Adoption of mobile-payment apps in the United States has been tepid, so the so-called “Pays”—Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay—have sought new features to spike consumer interest. The latest gambit comes from Samsung Pay, which on Thursday announced an integration that will allow U.S. users to send payments to overseas recipients.
The new Money Transfer feature, which comes through a collaboration with cross-border payments specialist Finablr PLC, is available so far only in the U.S. market, but will expand to more markets next year, Samsung Pay says, without being more specific.
Users of the mobile wallet can send money “in most major currencies” from any credit or debit card they’ve stored in the app to recipients in 47 countries, without leaving the app, adds Samsung Pay’s announcement. They can also see within the app all fees and exchange rates connected to each transfer, and recipients can get their money via several methods, including deposit to bank accounts and cash pickup.
The service relies on capabilities from Travelex, a unit of Finablr and a long-time provider of international money services.
Launched in 2015, Samsung Pay claimed 9.9 million U.S. users for proximity payments last year, trailing Apple Inc.’s Apple Pay at 22 million and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay at 11.1 million, according to eMarketer.
Now the growing market for international transfers could spark more adoption and usage for Samsung Pay. Overall remittances grew 8.8% in 2017, to $633 billion, according to the World Bank. Payments-research firm Aite Group forecasts that figure will reach $739.2 billion by the end of next year. Digital transfers are already between 10% and 15% of the total, up from 7% in 2016, the firm estimates.
“Our consumers are global and have friends and family around the world,” said Sang W. Ahn, vice president and division head for content and services at Samsung Electronics America, the mobile-payment service’s parent, in a statement. “‘Money Transfer’ is a first step in our vision to evolve Samsung Pay into a platform that makes users’ financial lives more convenient.”
Some experts who follow mobile payments see Samsung Pay’s remittance gambit paying off, though estimates of how much vary. “This is a major development in the mobile-wallet space, and one that competitors will be pressed to match,” says Aaron McPherson, vice president for research operations at Marlborough, Mass.-based Mercator Advisory Group, in an email message. “The availability of the Travelex network is particularly important, as is the ability to do cash-out transactions.”
Some aspects of the new service, however, have yet to emerge and could prove critical. “We still need details such as cost and speed of settlement, but based on what has been announced, it looks very appealing,” McPherson says.
Among mobile-wallet users, Samsung Pay aficionados may be particularly drawn to international transfers, according to research from Auriemma Group. While only 10% of all mobile-pay users said in an Auriemma Group survey this spring that they had needed to send or receive a payment to or from another country within the past 18 months, the fraction for Samsung Pay was highest at 17%. Only Apple Pay, at 14%, approached that number.
While the market may be limited, “it seems there’s definitely opportunity for Samsung Pay to capture some of the [peer-to-peer] and traditional remittance-services market share, among that small group of consumers,” says Jaclyn Holmes, director of research at New York City-based Auriemma.