Westpac is the first of the big four banks on Samsung Pay and will 'review' Apple Pay boycott

Samsung Pay with Samsung Gear smartwatch. (Source: Samsung)

Westpac today became the first of the big four banks to hop onto Samsung Pay, a digital wallet available on both mobile phones and smartwatches.

While Samsung Pay internationally boasts 870 bank relationships and has processed 240 million transactions in the last 18 months, in Australia the offering has so far had limited coverage, with only American Express and Citi available since launching June last year.

Samsung Australia mobile vice president Richard Fink said today’s deal changes the game for the company’s digital wallet in this country.

“With Westpac on board, we now serve a market that’s close to a third of Australians,” he said.

Unlike Citi, which only allows credit cards on the platform, Westpac is allowing both debit and credit cards on Samsung Pay.

Westpac’s on-boarding comes despite the bank already operating its own electronic wallet that’s compatible with Samsung smartphones, with an executive saying customer demand for “the best technology” had forced the organisation’s hand.

“Customer behaviour is changing all the time and the growth of mobile banking in the past three years has been exponential. For us, Samsung Pay is about being where our customers are, and offering them flexibility, choice and convenience,” said Westpac consumer bank chief George Frazis.

“On many devices, our customers can now use either our banking app, and Android or Samsung Pay to make mobile payments, and we’re pleased to be the first Australian-owned bank to offer this choice.”

The bank has so far resisted getting onto Apple Pay, after it asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission permission to negotiate collectively with Commonwealth Bank and NAB for access to iPhone card-reading hardware. That request was turned down two weeks ago.

Frazis told Business Insider that Westpac is now “open to partnering with Apple”.

“We respect the ACCC’s decision on our application, which attracted strong support from many of Australia’s leading retailers who also recognised the public benefits of open NFC [touchless chip] access,” he said, adding the bank would “review our position” in relation to Apple Pay.

Samsung also announced today that iris scan would be available for payment authentication on the new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. The method, which Fink said is “impossible to replicate”, adds to the existing PIN and fingerprint options.

In addition, the electronic giant will launch “NFC provisioning” capability on April 21, which will see credit and debit cards be tapped to the back of a device to be added to Samsung Pay, as opposed to the current method of typing in the number and expiry date into the app.

Samsung Pay is available on Gear S2 and S3 smartwatches; the Galaxy Note 5, S6 series, A5, A7, S7 series smartphones; as well as the upcoming S8 handsets.

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