Today is the day I’ve been waiting for ever since Apple announced the iPhone 6. The new payment system, Apple Pay, is now live (in the United States) and it is awesome. I just used it this morning at my local Walgreens and I’m already reluctant to use anything but Apple Pay in the future. If you aren’t familiar with Apple Pay, let’s examine the service and what it does.
What is Apple Pay?
Apple Pay is a new way of paying for things, both at brick and mortar stores and online, that eliminates the need to swipe your actual credit card at the point of sale terminal. As far as I can tell, it works by storing your credit/debit card information securely within your device locally, and then it relies on a separate number (unrelated to your actual card number) to complete transactions via NFC. The big draw here is that your card will no longer be susceptible data breaches like the ones Target and Home Depot have encountered this past year. Accompany that with the fact that it might just replace your physical wallet altogether one of these days, and this is a very attractive option for many.
How Does it Work?
Apple Pay requires an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus running iOS 8.1 or later to work. That means if you have an older model iPhone, you’re out of luck, unfortunately. iOS 8.1 was released today and is available as an OTA update from your iPhone settings. Once you’ve updated your phone to the latest OS, simply go into your settings and find a new section labeled Passbook & Apple Pay. Once inside that screen you’ll be able to add your credit/debit cards either by taking a photo (which is absolutely amazing to watch) or manually by entering in the card details.
You may have to verify your card either via email or SMS text, but once you’ve verified it, your card is all set to be used with Apple Pay. I also went in and added my default shipping/billing address as well as my phone number. This will help expedite online checkout when/if you run across an online retailer that accepts Apple Pay.
When you go to a participating store, paying with Apple Pay is really simple. When you’re at the checkout, look for an NFC terminal (like the one above). Hold your phone close to the “Tap to Pay” area. Your phone should automatically recognize that you’re attempting to pay, and it will ask you to authenticate the transaction using Touch ID. The transaction will use whichever card you’ve designated as your default payment method in your settings, but you can also change cards on the fly if you wish. Once you’ve verified the card and authenticated using Touch ID, that’s it. I was really shocked at how fast the transaction happened. I walked up, pressed my finger on the Touch ID sensor, and had a receipt in my hand in under a minute.
Where Can I use It?
Depending on where you live, Apple Pay may not be available at very many locations. The full list of supported retailers can be found on Apple’s website, but some of the more recognizable brick and mortar stores include McDonald’s, Subway, Walgreens, Macy’s, Nike, Office Depot, Panera Bread, Petco, Toys R Us, and Whole Foods. In addition to these retail outlets, you can also use Apple Pay inside of various apps like Airbnb, Groupon, Target, and even Uber. Later this year you will also see Apple Pay supported at PetSmart, Disney Stores & Parks, Urban Outfitters, and inside applications like StubHub, Ticketmaster, and Starbucks.
Aside from the limited amount of partners at launch, the other major downfall of Apple Pay is that it is only available in the United States. However, I think if it catches on Apple will rapidly roll it out to other countries as soon as they possibly can.
Apple Pay is exciting for many reasons, but I think the thing I am most excited about is the security that it provides to the consumer. The traditional payment system in the United States is outdated and flat-out dangerous. Hopefully more retailers get on board with Apple Pay soon and help push it to the forefront of the mobile payment ecosystem. Time will tell if Apple has what it takes to revolutionize this industry the way they have others (see music and mobile phones), but I think their implementation is darn near perfect and their rollout strategy is solid. What are your thoughts on Apple Pay? Have you used it yet? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments or drop me a line on Twitter.