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Published March 28, 2024
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6 minutes

What Is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is a mobile, often contactless, payment option that offers additional security features some iOS users may find attractive.

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Apple Pay is a mobile payment service that stores your debit and credit card information in a digital wallet, so you don’t have to carry physical cards. 

Apple Pay is considered to be an easy, safe, and private, and can be used online and in stores[1]

How does Apple Pay work?

Apple Pay allows you to use your phone when making purchases, instead of a physical debit or credit card

Once debit and credit card details are entered into Apple Pay, simply scan your phone instead of using a physical card when it comes time to pay. Your card information is stored on your phone, and doesn’t get shared with retailers. Instead, Apple Pay uses a digital process called tokenization, which replaces your credit card numbers with a random, meaningless “token” number. This token allows the transaction to go through while keeping your credit card information private. 

Let’s say you go to your local coffee shop and buy a coffee. When it’s time to pay, tell the barista you would like to use Apple Pay. You’ll then verify your identity using your chosen security measure —  Face ID, Touch ID or a passcode —  then settle upon the card you want to pay with. Your default card will pop up first, but you can store several other cards in your Apple Wallet app. 

Once you’ve selected a card, hold your iPhone close to the contactless reader. The purchase will be processed. Once completed, the word “Done” and a check mark will appear on the display screen.

And that’s it — you’ve paid for your purchase using Apple Pay without sharing any of your actual card information with the coffee shop.

Which devices can use Apple Pay?

Apple Pay works on most recent iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Macs. Here’s a quick list of devices that are compatible with Apple Pay:

  • iPhones with Face ID.
  • iPhones with Touch ID, except iPhone 5s.
  • iPads with Face ID or Touch ID.
  • Apple Watches that are Series 1 or later.
  • Macs with Touch ID.
  • Macs from 2012 or later paired with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • Macs with Apple Silicon processors (2020 or later) with Magic Keyboard and Touch ID.
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Setting up Apple Pay on your iPhone

To start, make sure that your iPhone is updated with the latest version of iOS. If you’re not sure, go to Settings, General, then tap “Software Update” to see whether there’s a new update for your device.

Next, check that your credit or debit card is compatible with Apple Pay. Apple maintains a list of participating banks and card issuers[2], or you can inquire with your financial institution. Finally, double-check that you’re signed in with your Apple ID.

How to add a credit card to Apple Pay

Adding a credit card to your Apple Pay is easy and only takes a few minutes. Remember, you will need a compatible device, a card from a participating Apple Pay card issuer and your Apple ID on your device. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Wallet app and click the “Add” button, which looks like a plus sign in a circle.
  2. Click “Debit or Credit Card” if this is your first time using Apple Pay. If you’ve used it before, you might also see your card details under “Previous Cards.” Next, tap “Continue.”
  3. At this point, you may have the option to learn more about how your data is managed in Apple Pay. You can dig deeper into this information by clicking the additional text on the bottom or move forward by clicking “Continue.” 
  4. Enter your credit card details either manually or by using your phone’s camera to photograph your card. 
  5. Verify your bank details with your card issuer. 

You have now successfully added your credit card to Apple Pay on your iPhone. Additionally, you can add the card to your paired Apple Watch too. 

Using Apple Pay in stores and online

Apple Pay can be used both in person and online.

To use Apple Pay in person at a store, select Apple Pay as the method of payment at the terminal. Depending on your settings and your iPhone model, you can open your Wallet and verify your ID by:

  • Entering your passcode.
  • Double-clicking the side button and looking at your phone to authenticate using Face ID.
  • Double-tapping the home button and resting your finger on it to authenticate using Touch ID. 

After you’ve verified your ID, you’ll see your default card on the screen. If you want to use a different card, tap your default card to see all of your stored cards. Select your card and re-authenticate your ID. Then hold your iPhone close to the terminal as the transaction processes. Once completed, you’ll hear a “ding,” and see the message “Done” with a check mark. 

To use Apple Pay online using Safari or to make purchases in an app, look for the Apple Pay button at checkout. Confirm the card you want to use, enter your billing details if it’s your first time using Apple Pay, and verify your identity in one of the ways described above.

Pros and Cons of using Apple Pay

Pros of Apple Pay

  • It’s quick and easy. You don’t have to worry about carrying around physical cards and digging for them out of your wallet.
  • More secure than a physical card. You need to verify your ID before making a purchase. Even if your phone is stolen, a thief can’t easily access your Apple Pay. That makes it safer than cash or physical cards, which could be stolen. 
  • Your information stays private. Your credit card details are never shared with stores or websites when you make purchases.

Cons of Apple Pay

  • Limited options for use. Apple Pay is not accepted at all retailers and not compatible with all banks or card issuers. 
  • Backup may be required, just in case. Apple Pay only works if your phone does. You may still need to carry a physical credit card as a backup in case your battery dies or you misplace your phone.
  • Apple Pay availability. Apple Pay is only available on Apple devices that meet certain requirements (see list above). 

Frequently asked questions about Apple Pay

Apple Pay vs Apple Cash: What’s the difference?

Apple Pay allows you to use your credit and debit cards through the Wallet app. It’s linked directly to your accounts, so you’re spending money from your bank account or credit card spending allowance. 

Apple Cash is a digital card stored in your Wallet app that allows you to send or receive money in Messages or Wallet. It can also be spent in stores, online and via apps, but it is not connected to any of your bank accounts or credit cards.

What security and privacy features does Apple Pay offer?

Apple Pay offers a variety of security and privacy features — some consider it safer than a physical credit card. Purchases must be verified with either your Face ID, Touch ID or passcode. Apple Pay also uses tokenization to protect your credit card information by replacing it with random digits. Unlike when you use your physical card, retailers will have no record of your actual credit card number when you use Apple Pay.

Article Sources

Works Cited
  1. Apple Pay, “Learn where to use Apple Pay,” accessed March 28, 2024.

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