Apple Pay Frequently Asked Questions

Apple Pay
image copyright Apple Inc.

Last Updated: March 9, 2015

Apple Pay is the new wireless payment system from Apple. It allows users to buy things at participating retailers using their compatible iOS devices and credit/debit cards. Because it replaces a credit or debit card with an iPhone or Apple Watch, it (in theory) reduces the number of payment cards a person needs to carry. It also increases security due to a number of anti-theft measures.

Wireless payment systems are already widely used in Europe and Asia that allow phones to serve as the primary payment method for many consumers.

     Learn how to set up Apple Pay here.


What Do You Need?

In order to use Apple Pay, you will need:

How Will It Work?

To use Apple Pay, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Make sure you have all the required elements listed in the last answer
  2. Set Up Apple Pay on your iPhone by adding a credit card to your Passbook app (either from your Apple ID or by adding a new card)
  3. Hold your iOS device up to the register when it's time to pay
  1. Authorize the transaction via Touch ID

Does Apple Pay Work Differently on iPhones and iPads?

Yes. Because the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 do not have NFC chips, they cannot be used for retail purchases like the iPhone. They can only be used for online purchases.

Do You Have to Put a Credit Card on File?


In order to use Apple Pay, you'll need to have a credit or debit card on file in your Passbook app issued by a participating credit card company or bank. You can use the card already on file in your Apple ID or add a new card.

How Do You Add a Credit Card to Passbook?

The simplest way to a credit card to Passbook is to use the Passbook app to take a photo of the credit card you want to add. When the photo is taken, Apple will confirm that it is a valid card with the issuing bank and, if it's valid, will add it to Passbook. 

What Credit Card Companies Are Involved?

At launch, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and UnionPay (a Chinese payment-processing company) are on board. An additional, but unnamed, 500 banks were mentioned in Oct. 2014, just prior to the service's launch. This means that consumers should be able to use cards issued by those companies at participating retailers.

Are There New/Additional Fees Associated with Using it?

For consumers, no. Using Apple Pay will be just like using your existing credit or debit card. If there are fees associated with your card normally, the same fees will apply (for instance, your credit card company will still charge you the same monthly interest rates as normal on purchases through Apple Pay), but there are no new fees related to Apple Pay.

What Security Measures Are Used?

In an era of common digital security problems, the idea of storing your credit cards on your phone may worry some people. Apple has added three security measures to the Apple Pay system to address this.

  • Secure Element
    The Secure Element is a measure that allows Apple to not store user credit cards directly on the device or its servers. It's a specially carved-out and encrypted data storage area where the cards are stored. It is similar to the special security area used to store fingerprints with Touch ID.
  • Tokens
    Apple Pay works using a security measure called a token. When you initiate a payment with it, your phone will send a token—a unique identifier of your phone and transaction—to the payment scanner to complete the transaction. The token is associated with your credit card (so the merchant knows whose account to withdraw money from), but is not your credit card. As a result, your actual credit card number is never sent wirelessly or shared with the merchant. The less your credit card number is out there, the more secure it is.
  • Touch ID
    Apple's fingerprint scanner is used to authorize transactions with Apple Pay. Since people generally won't have access to your fingerprint, using that kind of security factor will make it harder to make unauthorized purchases.

How Does Apple Pay Reduce the Likelihood of Credit Card Theft?

When using Apple Pay, the merchant and merchant's employee never have access to your credit card number. Apple Pay assigns a one-time user transaction ID for that purchase and shares that, which then expires. 

Among the most common sources of credit card theft is retailer and employee access to cards during payment (for instance, an employee might make a carbon copy of the card and its three-digit security code to use online later). Because the card and security code is never shared, this avenue of credit card theft is blocked with Apple Pay.

Does Apple Have Access to Your Credit Card Number or Purchase Data? 

According to Apple, no. The company says it does not store or access this data. This reduces the likelihood of privacy violations or Apple using customer purchase data to sell additional products.

What If You Lose Your Phone?

Having a payment system tied to your credit card on your phone may sound dangerous if you lose your device. In that case, Find My iPhone will allow you to remotely disable purchases via Apple Pay to prevent fraud. Learn how here.

Do Retailers Need Additional Hardware?

Most of them will, yes. In order for consumers to be able to use Apple Pay at checkout, retailers will need NFC-enabled scanners installed at their registers/in their POS systems. Some retailers have these scanners in place already, but retailers that don't will need to invest in them in order to allow Apple Pay at their locations. 

What Stores Can You Use It At?

Stores that accept Apple Pay at launch of the system include:

  • Apple Stores
  • Babies R Us
  • Bloomingdale's
  • Disney stores
  • Duane Read
  • Groupon
  • Macy's
  • Major League Baseball
  • McDonald's
  • Nike
  • Nordstrom
  • OpenTable
  • Panera Bread
  • Petco
  • Sephora
  • Staples
  • Subway
  • Target
  • Toys R Us
  • Uber
  • Wallgreens
  • Whole Foods

How Many Total Stores Will Accept Apple Pay At Launch?

According to Apple, as of March 2015, over 700,00 retail locations accept Apple Pay. By the end of 2015, an additional 100,000 Coca-Cola vending machines will add support.

Can You Pay For Online Purchases with Apple Pay?

Yes. It will require the participation of online merchants, but—as shown during Apple's introduction of the iPad Air 2—the Apple Pay and Touch ID combination can be used for online payments as well as those in physical retail stores.

When Does Apple Pay Become Available?

Apple Pay debuted in the U.S. on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. International roll-out is being completed on a country-by-country basis.

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