The Definitive Guide to Apple Pay

This is the ultimate guide to Apple Pay.

If you own an Apple device, you’ve probably used Apple Pay. If you haven’t, you may find yourself doing so soon enough, or at least know someone who has.

To be clear:

This is NOT a mere “What is Apple Pay” guide you’ll find all over the web.

Yes, we’ll cover that and show you how to set up and use Apple Pay.

But, we’re also going to show you how to become a pro with Apple Pay by following our useful tips.

So if you’re looking to know everything about the best and most popular mobile payment, you’ll love this new guide.

Here’s what you’ll learn about in this guide.

  1. What is Apple Pay?
  2. What devices support Apple Pay?
  3. How does Apple Pay work?
  4. How to set up Apple Pay?
  5. How to use Apple Pay?
  6. Is Apple Pay safe?
  7. Apple Pay privacy concerns
  8. Apple Pay participating banks
  9. Places that accept Apple Pay
  10. Apple Pay competitors

Grab a coffee, we’ve got a lot to cover in this guide. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Tip: Click on the links above to jump to a specific section or continue to scroll through to learn everything there is to know about Apple Pay.

What is Apple Pay?

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, set out to create a more secure alternative to traditional card payments. He even went as far as stating plastic cards for payment are “outdated and vulnerable to magnetic interference.” This shows his fear of fraud and scams associated with traditional payment, which most of us are already aware of.

This lead to the creation of Apple Pay. It initially released in the United States on October 20, 2014 shortly followed by support in most first world countries. This includes the entire European Economic Area, Canada, Australia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and more.

wallet app with apple cash and other cards
Image courtesy: Apple

Apple Pay is Apple’s mobile payment and digital wallet service. It lets users easily pay for purchases online and in participating retail stores using their devices instead of cash or a physical credit or debit card.

Besides the naming Apple Pay, Apple has also used the Apple symbol “” followed by “Pay” ( Pay) for its contactless payment. The company has adopted the same naming scheme for its other products too, such as Apple Watch ( Watch), Apple Card ( Card) and Apple Pencil ( Pencil).

In 2017 at the WWDC, Apple announced that iOS 11 will integrate Apple Pay into the Messages app. This allows Apple device users to send and receive money within the app. Transfers go directly to their virtual Pay Cash card or an eligible debit card in their Wallet. This feature is only available in the United States, though.

In August 2019, Apple introduced its own credit card, the Apple Card, which is deeply integrated into Apple Pay and the Wallet app. Apple offers many benefits when using Apple Pay with Apple Card like 3% daily cashback.

What devices support Apple Pay?

Apple Pay works on most Apple products released after the iPhone 5. It can work on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5C with an Apple Watch, but this removes the Touch ID security of the app. The iPhone 5S also requires an Apple Watch for Apple Pay to confirm the users Touch ID. Here are all the Apple products that work with Apple Pay:

  • iPhone models with Face ID
  • iPhone models with Touch ID
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad Mini models with Touch ID or Face ID
  • Any Macs with Touch ID
  • All Apple Watches series (in-store only)

How does Apple Pay work?

There’s a lot happening under the hood when you use Apple Pay. We’ll do our best to explain everything in simple English.

There are some terminologies that you need to understand first before we can jump into the steps.

Secure Element (SE)

It’s a special microprocessor chip that stores sensitive data such as payment information. The SE is embedded into the NFC chip found in iPhone 6 and newer, Apple Watch and MacBook Pro (newer models). It’s essentially the same chip that debit and credit cards use to secure your payment information.

Near Field Communication (NFC)

It’s a short-range wireless technology that allows two electronic devices to communicate when they’re placed right next to each other (usually 10 centimeters or less). Think about your iPhone (certain models), Apple Watch, and POS terminal, they’re all NFC-equipped.


It’s a highly secure process that substitutes sensitive data with a one-time algorithmically generated number known as a token. To put that into context, the Primary Account Number (PAN), or the credit card number is replaced by a token when you add a card to Apple Pay. In short, Token is just a fake credit card number.

A token holds no value. In case it falls into the hands of the bad guys, it’s useless since they cannot reverse it back to the PAN.

Here’s what happens when you add a card to Apple Pay. Everything happens in just a few seconds.

add card to Apple Pay
Add card to Apple Pay

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<img src="" alt="add card to Apple Pay"/><a href="">Infographic</a> by Gotechtor.

To provide a higher level of security than traditional credit or debit cards, Apple Pay uses the EMVCo’s contactless suite of specifications.

When you add a credit or debit card in the Wallet app for Apple Pay use, it’s assigned a token (but Apple call it Device Account Number or DAN). The token is encrypted and stored on a dedicated chip called Secure Element (SE) on your Apple device.

The DAN is specific to an Apple device. If you add your card to another device, it will have a new DAN. This is critical for identity security and fraud protection.

When you complete a transaction with your Apple device at a POS terminal, the DAN along with a dynamic security code (cryptogram) are sent via NFC, using the EMVCo’s contactless suite of specifications.

By creating a new security code with each transaction, replicating your code to use with fraudulent transactions becomes nearly impossible.

This infographic below will give you a visual approach of the behind the scenes when someone buys things with Apple Pay.

how Apple Pay works infographic
Behind the scenes when you buy things with Apple Pay

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<img src="" alt="how Apple Pay works infographic"/><a href="">Infographic</a> by Gotechtor.

How to set up Apple Pay

Now that you know what Apple Pay is, what devices are compatible with it, it’s time to know how to set it up. Follow along the steps below to set up Apple Pay on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or MacBook Pro with or without Touch Bar.

iPhone or iPad

Setting up Apple Pay on an iPhone or iPad couldn’t be easier. The release of iOS 8.1 activated Apple Pay on every iPhone, so all you have to do is link your payment method.

iPhone settings to set up Apple Pay
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

To do this, find and open the “Wallet” app then tap the + sign in the top right corner. Next, your iPhone guides you through adding one of your cards to the app then displays a demo of how it works.

Apple Watch

To set up Apple Pay on your Apple Watch, first navigate to the Apple Watch app on your paired iPhone. Then tap the Wallet & Apple Pay menu.

use Apple Pay with Watch

From this menu simply press “add a new card” then follow the instructions on your screen. Once you add a card, your bank or card issuer verifies your information and activating Apple Pay.

Your Bank Issuer must be partnered with Apple Pay, otherwise you won’t be able to add your card to Apple Pay. Find below a list of Apple Pay participating banks.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Before you can set up Apple Pay on your MacBook Pro, you need to allow websites to check if Apple Pay is set up.

Open the Safari app, click on Safari, then “Preferences”. A pop up tab will open, click on Privacy, then check the box next to: “Apple Pay and Apple Card”. This will allow websites to prompt you with the payment option when buying goods or services online.

Add a card to Apple Pay on Mac

For the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar or later, you’ll be able to authorize the payment with the Touch Bar on your keyboard. But first, let’s add your card if you haven’t done that already.

  1. Click the Apple logo on the upper left of your Mac, click “System Preferences”, then click “Wallet & Apple Pay”.
  2. Click “Add Card” to add a new credit or debit card. Sign in to iCloud in case you’re not to move on to the next step.
  3. If you already have a card on file, you can use it after you enter the security code when prompted. Otherwise, you can either manually add one or position your card in front of your MacBook Pro camera and follow the instructions.

MacBook Pro without Touch Bar

Older MacBook Pros don’t have the necessary hardware support to store cards for Apple Pay on the device. Therefore, you’ll need to use your iPhone or Apple Watch’s stored cards to make purchases.

allow payments on Mac
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Go to your iPhone Settings app, tap “Wallet & Apple Pay”. Scroll down, then slide the button next to “Allow Payments on Mac” to the On position (when it’s green).

Note: Depending on your bank you might need to confirm your identity via phone, SMS, or e-mail. The process is quick. For some banks, you may need to call them to verify your identity, which can take days. It all depends on your bank. But once, everything is set and ready to go, you can start using Apple Pay everywhere it’s accepted.

How to use Apple Pay

Within apps

use Apple Pay within apps
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Shortly after the release of Apple Pay, Apple released an API for app developers to integrate Apple Pay into their checkout options. With the high level of security provided by Apple Pay, this quickly became the ideal choice for many developers.

Using Apple Pay within apps couldn’t be easier. It works in a similar way to PayPal. At your checkout window, simply select Apple Pay as your payment options then confirm which card you wish to use, and your billing and shipping address. Next, just confirm the payment via Touch ID or Face ID.

In Stores

If you see one of these symbols when checking out in a store, then you can pay with Apple Pay.

For iPhone with Face ID, double click the Side button to use your default card. Then, look at your phone or enter your passcode to authenticate yourself. Hold the top of your phone close to the contactless reader until “Done” with a checkmark appears on the display.

Person using Apple Pay in store

It’s basically the same process for iPhone with Touch ID. The only difference is you double-press the Home button when your iPhone is locked and Apple Pay will open with your default card. Then, rest your finger on the Home button and hold the top of the phone next to the reader until you see the animation with a tick and you’re set.

Paying at a store with Apple Pay on your Apple Watch only requires the touch of a button. Simply double click the side button of your Apple Watch then hold your apple watch near the contactless reader at the store until you feel a light tap. This processes your payment on your default card.

On the web

Checking out with Apple Pay on the web requires you to use an Apple device and the Safari web browser. So long as you’re using an Apple device and the Safari web browser, the checkout process is nearly identical to using Apple Pay within an app. 

The only difference is if you are using a Mac with Touch ID, the prompts to confirm your payment with Touch ID shows up on the Touch Bar. You can also still use Apple Pay on the web with a Mac without Touch ID, you’ll just need to confirm your payment with your iPhone or Apple Watch.

Apple Cash: Peer-to-Peer

Apple Pay comes with a built-in service that lets users send, receive and request money from others through Messages or via Siri on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Apple Cash would be the equivalent of Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App. 

To use Apple Cash, you need iOS 11.2 or later, or WatchOS 4.2 or later on a compatible device. You’ll also need to make sure to sign into iCloud on the device you want to receive or send money. You need to set up Apple Cash first before you can use it. The steps below will walk you through.

set up apple cash account
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor
sending money with Apple Pay
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Launch the Settings app on an iOS device (signed in with your iCloud) and tap “Wallet & Apple Pay”. Then, tap “Apple Cash” under the Payments Card tab.

Follow the quick instructions to set up your Apple Cash card. Once you activated your Apple Cash account, it will show up in the Wallet app, then you can start using it.

In Messages tap the Apple Pay icon, use the “-” and “+” button to select an amount or tap the “Show Keypad” button to enter a specific amount. Then, tap “Request” or “Pay” and confirm with Face ID, Touch ID or your passcode.

Ask Siri

Apple has integrated Apple Pay with its virtual assistant, Siri. To use Apple Pay with Siri, all you need to do is to launch it and say something like: “Send $5 to Yankel” or “Pay Yankel $5”, assuming Yankel is in your contact list.

Note: There’s no fee to send, receive, or request money using your Apple Cash account. And opening up an Apple Cash card won’t affect your credit score. 

Is Apple Pay safe to use?

Simply put, Apple Pay provides one of the most secure payment methods available today. However, no payment method is entirely safe from fraud.

Instead of a standard three-digit security code found on credit or debit cards, Apple pay utilizes a dynamic security code. This generates a security code for each transaction preventing someone from stealing your card information to use for their purchases.

Additionally, if you lose your Apple device with Apple Pay activated, you can stop all transactions from the Find My iPhone service. All you need to do is to place your iPhone in lost mode. Anyway, the thief would need your passcode, Touch ID, or Face ID in order to make purchases.

Apple has security measures to prevent sellers and third-parties from collecting your financial information. When you make a purchase using Apple Pay, the merchant never sees your data. Additionally, Apple doesn’t store your credit or debit card numbers on the device or on its servers.

This ensures that any form of theft or fraud is nearly impossible with Apple Pay.

Apple Pay Privacy Concerns

During the initial release of Apple Pay, Apple stated they would not track any usage of the app. They further promised to keep all transactional information between you, the vendors, and the banks.

This means Apple does not store or sell any of your data related to Apple Pay. They simply have too much at stake for a breach in consumer trust to be worth it.

Banks that support Apple Pay

Apple Pay quickly received widespread support from banks and financial institutions. They offer support from the top bank issuers that handle 83% of all credit card purchase volume. The list of supported payment networks includes:

  • Visa
  • V Pay
  • Mastercard
  • Maestro
  • American Express
  • Discover Card in the United States
  • Cartes Bancaires in France
  • Interac in Canada
  • Eftpos in Australia
  • China Union Pay
  • Suica in Japan
  • Mada in Saudi Arabia
  • Ticket Restaurant
  • Elo in Brazil

You can find an up-to-date list of all financial institutions that accept Apple Pay here.

How to Find Places That Accept Apple Pay

places that accept Apple Pay

Where can I use Apple Pay?

You can use Apple Pay in a wide range of places like retail stores, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, vending machines, trains, etc. Wherever you see the contactless payment and Apple Pay symbol means that place accepts Apple Pay.

Apple has put together a list of some of the places that support Apple Pay. Please check it out.

You can also use your iPhone and Mac computer to find out if a place accepts Apple Pay. The instructions below will guide you through.

Check for Apple Pay on iPhone

Accept Apple Pay
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

On your iPhone, open Apple Maps and search for the place you want to check for Apple Pay support. Tap on the result you want, and an info card will show up in the screen.

Scroll up and look for the “Useful to Know” section. If you see an Apple Pay logo it means the place accepts Apple Pay.

Check for Apple Pay on Mac

Accept Apple Pay
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Hop on your Mac, Open Apple Maps, and search for the place you’re interested in. Once you find and select the place, tap the little info button (the “i” in a circle) on the right side. A similar an info card to the one on iOS will pop up on the screen.

Again find the “Useful to Know” section. Scroll down if needed and and look for the Apple Pay logo.

Apple Pay Competitors

While competitors to Apple Pay exist, none of them compare to the simplicity and accessibility of Apple Pay. Really, the only limitation to using Apple Pay is it requires an Apple device. 

Google created their own payment processing system called Google Pay one year after the release of Apple Pay. However, it is only available in eleven countries with limited support from bank issuers.

Samsung also created their own payment processing system called Samsung Pay just before Google Pay was released. It operates almost identical to Apple Pay, however, it has less availability than Apple Pay making it difficult to use in some situations.

Overall, like most Apple products, Apple Pay simply works. There may be other companies creating similar products, but they all have inconveniences built into them. Whether it be the locations, you can use the product in or limitations in which banks accept them.

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