What is Apple Pay and how does it work?

Pay quickly without a credit or debit card with Apple Pay and an Apple device.

Written by Rebekah Moss 18 Aug 2021 - 9 Minutes reading time

What Is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is a really simple mobile payment method that lets you pay for things quickly and easily, without the need to carry a physical credit card or debit card with you. With Apple Pay, rather than paying with your credit or debit card with Chip & PIN or contactless, you can use the Apple Wallet App to pay with an Apple device, like an iPhone, iPad or an Apple Watch.

Anyone with an iPhone 6 or above, or an Apple Watch Series 1 that is linked to an iPhone5 or above, or an iPad Pro, iPad Air or an iPad and iPad mini model with Touch ID or Face ID can make use of Apple Pay. Simply activate and tap your Apple Device to the card reader to make a payment. See the full list of compatible devices here.

How Does Apple Pay Work?

The Apple Wallet App is a digital wallet app that lets you store your debit and credit card information securely for easy access. Once you have added your card details to your Apple Wallet App on your Apple device, you will be able to use it to make card transactions. Apple Pay supports most major credit and debit cards providers including Visa and MasterCard. Apple's Apple Card is also supported. The Apple Wallet & Apple Pay uses NFC technology (Near Field Communication) to enable contactless payments through smartphones and other Apple Devices.

When you are ready to pay, you will need to enter your device's passcode or make use of Face ID or Touch ID to open your device, then simply hold it close to the contactless reader until the payment has been accepted. If you’re used to using the contactless payment system, Apple Pay is very similar. Apple Pay effectively removes the need to carry a physical card or enter a PIN.

Is There A Limit For Apple Pay?

In the UK, you can use contactless card payments to make a payment of up to £45. However, unlike with contactless card payments, there is no limit on how much you can spend using Apple Pay. However, individual retailers can decide to set up a limit on Apple Pay payments if they want. Any Apple Pay transactions that are made in-app or using a Safari browser won’t have any limits.

Is Apple Pay Secure?

Apple Pay is as secure as contactless payments. However, unlike contactless payments, Apple Pay requires a passcode or Apple's fingerprint-recognition (Touch ID) or facial-recognition (Face ID) technology to add an additional layer of security. On Apple Watch, wrist detection must be enabled.

When you add a card, its card number and other details are encrypted, using payment tokenisation, to keep your card details safe. This means that the card details are replaced with a randomly generated string of numbers and letters, known as a token or a Device Account Number. In addition, the information is only stored on your iPhone or device, rather than on Apple’s servers.

If you lose your iPhone or it is stolen you can suspend any payments from it by using the ‘Find my iPhone’ app or by logging in to Apple's iCloud, which means you won’t need to cancel any of your payment cards.

How To Set Up Apple Pay On An iPhone Or iPad

You will need to use the Apple Wallet app to set up Apple Pay on your iPhone or iPad. This is often pre-installed with Apple products. The Apple Wallet will then store your credit cards and debit cards securely. You will then need to add the payment cards that you intend to use with Apple Pay.

To add a card to your iPhone open the Wallet app, while on your iPad, go to the settings - Wallet & Apple Pay. From there, hit the Add Credit or Debit Card button or the “+” sign in the top right corner. You can use your iPhone’s camera to quickly add the card details. Then simply fill in any additional information that is requested.

Any cards that are already linked to your Apple ID can be easily verified by entering the security code. However, any new cards will need to be verified by your bank before you can use them. You can up to eight cards on any Apple Device. Once your card has been verified by your bank, you can start using Apple Pay.

How To Set Up Apple Pay On An Apple Watch

To set up Apple Pay on your Apple Watch, you will need to open the Watch app on your iPhone. From there go to the My Watch tab and scroll down to Apple Wallet & Apple Pay. From there, simply press Add Card. Similar to adding payment cards to your iPhone, your bank will likely need to verify your information and you may need to provide additional verification again. Your Apple Watch will notify you once your card is ready for use with Apple Pay.

How To Use Apple Pay In Stores

Since your card details are stored securely on your device, your phone doesn't need to be connected to the internet to make a payment in-store. You can use your iPhone or Apple Watch to make a payment wherever you see the Apple Pay and the Contactless Payment symbols at the checkout.

To make a payment, hold your iPhone or Apple Watch close to the contactless card reader as you would a contactless card. Apple Pay works with Face ID or Touch ID to deliver two-factor authentication.

This means you will then need to give your device authorization in one of three ways:

Pay With iPhone With Touch ID

If you are using an iPhone with Touch ID to make a purchase with your default card, rest your finger on the Touch ID when the device is close to the card reader. If the iPhone doesn’t recognise your fingerprint, the transaction won’t go through. A vibration will confirm that a payment has been made.

Pay With iPhone With Face ID

If your iPhone has Face ID you will need to double-click the side button and look at your phone to authenticate the payment or enter your passcode. Then simply hold the top of your iPhone near the contactless reader until you see 'Done' and a tick on the display.

Pay With Apple Watch

Paying with Apple Watch doesn’t require you to authorize the payment in any way. All you have to do is double-click the side button and hold your Apple Watch close to the contactless reader and wait until you feel a gentle tap.

How To Pay With A Different Card Rather Than Your Default Card

Your default card is the one that you plan to use to pay with the most often. However, it is very easy to add multiple cards and switch between them. With an iPhone X or later, double-click the side button and then tap to choose any of your other added cards.

On an iPhone 8 or earlier, hold your device near the card reader without touching the Touch ID, then tap to choose another card when prompted.

On your Apple Watch, double click the side button and swipe either left or right to choose another payment card.

How To Use Apple Pay Online

You can also use Apple Pay to pay for things on the web by using the Safari browser on an iPhone, iPad or Mac. If your Mac doesn’t have Touch ID, then you will need to have Bluetooth turned on. In addition, Apple Pay will store your billing and shipping addresses and any contact information so you won’t have to enter them again. Keep in mind, you can only use Apple Pay on the web in Safari on iPhones and iPods with the latest version of iOS or iPadOS.

Shop Online With Your iPhone Or iPad

To shop online from your iPhone or iPad simply tap the Apple Pay button at checkout. Enter your billing, delivery and contact information if it isn’t already saved and change your payment card if needed. Then simply press confirm the payment. You will then need to confirm with your device, as you would in person. iPhone or iPad without Face ID: Use Touch ID or your passcode.

iPhone or iPad with Face ID

Double-click the side button, then use Face ID or your passcode.

Apple Watch

Double-click the side button.

When your payment is successful, you’ll see ‘Done’ and a tick on the screen.

Using Apple Pay With Your Mac

If your MacBook Air and MacBook Pro has Touch ID then tap the Apple Pay button, check the information and then follow the prompts on the Touch Bar and place your finger on the Touch ID when you are ready to make your purchase.

If you have an older Mac model without Touch ID then you will need an iPhone or Apple Watch to hand to confirm your payment. Make sure that you're signed in with the same Apple ID on all your devices and you have Bluetooth turned on on your Mac. Follow the same steps as above until you are ready to make your payment.

Then confirm the payment and use your iPhone or Apple Watch to confirm by using Face ID, Touch ID, your password or by double-clicking the side button of your Apple Watch.

Use Apple Pay Within Apps

You can also use Apple Pay within other apps from your iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch if they have the Apple Pay payment option. To pay with Apple Pay within an app simply tap the Apple Pay button or select Apple Pay as your payment method. Check your delivery and contact information and make sure you are using the right card before confirming the payment.

Similar to paying in shops, you will need to use Face ID, Touch ID or a password after double-clicking the side button on your device to authorize the payment. When your payment is successful, you'll see ‘Done’ and a tick on the screen.

Which Shops Accept Apple Pay?

You can use Apple Pay in a wide range of shops, restaurants, taxis, vending machines and many other places. You can use Apple Pay on the Transport for London (TfL) network, and at any shop that accepts contactless payments, including major retailers such as Sainburys, Starbucks, Tesco and Boots. Many online retailers also accept Apple Pay when shopping online through Safari. Keep an eye out for the Apple Pay button

Which Banks Support Apple Pay In The UK?

When Apple Pay was first launched in the UK in 2015 it already had the support of most of the major banks, apart from Barclays, which only backed Apple Pay in 2016. In addition, all of the digital-first current account providers, such as Monzo, support Apple Pay in the UK.

How To Accept Apple Pay In Your Business

With Total Processing, there isn’t any additional set-up or cost needed to start taking Apple Pay in your business. All of our card readers come with it enabled as standard, alongside contactless payments and Android Pay.

For more information on our range of card machines, visit our Point Of Sale page here.

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