Everything you need to know about using Samsung Pay in the UAE

We left the wallet at home and ventured forth using nothing but a trusty Galaxy S8 and some charm

05 December 2017
by Stuff Staff

Back in April, Samsung launched its mobile payment platform Samsung Pay in the UAE much to the delight of its smartphone customers.

Essentially a cashless system that allows you to pay for things using only your Samsung phone, the service is now available at thousands of retail locations throughout the country.

As ever-avid proponents of the future, we at Stuff decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could make it through an entire day using only Samsung Pay to pay for the typical things we’d need to bring you the hard-hitting tech coverage you expect from the region’s best-selling gadget magazine – mostly coffee, but for the sake of being thorough we tried it on a few other things as well.

First things first though, let’s take a quick look at what the service is, how it works and a few other housekeeping bits.

WHAT IS SAMSUNG PAY?

Think of it as a digital wallet that houses all your credit and debit cards. Instead of digging out your cards to pay at the cash till, you simply just tap a compatible Samsung phone where you would normally swipe your card, make the transaction and you’re done.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The process is fairly straight forward. Samsung Pay works on the same machines that you swipe your credit and debit cards with. No, really. Because it uses Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST), which essentially emits a magnetic signal that emulates the swiping action on the card machine.

But that’s not all. Samsung Pay also works with Near Field Communication (NFC), meaning you can just tap your phone on an NFC-compatible terminal and it registers instantly.

HOW DO YOU USE SAMSUNG PAY?

From your phone’s lockscreen you simply need to swipe up to bring up Samsung Pay, you then scan your fingerprint or enter your personal identification number to verify that it’s you. Then you simply tap the phone on the payment terminal or card machine and, voila, you’re done.

HOW SECURE IS IT?

For those concerned (and rightly so) about security, it should be noted that Samsung doesn’t store any of your cards details. Instead, it uses an encrypted digital token for sensitive card information with an extra layer of security from Samsung KNOX which keeps an eye out for malicious activity happening on your phone.

WHICH SAMSUNG DEVICES SUPPORT IT?

Currently there are 12 smartphones and two wearable devices compatible with Samsung Pay.

Smartphones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S8 (and S8+)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (and S7 edge)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 5
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016 & 2017 versions)
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016 & 2017 versions)
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017 version)

Wearables:

  • Samsung Galaxy Gear S3
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear Sport (with limited functionality)

WHICH UAE BANKS SUPPORT IT?

Currently there are nine banks in the UAE that officially support Samsung Pay, they are: Mashreq, ADCB, Emirates NBD, HSBC, NBAD, RAK Bank, Standard Chartered, Emirates Islamic, Sharjah Islamic Bank.

Another useful feature of Samsung Pay is the ability to add loyalty cards, meaning there’s less to carry around in your wallet next time you need to get another stamp from your favourite coffee place.

HOW DOES SAMSUNG PAY FARE IN THE REAL WORLD?

Of course, all of this preamble would be for naught if Samsung Pay didn’t actually work out in the real world. Thankfully, we’re happy to confirm that after some solid testing at various outlets around Dubai we were (mostly) satisfied.

We loaded up our Samsung Galaxy S8 with a Mashreq credit card and went about getting through a full day without using cash or card.

Dubai Metro

First up, was getting to the office. For this we usually take the metro and, while in some other markets such as the UK, Samsung Pay can be used to buzz you through a public transport turnstile, this sadly isn’t the case yet in the UAE.

Luckily, however, our Nol card was in dire need of a top up, so we approached the ticket counter at a metro station and after a bit of explaining to the attendant we successfully managed to add funds to the card.

One interesting thing to note is that we were required to sign a receipt, this is likely due to the card machine being a bit older.

Morning coffee

Writing about tech is tough without a proper injection of java into one’s system. The Costa coffee near our office in Media City had no trouble accepting Samsung Pay, with the server coming across as knowledgeable about how to use the service.

Lunch

The same was true of buying a salad at lunch. We simply sidled up to the cash till, sheepishly asked if they wouldn’t mind us using our phone to pay and presto, one tasty salad was in our possession.

The important take away from this is that because Samsung Pay uses both MSL and NFC to make payments it is leagues beyond its Apple Pay competition which only support NFC. We found that Samsung Pay was accepted pretty much anywhere we tried it, even if the person behind the till wasn’t aware of it.

Taxi

This was precisely the case when we took a Dubai Taxi. At first we were a little unsure as to whether it would work (and even more nervous because we weren’t carrying any cash) but our fears turned out to be unfounded.

After helping the cab driver prod around his system a little bit (card payments in cabs are still relatively new service as of this writing) we successfully managed to pay for the fare without any hiccups. This should be a huge relief to anyone who’s ever been caught in a situation where either they or the driver is without change.

One thing to note: the Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA) charges an additional AED2 fee for paying your cab fare via card. This fee similarly applies to paying via Samsung Pay.

Dinner and drinks

A perfect use for Samsung Pay is dining out where you can leave behind your wallet and simply pay your bill with your smartphone. We tested this out at a rather tasty Peruvian restaurant in Business Bay, and while our waiter wasn’t familiar with paying via Samsung Pay, he was suitably impressed once the transaction went through.

Grocery shopping

The last stop on our cashless day was picking up groceries from the local Spinneys. Again, because Samsung Pay supports almost all standard card reading machines this was a piece of cake with no trouble paying at the till. And in case you’re wondering, yes, we did buy some cake.

SAMSUNG PAY VERDICT

All in all we are suitably impressed with Samsung Pay. Aside from a few minor hiccups where we had to explain to service staff how the system worked, we had no trouble paying for all our transactions throughout our testing period.

Would we confidently go about the rest of our days without carrying any cash? While we can’t say yes 100 per cent (it’s tough to buy a shawarma at the local stand without handing over bills) we’re definitely encouraged by how pervasive Samsung’s network is for making payments across Dubai.

According to Samsung they support hundreds of outlets so you will need to check before heading out, but generally it seems that anywhere you can pay with a credit or debit card, Samsung Pay should be supported.

 

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