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How Does Apple Pay Work?

Apple’s mobile payment service, Apple Pay, has been available to users of iPhone 6 and higher in specific countries across the globe, since October 2014, to allow them to make payments for both goods and services in retail stores, thanks to the NFC chip built into their mobile devices. Apple Pay offers a one-step payment process that prevents the user from digging through a wallet or purse to choose debit or credit cards. This essentially eliminates the need for a wallet. Since the system is based on existing NFC technology, Apple Pay can be used in any place that accepts NFC-based contactless payments. But how does Apple Pay work with your devices?

Use Apple Pay with the Apple Watch or the latest iPad

Apple Watch wearers can also use Apple Pay via their smartwatch paired to an iPhone 5 or higher. This is possible because the Apple Watch has a built-in NFC chip.

Apple Pay is also available on the web with macOS Sierra and iOS 10, allowing users with an iPad Air 2, iPad mini ¾, and iPad Pro models that contain an NFC controller to make one-tap purchases within any app that has adopted the Apple Pay API.

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How Does Apple Pay Work?

How Does Apple Pay Work?In store payment

When making an in-store purchase and encounter a point-of-sale system that is compatible with Apple Pay, your iPhone’s display will automatically light up and open Wallet, so that you can select the credit card to be used, or simply pay with the default card.

Otherwise, you make a payment by holding a compatible iPhone or the Apple Watch near the store’s checkout system that features NFC – it should resemble a typical card checkout terminal in any retail store.

For the payment to be authenticated, you must keep the finger that you registered with Touch ID on the home button for a few seconds, or keep the Apple Watch on your wrist. When the transaction is complete, you should notice a check mark on the display, a beep, and slight vibration.

In most retail locations, checking out with Apple Pay is a quick and easy one-step process. However, stores using older point-of-sale systems may require you to input a PIN code or to sign for the purchase.

Online payments

Making online payments via Apple Pay is just as easy as an in store payment. The process relies on the same credit card and Touch ID for authentication in participating apps that have adopted Apple Pay’s API.

Using Apple Pay in an app is perhaps more convenient as the process bypasses all the typical steps involved when making an online purchase, including providing shipping and payment details.

So, after you add an item to an online card and initiate the checkout process, you simply select Apple Pay as the method of payment. The billing/shipping address associated with the debit or credit card used in Apple Pay will be automatically input, and the purchase confirmed via Touch ID. At this point, you can choose to change the shipping address and other details, like when ordering a gift.

Payments on the Web

With macOS Sierra and iOS 10, you can now use Apple Pay on participating websites providing this option when checking out.

On your Mac, purchases are verified via a connection to an iPhone or Apple Watch, so that the purchase can be authorised via Touch ID. When using your iPad or iPhone, purchases are authorised normally, via Touch ID.

How secure is Apple Pay?

At times, it may seem like Apple Pay is not that convenient compared to swiping a card. However, it is important that you recognise the greater security offered by Apple Pay compared to conventional, card-based transactions.

Apple uses a technique known as ‘tokenisation’ to keep all Apple Pay transactions secure by preventing the actual credit card numbers from being transmitted over the air. With Apple Pay, the cashier does not see the credit card number, name, address, or any other personally identifying information. You don’t have to reveal your credit card, or confirm the authenticity of a credit card fed into Apple Pay with an ID card or driver’s license, since all those details are in your iPhone and protected by multiple built-in security systems.

Other techniques used by Apple to secure transactions include:

  • Touch ID on compatible iPhones
  • Continual skin contact on the Apple Watch
  • Find My iPhone – a service you can use to suspend all payments from your device if it gets stolen

With regard to privacy, Apple states that the company does not monitor or store any transactions made via Apple Pay. Apple has no idea what you used Apple Pay for, when you made the payment, or any other transaction information. To review your transactions, you would have to get a credit card report from your bank, or review the last few transactions if your bank permits it.

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