How to set up and use Apple Pay

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It took a few years, but contactless payments, also known as tap and pay, are finally catching up in the US. You no longer have to swipe or insert your card’s chip end into the reader to use your credit or debit card. In the age of credit card skimmers, this is long overdue.

You can now tap to pay for groceries, coffee, and even ride on public transit in some cities. Instead of touching the card, you can use a smartphone that requires a fingerprint, face ID, or PIN to authorize the charge. Apple Pay is your ticket to this faster and more secure way to pay if you have an iPhone.

Here’s a brief overview of what Apple Pay is, as well as for instructions on how to set it up and use it.

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is an Apple service for digital payments.

It has two main parts. The first is the Apple Wallet. It’s the app on iOS devices where you set up your credit and debit cards for contactless payments. You can also use Apple Wallet to pay for online purchases. The second part is Apple Pay Cash, which allows you to send and receive money, similar to Venmo, PayPal, Cash App, or any other mobile payment app.

Most Apple devices from the past few years working with Apple Pay, including iPhone models with Touch ID (except Apple iPhone 5s), Apple Watch, Mac with Touch ID, and a few others listed on Apple’s website.

How to set up Apple Pay on iOS

  1. To set up Apple Pay on a supported iPhone or iPad, first check that you have the latest iOS version by going to Settings > General > Software Update. You must also sign in to iCloud with your Apple ID.
  2. Open the Wallet app.
  3. Tap Add card or plus sign at the top right.
  4. Scan your credit or debit card to upload all relevant information or enter the details manually.
  5. Your bank may require some authorization, so check if you have received additional instructions via email or text.
  6. Once your bank has cleared your card for use in Apple Pay, tap Next in the Apple Wallet app.
  7. Once you have at least one card added to the Wallet app, you may want to look at your settings, which are hidden somewhere else. Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay to find them. Here you can change which card is set as default for purchases and which for transit trips. You can also turn Apple Pay Cash on or off. A setting I recommend enabling allows you to choose which card gets charged before placing your device near the reader by double-tapping the side or home button.

How to set up Apple Pay on Apple Watch

  1. You’ll need your iOS device to set up Apple Pay for Apple Watch. Open the Apple Watch app on your iOS device.
  2. Go to My Watches and select your watch.
  3. Select Wallet & Apple Pay.
  4. From here, the prompts are similar to setting up Apple Pay on an iOS device. Complete the steps, including banking authorization. When you’re finished, you’ll be able to tap to pay with your watch even if you don’t have your phone with you.

How to set up Apple Pay on macOS

  1. To set up Apple Pay on your Mac, you need a Touch ID device or 2012 model or later with a supported mobile device connected via Bluetooth.
  2. In macOS, go to System Preferences > Wallet & Apple Pay.
  3. Select Add Card and enter all required information. As with a mobile device, you may need to complete additional steps as required by your bank.
  4. If you’re using a 2012 or later Mac in conjunction with a mobile device, you must complete one final step. Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay and enable the Allow Payments on Mac option on your iPhone or iPad.

How to use Apple Pay

There are three different places you can use Apple Pay, aside from Apple Pay Cash. The instructions are slightly different depending on where you are.

To use Apple Pay for contactless payments, wait for the point of sale to be ready. Usually, it will show the amount due when it is ready.

To change your default card, move your device near the reader. The Wallet app checkout screen appears when it senses the reader, except for the Apple Watch, in which case you need to double-tap the side button. If required, hold your finger lightly on the home button for Touch ID, look at the camera for Face ID, or enter your passcode. You will hear a sound or feel a vibration and see a checkmark and the word “Done” when the transaction is done.

To change the default tag, do not approach the reader! Instead, first double-tap the side or home button (depending on your device), then tap the stack of cards that appear at the bottom. Your existing card fan is on the screen. Choose the one you want and then complete the transaction as usual.

You can pay with Apple Pay anywhere on your iOS device or Apple Watch where it appears as an option. Select Apple Pay as the payment type. An image of your card appears. To select a different card, select the “next” icon and make changes. Confirm your payment and shipping details as needed. Finally, confirm the payment by following the prompts to validate the transaction.

When using Safari on a Mac or mobile device, you may find several websites that allow you to pay with Apple Pay. With a mobile device, you follow the same instructions as you would pay in iOS.

To pay from a Mac with Touch ID:

  1. Click the Apple Pay button.
  2. Confirm or change your details.
  3. Select the card you want to charge.

The Touch Bar prompts you throughout the authentication process.

If you have a Mac from 2012 or later but don’t have a Touch Bar, you can swap in your iOS device or Apple Watch for authentication. Connect the device to your Mac via Bluetooth. Everything works the same until you have to authenticate, which you do on the secondary device.

Is Apple Pay safe?

In general, contactless payments are secure, and they are more secure when you apply an authentication requirement, such as Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode.

If you use Apple Pay for transit payments, you should know that’s the only aspect of Apple Pay that specifically doesn’t allow you to use an authenticator. In other words, you touch your device to the transit reader and enter without requiring you even to unlock your phone. I can only guess the reason is to keep people moving into subways and buses quickly.

If you lose your phone and transit payments are enabled, someone can make a few attempts to your card without your permission. You can suspend active transit cards through Find My iPhone, and you can also erase your device remotely, but only if your device is online. A better option would be to disable the affected cards entirely through your bank.

If you’re concerned about safety, don’t review Apple’s full security and privacy statement for Apple Pay.

Travel with Apple Pay

If you’re traveling internationally anytime soon, I recommend enabling contactless payments on your mobile device and trying it out a few times to get notified before you leave. In countries where contactless payment readers are available, using a contactless payment type is usually the norm. You might feel more welcome if you pay like a local.

Keep in mind that a country doesn’t have to be on Apple’s list of supported locations for Apple Pay to work as a type of contactless payment there. Being on the list means that credit and debit cards from banks in that country will work in the Apple Wallet app. For example, Croatia is not on the list, but the United States is. If you are Croatian with a local bank card, you cannot import your card into Apple Wallet and therefore cannot use it for Apple Pay. However, if you have a US-issued bank card in your Apple Wallet, you can use it in Croatia anywhere that accepts contactless payments.

In addition, a contactless reader does not need to have the Apple Pay logo to function. It only needs one of the many supported contactless logos.


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