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Popular Launches Samsung Pay, Android Pay in Puerto Rico

By on July 12, 2016

SAN JUAN – As of Tuesday, clients of Banco Popular with a Visa or MasterCard credit card are able to use the Samsung Pay and Android Pay mobile payment services (known as mobile wallets) to pay for purchases at commercial establishments using their smartphones.

With this move, Popular becomes the first financial institution in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean region and Latin America to offer the digital wallet solution to their customers.

“The launch of Samsung Pay and Android Pay sets an important milestone, since these allow card users to make their purchases by placing their smartphones near the card terminal, in an easier and safer way than using traditional cards,” Camille Burckhart, executive vice president and chief informatics and digital strategy officer at Popular, commented during the launch of both digital wallets.

The arrival of Samsung Pay on the island follows the launch of the payment system in three new countries, spanning three continents. Last month, Samsung Pay began operations in Spain, the first market in Europe; in Singapore, the first market in Southeast Asia; and in Australia, the first market in Oceania.

Both payment solutions (Samsung and Android) are easier and safer than using a credit card with a magnetic strip or microchip, thanks to the use of technology involving a virtual number, or token; along with near field communication, or NFC; Fernando Méndez, Visa Inc. vice president of emerging products for the Latin America and Caribbean region, told Caribbean Business.

“For many years, we’ve been working in the evolution of traditional credit cards with magnetic strips. The card with a microchip was an important step on a global level,” Méndez said. “The next step in the evolution of the microchip card was the contactless payment card, or mobile wallet, using smartphones with NFC technology.”

Unlike Android Pay, which can only be used in terminals with NFC technology, Samsung Pay allows the user to pay at any terminal, even those without NFC, thanks to Magnetic Secure Transmission, or MST, technology, only available in compatible Samsung phones.

Samsung PayMST uses an internal antenna to transmit the same information contained in a magnetic strip, allowing the terminal to read the information and accept the payment in non-NFC terminals.  

For some time, Méndez said, Visa has been working with local merchants to develop the infrastructure to enable these to use these contactless technologies.

To pay, the user places his or her smartphone near the card terminal. Using NFC technology, the terminal reads the digital number or token assigned to that specific device and card. If someone steals and tries to use the digital number or token on another smartphone, the system will not accept it, Méndez explained.

“There are a whole series of cryptographic algorithms involved in the process that guarantee the safety of the transaction using the digital number or token, which is different from the credit card number,” the Visa executive said.

This new technology, Méndez added, opens the door for other contactless NFC payment solutions using wearable payment devices that could be available on the island in the near future, he said. Visa will be testing a wearable payment bracelet during the upcoming Olympic Games in Brazil.

Samsung Pay is available in Samsung’s Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Active, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Active and Galaxy S7 edge models with NFC. The Marshmallow Android operating system software update is required. It will be available on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Claro’s networks.

Meanwhile, Android Pay is available in smartphones using NFC technology, starting with the Kit Kat operating system.

“Mobile wallets are payment methods that Puerto Ricans have been eagerly awaiting, and we’re proud to be the first bank in Puerto Rico and the entire Latin American market to offer this innovative service. We’re certain it will be of great utility and convenience for our clients,” Burckhart indicated, adding that the system will soon accept Visa and MasterCard branded debit cards.

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