Samsung Pay has launched in the UK

Samsung Pay has finally started rolling out in the UK more than two years since it was announced and a year since it went live in other regions.

From May 16, the wireless payment system, which uses the eye scanner in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, can be used anywhere contactless cards are accepted. Working in similar ways to its competitors’ contactless payment systems, Samsung Pay works by storing card details and using an NFC chip.

Samsung says it is supporting Mastercard and Visa cards from MBNA, Nationwide and Santander at launch – with American Express, First Direct, HSBC and M&S Bank “coming soon”. The system also works on London’s contactless TfL system.

To mark the launch, Samsung Pay also has a set of exclusive features for UK users.

“Samsung has worked with TfL on exclusive functionality for Samsung Pay that allows users to set a payment card up as a ‘transport card’ to use on all TfL services and most National Rail services in London,” the company explained. The method works by “simply by tapping a phone against the card reader, eliminating the need to wake your phone or verify with a fingerprint or PIN”.

The South Korean firm also says that in the future, shops in the UK will let customers add loyalty cards to their devices.

What sets Samsung Pay apart from other contactless services is that it will be universally accepted – even by vendors who don’t have a contactless payment terminal. Not only does Samsung Pay work using NFC, but the service also takes advantage of a technology called magnetic secure transmission (MST).

Not all merchants are equipped to accept NFC payments yet, but MST allows your phone to communicate with the magnetic strip that is attached to all card terminals, not just the contactless ones. This ensures that Samsung Pay users will be able to pay with their phones at any merchant.

Samsung claims other standout features include security and ease of use. A three-step authentication process is put in place to keep your payments secure. This includes biometrics, Samsung’s KNOX software and tokenisation, which ensures that the card information isn’t actually stored on the phone itself.

As for ease of use, to access mobile payments you just need to swipe your thumb over the fingerprint sensor and the service will launch, even if your phone is asleep. You can then swipe from side-to-side to decide which card you want to use. The system has been designed in such a way that you could use your phone with just one hand.