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Using Samsung Pay makes me feel like a rock star -- and you should be one, too

Commentary: Ok, so I have no idea what being a rock star actually feels like, but you get the idea.

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"Sorry, ma'am, you can't use NFC payments over 30 quid."

That from the pimply young waiter at a London restaurant too hip for its own good. I just smiled, placed the Samsung Galaxy S7 I was testing over the handheld payment card portal, and said "Let's see what happens."

What happened was that a little blue check-mark animated out of thin air and the waiter flashed me a wide-eyed, jaw-drop kind of look.

BOOM! Mobile payments rock star status achieved

!

Now playing: Watch this: Samsung Pay makes mobile payments easy
2:51

The guy actually stopped me to find out what kind of mystical black magic I had performed to get past the £30 restriction on his payment terminal. Heh, no magic here. Just Samsung Pay, which draws its power two ways:

1. From accepting contactless payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay (aka near-field communications, or NFC, a kind of close-range over-the-air way to transfer digital information).

2. From acting like a regular old credit card reader (using Magnetic Secure Transmission). If the first way doesn't work, the second one will.

I have used Samsung Pay pay all over the US and Europe and it has never failed during my tests -- and by tests I mean the many, many stores, shops and restaurants where I used my actual credit card to buy goods and services that I paid for myself. In other words, real life. (Mine, of course. Maybe your experience isn't so sunny.)

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The only trouble I've ever gotten into was placing my thumb on the home button wrong, which delayed my payment authorization -- but that's more my own fault, not Samsung's.

The reason I gush on Samsung Pay has almost nothing to do with Samsung and a lot to do with the credit card-reading technology that Samsung acquired when it bought a company called LoopPay -- the tech I referred to as the fallback plan. See, the mobile industry has spent so many years trying to make mobile payments a thing, and in the end, this tech holds the key to making it great, by take the uncertainty out of mobile payments. I can trust that it works every time.

With Samsung Pay, you don't have to ask the cashier if the store works with the system, as you do with Apple Pay or Android Pay. You don't have to worry about transfer limits over NFC. You just whip out your phone and payments happen on their own in the background, either through NFC or MST. Honestly, it doesn't matter which, because when it's done, you walk away.

That's the real magic of Samsung Pay. With the absolute confidence that my phone payment will work every time, I can leave the house with my phone in one pocket and my key in the other and that's it -- no crumpled $20 bill or credit card as backup.

Samsung Pay is there when you need it.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

For a mobile payment system to take over, there can be zero doubt that a merchant will support it. Doubt means that I can never rely solely on my phone or watch or whatever for legal tender. Doubt means I will always bring a backup method just in case.

If I even have to think about falling back on cash or a card,

then mobile payment has already failed.

The one thing that gets me is that even a year after Samsung Pay launched, merchants all over the world are still shocked that it works like it does.

Them: "Sorry, we don't take 'Apple Pay'." Me: "Just trust me." Them: \(*o*)/

Why don't merchants know about Samsung Pay in particular and this two-for-one mobile payments setup in general? Why doesn't everyone?

I think there are three reasons.

  • Samsung Pay is only available on some Samsung phones; the Samsung-only ecosystem hurts this breed of mobile-payments freedom.
  • Apple Pay and Android Pay rely on partnerships with merchants to work. (Again, Samsung Pay's MST support -- the thing that works like you swiping your credit card, means you don't have to worry about this.)
  • Competitors haven't rolled out similar solutions that fall back on using your credit card's magnetic profile or chip-and-pin security.

As much as I'm liking my power to astound cashiers wherever I go, it's only because people don't expect Samsung pay to work as well as it does.

This elegant technology, and other forms like it, should be attainable for everyone

, Samsung phone or no. I'd gladly give up rock star status for that.