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Digital Wallets Explained: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay

Digital Wallets Explained: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay

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This article was last updated Sep 12, 2018, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

Tired of forgetting your credit card at checkout or digging to the bottom of your bag to find it? A digital wallet is a cashless payment option that’s free to use and already built into your phone. Odds are you always have your phone in your possession, so adding a card to your digital wallet means you always have a payment option a click away — and there may no longer be a need to scramble to find your credit card.

Simply add an eligible card to your phone’s wallet and you’re ready to start using your digital wallet. Just beware digital wallets are not accepted everywhere. You most likely will still need to carry an alternative payment option such as a credit card or cash for retailers that don’t accept digital wallets.

In this guide, we’ll review how digital wallets work in general, how to pay with the digital wallets provided by Apple, Samsung and Android, as well as their compatible devices and merchant acceptance.

Payment Service Compatible Devices How to Use Merchant Acceptance
Apple Pay iPhone (X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 6, 6 Plus, SE)

iPad (6th generation, Pro, 5th generation, Air 2, mini 4, mini 3)

Apple Watch (Series 1-3, 1st generation)

Mac (MacBook Pro with Touch ID, Mac model introduced in 2012 or later with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch)

Hold your device near the NFC terminal Millions of merchants
Samsung Pay Phones (Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S7 Active, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy S6 Active, Galaxy Note9, Galaxy Note8, Galaxy Note5)

Gear Watches (Gear S2 Sport – SM-R720, SM-R730T, SM-R730A, SM-R730V, Gear S2 Classic – SM-R732, SM-R735T, SM-R735A, SM-R735V, Gear S3 Frontier – SM-R760, SM-R765A, SM-R765T, SM-R765V, Gear S3 Classic – SM-R770)

Hold your device near the NFC terminal Nearly anywhere you can swipe a Visa card
Google Pay (formerly Android Pay) Android phones running Android Lollipop (5.0) or higher Hold your device near the NFC terminal Millions of merchants

How digital wallets work

Digital wallets work off near-field communication (NFC), where your payment information is transmitted by holding your device near a merchant’s payment terminal. Your device will prompt you to authenticate your transaction with a passcode, fingerprint or iris scan. By using a digital wallet, the merchant never receives your actual card number. Instead, a technology called tokenization is used. Tokenization generates a unique, randomized code and sends it to the merchant through NFC. Your actual card number is never shared with the merchant or stored on your device, providing enhanced data security.

Apple Pay 

Compatible devices:

  • iPhone (X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, 6, 6 Plus, SE)
  • iPad (6th generation, Pro, 5th generation, Air 2, mini 4, mini 3)
  • Apple Watch (Series 1-3, 1st generation)
  • Mac (MacBook Pro with Touch ID, Mac model introduced in 2012 or later with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch)

Merchants: Apple Pay can be used to pay at millions of places in stores, in apps and on the web. Click here to find out where you can use it.

How to authenticate: Passcode, Touch ID or Face ID (iPhone X only). For an Apple Watch, double-click the side button and hold the display of your Apple Watch within a few centimeters of the contactless reader.

How to pay: You have a few options at checkout:

  1. Hold the top of your phone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID until you see “done” and a check mark confirming the transaction is complete.
  2. On an iPhone X, double-click the side button, then look at your phone to authenticate with Face ID or enter your passcode. When you see “done” and a check mark, the transaction is complete.
  3. Open the Wallet app and select the card with which you want to pay, then hold your phone near the contactless reader. When prompted, authenticate using your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID. The word “done” and a check mark will appear on your screen, confirming the transaction is complete.

For more information on how to pay using Apple Pay, click here.

Security: The transactions you make with your card utilize tokenization. Through tokenization, Apple generates a transaction-specific dynamic security code for each transaction you make with Apple Pay, so your actual card number is never shared with the merchant and it’s also never stored on Apple’s servers. Transactions are also secured via Touch ID, Face ID or passcode.

Samsung Pay

Compatible devices:

  • Phones (Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S7 Active, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, Galaxy S6 Active, Galaxy Note9, Galaxy Note8, Galaxy Note5)
  • Gear Watches (Gear S2 Sport – SM-R720, SM-R730T, SM-R730A, SM-R730V, Gear S2 Classic – SM-R732, SM-R735T, SM-R735A, SM-R735V, Gear S3 Frontier – SM-R760, SM-R765A, SM-R765T, SM-R765V, Gear S3 Classic – SM-R770)

Merchants: Samsung Pay doesn’t have a dedicated list of merchants that accept it, but the question-and-answer section here states it works “nearly anywhere you can swipe a Visa card.”

How to authenticate: Fingerprint, PIN or iris scan (Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, S9+ only).

How to pay: Swipe up from the bottom of your screen to access Favorite Cards or open the Samsung Pay app. Select the card you want to pay with and hold your device near the terminal. Authenticate with your fingerprint, PIN or iris scan to complete the transaction. Find out more here.

Security: Similar to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay uses tokenization. Each time you make a purchase with Samsung Pay, a digital card number, or token, is sent to the merchant. It never receives your actual card number and Samsung doesn’t have access to or store your actual card number. Transactions are also secured by your fingerprint or Samsung Pay PIN.

Google Pay (formerly Android Pay)

Compatible devices: Android phones running Android Lollipop (5.0) or higher

Merchants: Google Pay can be used to pay at millions of places, including online, in-store and in-app. Click here to find out where you can use it.

How to authenticate: Unlock your phone.

How to pay: Unlock your phone and hold it close to the terminal. There is no need to open an app or authenticate beyond unlocking your phone. When the transaction is complete, a blue check mark will appear on your screen. For more information, click here.

Security: Like the two other digital wallets, Google Pay utilizes tokenization. Each time you pay with Google Pay, your data is encrypted and a virtual account number is generated. The merchant doesn’t receive your actual card number. Transactions also require your phone to be unlocked.


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