3X everywhere, on my wrist


a close up of a watch

Recently, at a nearby store, I held my watch near the register to pay.  The cashier said something like “I’m sorry our Apple Pay isn’t working.”  I smiled and said something like “that’s OK, this watch has magic technology. It will work.”  And it did.  The cashier and the lady behind me were impressed.  Nick has written about this magical watch before, but I resisted getting one for myself.  It has been years (decades?) since I’ve worn a watch regularly and I didn’t really want to resume.  But the appeal of earning 3X everywhere was too strong.

For the record, the watch is the Samsung Gear S3 which comes in two varieties: Classic and Frontier.  I wanted the Classic (it looks nicer in my opinion), but the Frontier was significantly cheaper so I got that one.  The Gear S3 is the only model Samsung watch that will work at nearly all payment terminals, even those not designed to accept contactless payments.  That’s because it’s the only model watch that includes technology (called MST) which uses magnetic magic to trick the payment terminal into thinking that you swiped your credit card.  Newer Samsung watches don’t include MST.

I previously had another reason for avoiding the Samsung watch: I was an iPhone user.  Yes, you can pair the Samsung watch with an iPhone, but you must pair it with an Android phone to get Samsung Pay to work.

a close up of a cell phone
Pixel 3 as seen by my iPhone 7 Plus

That excuse fell away when I bought a Pixel 3 phone during a ridiculously good less-than-one-day deal.  You can read about the expired deal here: WOW! Get a Google Fi phone & travel gift card worth the phone’s price.  It still took me a while, but I finally caved in and bought the watch.

The primary reason for getting the watch?  The Altitude Reserve Card earns 3X for all mobile wallet payments.  And, each point is worth 1.5 cents towards travel.  That means that I effectively get back 4.5% on all Samsung Pay purchases.  That’s awesome.

The watch paired easily with the Pixel 3 phone, but getting Samsung Pay to work was a challenge, to say the least.  The methods described in most online posts no longer work.  Samsung has apparently cracked down on people trying to use Samsung Pay with non-Samsung devices.  Fortunately, there’s a Samsung Pay install on a non-Samsung server that does work.  At least, it worked for me.  If you try to get Samsung Pay working on a non-Samsung Android phone and run into trouble, then here’s a shortcut: Install the Galaxy Wear app in order to pair your phone with the watch and then open this link from your Android phone to install Samsung Pay.

Impressions To-Date

The watch works great for the reason I bought it: Samsung Pay.  Of course, it is a smartwatch, so it can do much more.  For example, it can tell the time!  But seriously, it does the standard smartwatch things:

  • Launch apps designed for the watch
  • Send and receive text messages (sending is a pain, but receiving works well)
  • Make and receive phone calls (it works very well as a speaker phone on my wrist)
  • Receive app alerts as setup on your Android phone
  • Monitor fitness (and remind you that you’ve been still too long)
  • Etc.

Overall, it works very well, but there are some things I find irritating.  Most are probably due to me not spending the time trying to figure them out.  The biggest annoyance may be that it uses “S Voice” (Samsung tech) for voice initiated commands rather than Google Assistant.  Now I have to remember to say “Hi Gear” to my watch, “OK Google” to my phone, “Hey Siri” to my Apple devices, and “Echo” to our Amazon Echo Dot (we were accidentally tripping it too often with the default “Alexa”).

The worst part is that, except for Samsung Pay, the watch simply doesn’t add much over carrying around a smartphone.  I don’t wear it around the house and, as a result, I sometimes forget to put it on before going out.  That has to change.  I need my 3X :).

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Hi, you mentioned that you are an iphone user and if you want to use the watch for mobile payments you have to sync it with a Samsung (android) phone. I am an iphone user as well and would also like some G3 functionality with my iphone too, like messages. Were you able to sync to both and still have it work with Samsung Payments? If so, which did you sync to first? Thanks

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Back when they actually ran a lot more promotions on Samsung Pay, I got a Galaxy S6 Active. It paid for itself in a little over a year with the Samsung Pay promotions, though it’s surprisingly inexpensive at $70. I don’t think that Samsung Pay is a great program, but it’s convenient to carry around and works at most point of sale systems.


Another overlooked point imho. Over Christmas they had gift cards 10-20% off (max of $500 worth and $100 a day) but was able to stack 15% off ebay with one of thier one day sales for an additional 15% off


So can the online shopping use mobile payments?? If such “mobile payments” can only be used in the real life, I can not think it will be profitable for me, when I think my daily spending pattern in real life, seems like an Amex gold is good enough? Grocery and Restaurant 4x, for other Retail store (such as target, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy, nordstorm ect) I can buy gift card at grocery store and still get 4X (other misc i can use VGC/MGC). Based on my spending pattern, I would think only a very small portion need mobile payments 3X? Do I miss anything?


Some sites allow you to use Apple Pay from iOS devices (ipad, iphone). I was not successful to do it on Macbook


Too bad my mechanic and dentist don’t take gift cards. 4x back on that $3000 brake job would have been nice 😉 but i guess 3x will have to do


Sorry hi tech is big $$$$ to get Fixed ..I have 2 new ones now but the last brake job I did(1995) was $30 all factory pads and was good for 70k miles rare now .Now I’m SOL for the next one.


Jed, you got ripped on that brake job.


it wasn’t the brakes it was the brake actuator. The part alone was almost 2k, i did get a free trans coolant flush out of it since they had to take that apart to get to it. I’ve changed plenty of pads, rotors and even drums but the newer tech you need 1k worth of tools and software to do it right


Ur correct I budded up with a local shop owner. I buy pizza for small staff Honest person. I got EVERYTHING replaced behind ABS(under the Cab) for $500 TOTAL .Front brake line went TOAD me Buy new truck which I did ..Who can u trust No One. I have HMS home watt now works great had furnace Fixed $50 , two mothers boards replaced on another $100 Total. My buddy got a Furnace replaced last week on watt for $100 .I on my 2st year for 2 homes.
Hate Tech .


Why bother with the watch? Just carry a Samsung phone.


It’s a New Toy to Play With..HaHa


Isn’t the point that the watch works with terminals that don’t accept mobile pay because of the magnet tech?


So do Samsung phones. Model S6 and over, I believe.


It seems I would have to purchase the $300 Samsung Gear S3 Frontier watch plus at least a $130 refurbished Galaxy S6 from Gamestop (assuming it would work to enable Samsung Pay on the watch w/o any additional phone serve). Since I have to pay 9% sales tax on the watch and phone, my out of pocket cost for this would be $468.70.

Based on that initial cost, it would take just under $19,000 in “regular” (non bonus category) purchases that net an additional 2.5% in rewards converted to cash back before it broke even. I suspect that it would take me well over a year to make this worthwhile since a good portion of retail purchases are made using a card earning at least 5% from a bonus category (Target, Gap, Groceries, Restaurants, etc.). I think I dislike the idea of wearing a watch too much to do this given the long time to realize any savings in my case.


Well, you don’t need the watch if you have a galaxy s6 already, if I’m not mistaken. But I guess you’d have to carry around two phones instead of wearing a watch, which to me is preferable (no way I’d spend $300 on a watch that I don’t want to wear just to use samsung pay).


You can connect a watch to a non-Samsung phone, and carry just a watch. Or you can carry a Samsung phone without a watch. I’d say phone is preferable, since the phone version of Samsung Pay has much more functionality than a watch version.


In the Bay Area craigslist, you can find a ton of used S3s for $150. No need to shell out $300.


So how much do you have to spend to break even? When I realized it would take years for my regular in-person card transactions to even break even, I moved on from adding more complications to life. The only exception is at work, where I use my work Galaxy phone to buy lunch on a CSR as the cafes code as 3x and it lets me store my wallet somewhere other than under my butt cheek all day.


I’m so glad it’s working for you. Samsung Pay + Altitude Reserve is such an underrated combination.


I had the same issue with Samsung Pay, but it was on a Samsung phone. It started happening after the phone was upgraded to Android 8. I sideloaded the app, but the tile was still not there, I was able to start Samsung Pay app on a phone by going to settings tab. It took Samsung more than 3 months to fix it. Samsung Wear app is very buggy in general, cause it’s developed in Korea, unlike Samsung Pay (phone app) which is developed in the US. There were multiple other issues with Wear app during the last almost 2 years I have the watch. It always took Samsung at least 3 months to fix the issue.


Thinking about getting a refurb galaxy s6 from gamestop ($130) for this purpose only. I’m wondering if the phone needs to be on an active plan in order to use Samsung pay in store. Or, does it just need to be on the store’s WiFi? Or does Samsung pay work with no plan at all. Like you, I’m an iPhone user that never wears a watch and this seems like the easiest (and cheapest) path to Samsung pay.


Good to know, thanks. Luckily, gamestop has a 7 day return period for preowned items, so I can test it out in the meantime. Don’t have an altitude reserve yet, so may hold off until I acquire one.


You don’t need a service plan. You just have to connect it to wifi ever now and then. Assuming the watch is like the phone you can do up to 10 transactions before it needs to connect and sync. I bought a used s6 and just keep it in the car, then take it inside to charge and sync it once a week or so. I too hate wearing a watch and it doesn’t help the s3 is huge, if they could make it apple watch sized i might consider it.


This is really cool. I’m going to have to get this.
The only drawbacks are you can now be wiretapped with ease (I’m sure there’s some bug like the one in Apple Facetime that we don’t know about) and if your heart rate rises too much while you aren’t moving, it assumes you are using illegal drugs and notifies SWAT.


Wish they just had some kind of phone attachment/case that will achieve the same without the need for a watch. I hate watches…


Any Samsung Galaxy phone has the same technology built in. I semi-frequently use my Galaxy S7 in the same way, except I don’t have the Altitude Card as the author does


I have the Gear S3 as well. I would have returned it if it wasn’t such a good deal at the time… the issue is that it doesn’t use “generic android”, it uses the Samsung Tizen variation which doesn’t have anywhere near the app support that the generic version has. I think the only airline that has a compatible app is SAS, so it’s not useful for checking in for flights, etc. If you like a billion different watch faces though, this is your choice.

The Google wearOS variants on the other have much more functionality and app support. As a long time Samsung supporter, I’m disappointed with the Gear S3.


You get all the notifications from any app installed on your phone. I usually never use any apps on the watch itself, apart from Samsung Pay.


Tizen isn’t a variation of Android – it’s a Samsung-proprietary OS.

The entire world was disappointed when the Galaxy Watch was unveiled – it still doesn’t run Android, although some commentary indicates that this is more to do with issues with Android than anything going on at Samsung.


Can’t they follow behind u and Hack that thing ?? So far I never been hacked on anything but will be .I have a RFID wallet and neck pouch for travel.
Nice deal with the points on that Thing .


The card within Samsung pay can’t be used outside of Samsung Pay. It’s a virtual card, and the number is different


A Tech person THANKs !!!!