If you’ve heard about Apple Pay but honestly have no idea how it works (or whether you should use it), let’s start with the basics. Apple Pay is a type of contactless payment technology, which means that you can purchase goods or services using credit or debit card information stored on your mobile device. In the case of Apple Pay, this means newer versions of the iPhone, not to mention the Apple Watch. (You can also use your iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, or iPad mini 3 and later models to pay within apps, but we’ll get to that later.)
How does Apple Pay work?
Contactless payments like Apple Pay operate through technology called near field communication, or NFC. This is what enables two devices — like a smartphone and a payments reader — to communicate with each other when they’re held close together.
Why should you use it?
There are three main benefits to Apple Pay. First of all, it’s super fast — transactions are completed in a fraction of the time of chip card or magstripe payments. That means you can get on your way more quickly, and businesses that accept Apple Pay (and whose customers use it) can cut down lines and wait times.
Second, Apple Pay is more secure than magnetic-stripe card transactions. Sure, it might sound unsafe to carry your credit card information around on a device that can easily be lost or stolen, but rest assured: thieves and fraudsters cannot make payments with the information stored on your device. That’s because Apple Pay requires Touch ID, or fingerprint verification, to complete your purchase. Beyond fingerprints, the data associated with your cards is encrypted and always changing (through a process called tokenization), so even if your phone is stolen, thieves wouldn’t be able to do anything with the information. That makes the technology more secure than magnetic-stripe cards, or even cash for that matter.
Finally, mobile wallet technology like Apple Pay is just more convenient. Whether you’re out for a run or just don’t want to lug your wallet or handbag around, all you need to make purchases is your iPhone or Apple Watch.
Before you complete your first transaction with Apple Pay, you need to set it up on your device. Here’s how to do it on your iPhone or iPad:
Open Wallet on your iPhone. On your iPad, go to Settings and choose Wallet & Apple Pay.
Tap the plus sign in the upper-right corner to add a credit or debit card.
Position your card in the frame to capture an image of it with your device’s camera, or enter your card details manually.
Tap Next. Your bank will verify your information and determine whether you can add your card to Apple Pay. It might ask you to provide additional verification.
Once your card is verified, tap Next. Now you can start using Apple Pay.
Where can you Use Apple Pay?
Lots of big-name retailers are now accepting Apple Pay, and the list keeps growing. Right now you can use it at businesses like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Petco, Staples, Macy’s, Sephora, and Panera. And soon it will be accepted at Dunkin’ Donuts, L.L. Bean, Anthropologie, Marriott, and more.
Apple Pay isn’t just accepted by large companies, though — you can also use it when shopping at local businesses that use Square’s new contactless and chip reader. The reader enables customers to pay with both mobile wallet technology like Apple Pay and new credit cards with chip technology.
Apple Pay is also accepted within some apps, like those from Target, Uber, Etsy, and Starbucks. When you pay within an app, you complete the purchase using Touch ID — obviously there’s no payments reader involved.