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WITH the introduction of Android Pay here last week, Singapore is one of only three countries in the world to have all three major contactless payment services available to smartphone users.
The United States and the United Kingdom are the other countries that have also introduced Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay.
These allow users to store their credit card data on their Apple or Android devices, and make payment simply by waving their phone on contactless payment terminals.
All three work using NFC (near field communications) technology, and offer a similar set of security features, though they do differ in the type of debit and credit cards supported.
Together, all three systems represent more than 80 per cent of MasterCard and Visa cards issued locally.
Samsung Pay is also the only system that is compatible with existing credit card terminals, on top of the estimated 30,000 NFC-enabled retail points islandwide.
Aside from these three, Singtel's Dash e-wallet also allows for contactless payments at 20,000 retail points islandwide. Instead of storing credit card details, Singtel Dash is a digital stored-value card.
BT Weekend tries out all four services and this is its verdict: Given the similarity of all three solutions, the choice of which service to use boils down to the phone you are already using.
It is easier and cheaper to apply for a credit card that is compatible with the payment system on the phone you own rather than buying a new phone because the payment system on it supports a card you are using.
Many of the financial institutions supporting these contactless payment options also offer rebates and discounts that can change over time.
Aside from UOB, other banks have a S$100 spending limit when paying with NFC, which means that they cannot be used for large meals with the family or filling up that fuel-hungry four-wheel-drive.
While my American Express card can only be used with Apple Pay, my Citibank card can only be used with Samsung Pay. And even though Samsung Pay works with more payment terminals in the market, the service is only available on select Samsung phones.
The ability of Samsung Pay to work with non-NFC terminals means there is no S$100 charge limit, but it also needs to spend more time educating businesses on staff training, to have them recognise this feature in Samsung Pay.
Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay can also be used overseas in countries where the respective services have launched, so Singtel Dash is only for those who intend to regulate their local spending.
Now that the payment options are here, the change should come from businesses which should look into adopting more advanced contactless payment options.
Many restaurants still expect patrons to hand over their credit cards to servers, who then hand it over to the cashier, instead of investing in wireless terminals that accept payment at the table. This means that if you eat out often, you better still have your credit card in your wallet.
Supported cards: Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards from DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, POSB, Standard Chartered Bank and United Overseas Bank.
Supported devices: All NFC-enabled Android devices running KitKat 4.4 or higher.
Countries where it works: United States and United Kingdom.
How it works: Go to the Play store on your supported Android phone and download the Android Pay app.
Tap on the + icon on the lower right hand corner of your screen.
If you had previously used a credit card with your Google account to buy apps on the Play store, Google will have a record of that card and ask if you wish to add it to Android Pay.
Both cards previously used on my Google account were not compatible with Android Pay, so I added a new card.
Via the app, scan your card with your phone camera and in most cases, it will be able to scan the card number, expiry date and even the name of the cardholder. If any of these details cannot be recorded, key it in manually.
You will also have to manually key in the three-digit CVV (Card Verification Value) code located on the back of your card, within the signature box.
Verification and security: Since your credit card is linked to your mobile number, a six-digit number will be sent via SMS and you will need to key it into the phone before the card is accepted.
Because Android Pay works with many Android devices, some of which do not offer fingerprint sensors, Android Pay is supported by a passcode or pattern unlock as a security feature.
If your phone does not have any set-up, it will require one. The choice of using a passcode or pattern unlock depends on the user.
Here is where Android Pay also differs from the competition. If you have unlocked your phone prior to using Android Pay, the system does not need you to key in a passcode or use an unlock pattern to authorise a purchase.
Instead, it requires a security input after every third consecutive transaction.
How it works: For this review, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was secured with both a passcode and fingerprint.
The fingerprint is to unlock the phone, while the passcode can be used to unlock the phone and Android Pay, when necessary.
In the unique case where owners of supported Samsung Galaxy devices using Samsung Pay also want to add Android Pay, they can go to Settings, NFC and payment, Tap and pay, to select one service as the default payment option.
With Android Pay selected as the default, users just need to place their unlocked phone near the NFC terminal to enable payment.
There is no need to use a passcode or pattern unlock to authorise a payment if the phone is unlocked.
As the newest player in the market, knowledge of Android Pay is extremely low. Saying that you want to use payWave or NFC to make payment will usually trigger more recognition.
Android Pay is supposed to include the ability to add local loyalty cards, such as NTUC Link's Plus Rewards, but so far this feature has not been enabled yet.
The app does allow details of certain loyalty cards, such as Starbucks and Koi Cafe, to be stored but users cannot use these digital versions at the various establishments at the moment.
Supported cards: Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards from DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, POSB, Standard Chartered Bank, as well as MasterCard and Visa credit cards from Citibank.
Supported devices: Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and Samsung Galaxy S7.
Countries where it works: United States, South Korea, Spain and Australia.
How it works: On your supported Samsung Galaxy device, click on the Samsung Pay icon and install the Samsung Pay app.
Launch the Samsung Pay icon and sign in with your Samsung Account. Tap on Add, located on the top right corner of the screen, to add a card. Scan your card over the rectangle box that appears on the screen.
In most cases, the phone's camera will be able to scan the card number, expiry date and even the name of the cardholder. If any of these details cannot be recorded, you have to key it in manually. You will also have to manually key in the three-digit Card Verification Value code located on the back of your card, within the signature box.
Verification and security: Your credit card should be linked to your mobile number, and you will need to key in the six-digit number sent to your phone onto the app before the card is accepted.
If your phone does not have any fingerprint or passcode security set up, the phone will require one. Whether to use a six-digit passcode or fingerprint scan depends on the user.
Samsung Pay requires the additional inclusion of your card signature, which you add by signing on the screen of your phone.
Purchases made via Samsung Pay require a separate passcode or fingerprint scan.
How it works: For this review, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was secured with both a passcode and fingerprint.
On the phone's lock screen, a small Samsung Pay icon appears above the home button. Swiping up, without unlocking the screen, brings up the app and users can choose which card they want to use to make a payment. Simply hold your finger on the Home button and wait for the transaction to be approved.
An additional feature of Samsung Pay is its ability to make use of normal chip or swipe payment terminals to make payment.
Samsung uses a technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission which allows payments when NFC terminals are not available. To do this, the phone must be placed above the card reader. While it works in theory, it is harder to perform in real life. One restaurant which did not offer NFC had its payment terminals placed behind the counter, at waist level. The staff did not believe Samsung Pay could work on her terminals and would not allow me to reach across the counter to place my phone on the card reader.
It is also curious why Samsung Pay needs my signature to be added to the app since checking for a signature seems like a poor security measure.
Supported cards: Visa and MasterCard debit and credit cards from American Express, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, POSB, Standard Chartered Bank and United Overseas Bank.
Supported devices: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and later, iPhone SE, Apple Watch.
Countries where it works: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Spain, France and Switzerland.
How it works: On your iPhone, open the Wallet app and tap on the + icon on the top right hand corner to add a card.
A rectangular box will appear on the screen and the phone's camera will come on. Place the camera over your credit card and the phone will scan the card. In most cases, it will be able to scan the card number, expiry date and name of the cardholder. If any of these details cannot be recorded, you have to key it in manually.
You also have to manually key in the three- digit Card Verification Value code located on the back of your card, within the signature box. For American Express card owners, the four-digit number is located just above the last few digits of your credit card number on the front of the card.
Verification and security: Your credit card should be linked to your mobile number. Adding a card to a phone will send a six-digit code to your phone, which needs to be entered into the phone before the card is accepted.
If your phone does not have a Touch ID or passcode security set up, it will require one. The choice of using a six-digit passcode or fingerprint scan depends on the user. Any purchases made via Apple Pay require a separate passcode or fingerprint scan.
How it works: For this review, the iPhone 6s was secured with a passcode and Touch ID.
Of the three contactless payment systems available here, it seems that businesses are more aware of Apple Pay than the other two. Technically, any business that accepts one will also be capable of accepting the other two. When in doubt, do not ask the counter staff if they accept Apple Pay. Instead, ask if they accept Visa payWave. Available here since 2007, Visa payWave uses the same NFC (near field communications) technology to enable contactless payment and many counter staff here already know of it.
When you are ready to pay, double tap the Home button when the phone is asleep to bring up Apple Pay. Select the card you wish to use and hold your phone close to the contactless terminal, with your finger over the Home button. When the transaction is approved, a tick will appear on the screen.
An interesting feature came up on my Amex card with Apple Pay. I set it so that all transactions appear on my phone, which is the same with the other cards I have, but with Amex, all transactions, even those made without Apple Pay, appear on the phone. This allowed me to keep tabs on my Amex card.
Supported banks: Citibank, DBS Bank, OCBC Bank, POSB, Standard Chartered and United Overseas Bank.
Supported devices: iPhone and Android.
Countries where it works: Singapore only.
How it works: Singtel Dash is the telco's foray into the mobile payment space, and it is basically an electronic wallet on your phone that allows users to park funds into. It was previously launched with Standard Chartered but it now works with other banks as well.
Singtel Dash uses NFC technology to make payments, but the back-end system is proprietary so merchants need to sign up with Singtel Dash to accept payments. Some 20,000 stores across a dozen businesses accept Singtel Dash, including NTUC FairPrice, Singtel shops, BreadTalk, Comfort cabs and KFC.
Think of Singtel Dash as a digital cashcard. Users have to top up their cashcards when funds run low, but the cashcard can be used to make payments at many establishments. Because the account needs to be topped up, users can control the funds kept in the wallet. The app also stores a list of transactions so users can keep tabs on the amount spent.
Simply download the Singtel Dash app from the app store and sign up with your NRIC and mobile numbers, together with a six-digit PIN.
How to top up funds: If you are a Singtel user, you can link Dash to your Singtel account and add funds using your Singtel bill. Otherwise, you can use eNets.
For non-Singtel users, tap on the Top Up button and select the top-up amount. Users will be redirected to the eNets external website, where they can pick a bank of their choice. They will then be redirected to the bank's online banking page, where they will have to log into their e-banking account to authorise the transfer of money to Singtel Dash.
If your online banking requires the use of a security token, you need to have it with you to top up the wallet.
Verification and security: At the merchant, users place their device on the Singtel Dash terminal. Android devices can identify the terminal via NFC. For Apple devices and Android phones without NFC, users can key a unique four-digit terminal identification code into the app. Once the app recognises the terminal, users need to key in their six-digit PIN to authorise payment.
Users can also opt to not use a PIN to authorise payment, or to set an amount in which a PIN is not required to make payment.
Users can also set the app to send an email message each time it has been used.
For Comfort, CityCab and Prime taxis, users tap on the Pay Taxi option on the lower left hand corner. Geolocation for the phone must be turned on. The app will detect the vehicle's licence plate number. If there are other taxis in the area, users will need to pick the right one. Otherwise, they can also key in the number manually. Once done, tap on Confirm Payment. There are no administrative fees charged when paying for fares.