Samsung Rewards, which is available to Samsung users, lets you earn rewards and enter sweepstakes for prizes. Samsung Pay users have access to an exclusive catalog of awards. You can also make online and in-app purchases using Samsung Pay.

Google Pay (Formerly Android Pay) Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Compatible with most newer Android devices.

  • There's an iOS version of the app.

  • Connect your account to PayPal.

  • Pay friends and family using the app.

Disadvantages
  • Apple users can't use it for in-store purchases.

Google Pay (which is available on Android, desktop browsers, and iOS) gives you the ability to pay for purchases, reimburse friends and family for expenses, and receive payments.

Like Samsung Pay, you can store your credit and debit cards as well as connect it to your PayPal account. You can also load loyalty and gift cards to your account for use in the mobile app. Google Pay can store movie and event tickets as well as coupons, and in some cities, transit passes.

Formerly known as Android Pay, the Google Pay app is compatible with smartphones with Android Lollipop 5.0 or later and iPhones with iOS 9 or later. The app is also compatible with Wear OS smartwatches. Check the list of apps on your watch to see if Google Pay is pre-installed. If it's not, your watch doesn't support Google Pay.

Final Verdict

So which should you choose? If you use Samsung smartphones and travel to remote places that may not have upgraded payment terminals to accept contactless payments, Samsung Pay is the way to go. Otherwise, Google Pay is a good choice for Android users who want one app to pay friends and family members and to use at the register. Finally, Samsung users can take advantage of both apps. There's no reason to choose just one.