Mobile Pay Gets Rewarding For The Holidays

Mobile will likely get lot of quiet thanks during the next few day — and the holiday season in general, if for no other reason than it helps the season of peace remain, well, peaceful.

Anyone who read PYMNTS on their phone, instead of talking about the election, or shopped in their pajamas, instead of in a melee at the mall, or streamed Netflix on a tablet, instead of watching a lot of football that they didn’t understand, will likely have something nice to say.

And while giving active thanks for mobile probably won’t make main pre-dinner prayer at many dining room tables outside of Northern California, the technology and commerce it enables will likely be very near to the mind of grateful consumers.

But left out of the unofficial annual celebration of mobile’s ability to make peace on earth and goodwill toward men a viable option during the holiday season will likely once again be mobile payments — specifically in-store mobile payments. After another year that began with big predictions about rapid ignition — and a host of new payments players coming onto the field with various offerings to make paying by phone in-store — 2016 is ending with the vast majority of consumers using cards, a handful experimenting infrequently with mobile payments and only a very small — single-digit-percentage-point small — cohort of enthusiasts who use mobile payments at all regularly and manage their shopping habit around their availability.

But 2016 is shaping up to be a different narrative than last year, as the host of mobile payments players seem to be quickly coming around to the idea that “if you build it, they will come” is possibly not the right business plan for introducing the market to mobile. Customers already have a payment form they likes — plastic cards — and they’ve spent a shopping lifetime developing habits around those cads. And mobile players are learning that customer need more than just as ability to pay in a different way — they also need a reason.

And given how ingrained card-based behaviors on, they need a pretty good reason.

But this year the “Pay” players seem to intent on offering them that good reason.

Samsung Gets Rewarding

Samsung certainly won the headlines this holiday season with its very big push to integrate its payments platform — Samsung Pay — now upgraded in a big way with Samsung Rewards.

The Samsung Rewards program gives consumers points for anything they buy, at any merchant they visit and with any card they use. The more that happens, the more points that consumers rack up on top of the rewards they get from merchants or consumers from using their cards or shopping at their stores. Call it the rewards multiplier. Consumers who make at least five transactions a month see their points double, while customers who make at least 20 see their points triple.

When customers want to redeem those points, they have a few choices. The best “value” is applying them across the Samsung platform on Samsung products — which, given the range of electronics Samsung makes, is a fairly good deal. Those points can also be traded in for gift cards with partner merchants — or just for “cash” in the form of a Visa Rewards gift card.

“Samsung Rewards works just like a points-based credit card rewards program. Every time you make a purchase with Samsung Pay, you earn rewards points,” said Nana Murugesan, VP and GM of services and new business at Samsung Electronics America.

Samsung Rewards got out a bit ahead of the holiday, launching about 10 days before Black Friday officially kicks off. Devices that can tap into Samsung Pay (and thus Samsung Rewards) include Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, Gear S2 and Gear S3 devices that offer the mobile wallet (with or without a Samsung phone).

“For Samsung Rewards, this is just the beginning, when the program launches this week,” Murugesan said. “In the coming months, Samsung Rewards will rapidly expand to include a wide variety of Samsung’s products and services, like and S Health, exclusive events and experiences and our partner programs.”

Reward consumers, and they will come – and bring with them merchants and issuers who want to work with Samsung Pay.

Apple Offers The Rare Reward

Apple is known for many things — clean design, innovative products and a fanatical fan base are all good examples. But discounts, freebies and rewards of that kind? Apple is less known for that than they are for the mindset that buying and using an Apple product is rewarding in itself.

But it seems even Apple can be induced to sweeten the pot some for Apple Pay — or at least help their merchants and banking partners offer some benefits through Apple Pay. This year the Apple promotions are focused on specific retailer discounts available through Apple Pay.

Notable entrants including free one- or two-day shipping from Adidas, the chance to win a $50 gift card by using Apple Pay on GrubHub, 10 percent off a customer’s first three orders and $5 JetCash to use on future purchases from, a $25 gift card from Lululemon (for customers whose Apple Pay purchase totals more than $150), or 50 percent off a one-year subscription to the New York Times.

There is, of course, one little catch for all of these rewards — it’s not enough for customers to just use Apple Pay, customers actually have to use Apple Pay on the web.

Which means that they will need to use Safari on a device compatible with Apple Pay web payments, which currently means only an Phone 7 or the new MacBook Pro.

So for very early adopters, there is free rush shipping as well as rewards and discounts to look forward to.

Because rewards are are well and good — but Apple is Apple.

Android Pay Gets Gamified

And Google is Google — which means it’s thinking outside of the box a bit with its promotions for its mobile wallet this holiday season. It’s not just about giving out gifts (they, too, are doing a bunch of partners promotions) as it is about giving out games.

According to the cracker group behind a recent teardown of the most recent Android Pay update, there looks to be a fun surprise hiding in the code. According to the techs, several lines of new code were find to have a “tap_game” prefix, with mentions of some kind of game involving coins peppered throughout the new code.

There’s no way of telling exactly what type of promotion is tied to the game, but the game’s error messages make it clear there are actual prizes to be won, according to reports.

One especially speculated on string of code mentions “open the cracker,” which the author of the teardown speculates could tie into a Nutcracker holiday-themed update.

Google has no update at this time. We’ll be waiting with our bells jingling.

PayPal Offers The Gift Of Shipping

While other merchants are thinking about the buying season, PayPal is thinking ahead and making a move to catch the types of customers who think ahead, too.

Because the truth is, not all the online orders are going to work out — and so PayPal is selling a very special promotion for the first time in the U.S. this year: “Free Returns On Us.”

The service rewards users who pay with PayPal with additional buyer protection. The program is now live in 37 markets.

Although PayPal hasn’t disclosed the cost of all these returns is costing the company, it has noted that “millions” of customers have used the feature worldwide since it went live in France for the first time last year.

And PayPal’s reward comes for both sides of its platform — consumers get security and a bigger shopping aisle — while merchants worldwide get access to consumers they might not have otherwise ever been able to win over. Both sides win, and if it drives up transactions enough, so does PayPal.

So while mobile is saving family members from fighting and mall patrons from resorting to violence, mobile payments players are working hard to get customers’ attention — and maybe snap up a bit of that sweet, sweet gratitude.

Some of them may even be successful. We’ll keep you posted.


Latest Insights:

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. In the November 2019 Mobile Order-Ahead Report, PYMNTS talks with Dan Wheeler, Wahlburgers’ SVP, on how the QSR balances security and seamlessness to secure its recently launched WahlClub loyalty program.

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