Apple Pay allows you to make contactless payments using only your iPhone or Apple Watch. Here’s how it works and how you can use it.
How does Apple Pay work?
Contactless payments are nothing new. Most credit cards support tap and go payments, whether it’s using Visa’s underlying payWave infrastructure or Mastercard’s PayPass.
Apple Pay fundamentally works the same way, except instead of digging your credit card out of your wallet and tapping it on the terminal, you tap your iPhone or Apple Watch. Your fingerprint or a secure code is used to verify each purchase made from your chosen bank account or credit card.
The inclusion of NFC (Near Field Communication) chips built into these devices creates a “virtual” card and doesn’t distinguish between whether it’s a payWave or PayPass card, or an Apple Pay device. Apple Pay isn’t the only competitor in the smartphone payments space, with Google’s Android Pay and Samsung Pay also set to launch by the end of 2016.
Is Apple Pay secure?
Apple Pay is as secure as a standard NFC “tap and go” credit card. It uses the same underlying infrastructure that authorizes card payments, but Apple Pay’s usage of fingerprints for biometric authentication gives it an added layer of security. As that fingerprint data is stored securely on the device, it can’t be stolen from elsewhere in the network. This feature gives Apple Pay an added layer of security when compared to credit cards.
People won’t be able to get your fingerprint data, so they won’t be able to make unauthorized transactions even if they steal your phone. A stolen credit card, on the other hand, can be used for small transactions (typically under $100) without additional verification.
It’s worth noting that if you’re using the Apple Watch as your Apple Pay device, a passcode is used instead of TouchID. This feature is slightly less secure, although the fact that no identifying credit card information – your credit card number, expiry date and so on – is stored or visible on an Apple Watch or iPhone during an Apple Pay transaction means it’s more secure. The usual protections that your institution offers against fraud should also apply to any Apple Pay transaction.
What do I need to use Apple Pay?
To access Apple Pay you need an iOS device with Apple Pay compatibility. On the iPhone side, that’s the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone SE. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, you can use it with any of those devices, as well as the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s.
You don’t have to update your iOS installation on your iPhone every time there’s a new update, but if you’re on an older iPhone device with a much older iOS variant, you may have to update to access Apple Pay. Once you’ve passed that hardware hurdle, you need a financial institution that supports Apple Pay in America.