Apple Pay review: 3 months later

Apple Pay — or Pay — launched in October of 2014 as part of iOS 8.1. It enabled the NFC-based tap-to-pay system in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and the online payment system in both iPhones 6 and the iPad mini 3 and iPad Air 2. While it hasn't yet rolled out internationally, Apple Pay has expanded to more banks, retailers, and apps in the U.S. We went in-store with it at launch, but how's Apple Pay doing now, some three months later?

Apple Pay and banks

Retailers see surge in mobile payments in wake of Apple Pay's launch

Peter: My bank was there on day one, and I had absolutely no problem signing up my debit card in Apple Pay. I know a lot of other people haven't been as lucky. One of the few times I've been happy to be with my giant, monolithic, massively unfriendly and expensive bank.

Ally: I have lots of different cards in Apple Pay and for the most part I've had zero problem. Everything works as I'd expect it to. However, a month or so ago I restored my iPhone 6 Plus and since then I haven't been able to get one of my cards added back. The recent iOS update that was supposed to address that particular Apple Pay issue unfortunately hasn't worked for me either. Calls to my issuer haven't helped either.

Ren: I'm with Peter — I was lucky in that my major debit and credit cards all supported Apple Pay at launch, and I've had no real problems with them. (Though the initial add process did require a couple of random steps, including sending confirmation codes to a phone number I haven't had on file in four years.)

Apple Pay at retail

Apple Pay

Peter: I've used Apple Pay a precious few times and it's worked out quite well, but I have to be frank: I don't shop at most of the places it's taken. The places I do shop most frequently, including my grocery store and my pharmacy, aren't yet signed up. So Apple Pay has, for me anyway, been an interesting curiosity. But it really hasn't moved into a daily use for me yet.

Ally: When actually using Apple Pay, the process is painless. Just tap and done. The only time I've found the process slightly odd is when using self checkouts. The ones are our local grocery stores are a little finicky and don't always seem to activate tap payments. Other than that, the experience has been pleasant.

Ren: I used Apple Pay a lot when it first launched, in part for novelty, but I've really grown to love using it. My pharmacy and three grocery stores in my area take it, and I keep on running into other places that take it. (For awhile, I'd tap my iPhone at any register that looked like it might take contactless payments… just in case.)

Apple Pay in-apps

Peter: I actually haven't used Apple Pay in apps once. I admit I'm on a limited budget to begin with, so I don't do a lot of in-app shopping anyway, but it really hasn't come up for me even as a possibility.

Ally: I've only used Apple Pay with the Apple Store app when purchasing a case for my iPhone 6 Plus. It was a heck of a lot easier than entering all my details or having to change them from what is in my iTunes account. I'm sure I'll end up using it more and more as different merchants start supporting the functionality.

Ren: I've actually started using Panera's in-app Apple Pay to place advance orders rather than wait in line — it's much faster, and there's no hassle about finding a payment option to input into my iPhone, since my credit card info is already stored. (It's also an easy way for my purchases to count toward Panera's loyalty program, as in-store Apple Pay doesn't register that you're a member without flashing your MyPanera card.)

I've used the Apple Store's app to buy things while in the store, as well, but it feels a lot weirder to use than Panera's or Target's; I'm guessing that's because I'm actually in the store, but not dealing with people.

Apple Pay evolution

Apple Pay job posting hints at broad global expansion

Rene: Canada! (You expected nothing less, and I would not disappoint!). Seriously, though. International rollout feels inevitable. So does support for loyalty programs. I don't know if there would ever be Apple Point, redeemable for iTunes credit, but I'd love to my Lego VIP card in there. Also, there's the whole world of consumer-to-consumer transactions to get into. People have been begging for a PayPal alternative for years. Maybe Apple Pay could be just that?

Ren: Though I haven't spent much time abroad in the last three months, I would love for Apple Pay to take hold in Canada and the UK; I'm planning trips to both in the near future, and it would be swell to not have to worry about my wallet while traveling.

And though I don't think the company's "Year of Apple Pay" will be doomed without loyalty cards or frequent customer attachments, I'd really like to be able to connect things like my Panera card to my purchases there — right now, it's easier to order in advance through the app than pay in-store with Apple Pay and then pull out my Panera card.

Finally, more merchants supporting it. I wish CurrentC would die in a fiery pit, but at the least, some of its supporters are aging out of their original exclusivity contracts — hopefully that means we'll see retailers like Target (who already support Apple Pay in-app) using the in-store kiosks, as well.

Peter: MOAR VENDORS. Apple Pay has already succeeded where other digital payment systems have failed, but it's nothing approaching critical mass. Major retailers still don't have support for Apple Pay, and many banks don't either. It's also a complete non-entity outside the United States.

Bottom line

Peter: Apple Pay is everything I wanted in a mobile payment system: Elegant, fast, secure. If Apple can get the entire world using it, more the better. In the interim, Apple Pay is still squarely a novelty for me. I use it whenever I can, but for what I've been spending money on since it was introduced, that's not that much.

Rene: I share Tim Cook's bullishness on the future of Apple Pay. It does so many things right that, given enough time, adoption, and propagation, I think it could fundamentally transform how I pay for things on a daily basis. It could end up being a bigger deal than even the current crop of devices because it's not just another device — it's another service for all devices.

Ren: Using Apple Pay is awesome and keeps me from pulling out my credit card all the time, but it's not so widespread that I can just leave my wallet at home. I'm hoping 2015 is the year enough of my merchants begin accepting Apple Pay that I can consider actually going phone-only and saving some of that pocket space for, say, an extra battery for my iPhone. I also wouldn't mind some sort of loyalty program integration. (Fingers crossed!)

Ally: I love the idea of Apple Pay and what it offers. The only barrier is merchants adopting it within the United States. It's kind of ironic since it's only available in the the US yet our country is pathetically behind when it comes to NFC and payment technology in general. Let's hope the next year or so changes that.

Serenity Caldwell

Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.

36 Comments
  • I just used it at McDonalds to get my oatmeal. Used it last night to pick up my sinus headache meds. Generally use it at Starbucks as I leave the Metro. I generally have the phone in my hand so it's so much more convenient than taking out my wallet.
    My bank (BofA) was on board since day one so it's been painless.
    I hear that the DC Metro will launch it this year before summer so I'm looking forward to even more convenience.
  • I have used at McDonald's a couple of times inside the store, it worked very easily.
    I have not attempted to try it via drive thru - I have read stories/watched videos and the process seems odd for the people working there, too many steps involved - I am guessing that their needs to be improvements in that process.
  • Until they make all cards with a damn visa logo available this is not going to take off as it should. It has potential but they are being too greedy Sent from the iMore App
  • wut?
  • You will have to define too greedy? All credit/debit cards charge a fee to the merchant, and that money is given to Visa/MC/AMX and the issuing bank. This is intended as a way to deal with the cost of fraud that happens on cards but everyone knows it it a profit center for both institutions. Apple is getting a trivial piece of that money because ApplePay is so much more secure that the risk of fraud is massively reduced. So much so that all ApplePay transactions are charged at the minimum rate offered by the cards. So everyone win's. Retailers pay the minimum charge, issuers and banks have to pay far less in fraud and Apple makes a trivial cut. You may be confused with what some retailers are crying about. They were looking at a way to take payments through ACH transactions (think electronic check) and pay less to Visa/MC and AMX. They fear that once people get use to how easy and secure ApplePay is that they will laugh their collective @$$3$ off at how weak their offering is and reject it out of hand. Regardless, the only reason that some issuers are not yet on ApplePay is that it requires a newer more secure method to authorizing transactions via tokenization and this takes some time. The big Credit Union card issuers are getting up to speed and virtually everyone should be on board before the end of the year (most in the first half). But this is not about greed on Apples part. This is about security on Apple's part.
  • Apple pay needs to come to Canada and it needs to come now.. Having a cool feature like that on my phone that I can't even use. What's the point of having this feature of only certain countries can use it
  • Just a quick note, I've used Apple Pay in the London (US Based account). I was able to use it at stores and cabs w/o any problems.
  • I am would like to know how is apple pay going to work with the Iphone 5s and the watch? Will I have Apple pay on my Iphone 5s?
  • Good question. I am guessing that you will use the app on your phone with the card info stored there, then your watch will use the new sensor/chip/secure element - use the iphone in some manner using the passbook app to make it all work like magic when you wave your watch near a nfc reader and you will tap your watch a certain way or use your fingerprint to authenticate.. just totally guessing here...
  • Management will happen on the phone, NFC will be done through the Watch. (Since iPhone 5/5s has no NFC chip). When you put the Apple Watch on, you authorize it, and it it stays authorized until it detects skin-contact has been broken.
  • Cool, Thanks. That's what I figured. The passbook app on the iphone (5/5c/5s) would house the cc/dc info. <<-- (I know this may not be exactly correct..but I get the general idea).
    NFC would be performed on the watch. I wonder would you get notifications on the watch/iphone both. I have only taking a peak at the notification system proposed for the watch.
    * Neat - as far as the authorization process/skin contact *
  • I have used it at stores, in cabs, and at vending machines. Most of the time - 90-something percent of the time - it is a wonderful experience, fast and convenient. I have had a handful of experiences where the phone would tell me to hold closer to reader, and no matter how closely I would hold it, the payment would not go through. That small percentage of times means I still favor Apple Pay where it is available, but I do not trust it enough to leave physical cards at home.
  • This is what I think will happen we will see over the next 2-3 years alot more businesses jumping on board, it will become accepted alot more, will it become a global thing.. not sure but I think ebay/amazon and other online retailers should get onboard quick.
    I think for the time being you will still have to carry a wallet while DMV still is playing catch up with making us carry around a physical card.
    Also car insurance companies are slowly coming on board with allowing you to use electronic versions of 'proof of insurance' .. I think the number is around 31/32 states so far have got on board..
    I carry a very thin paper wallet, like super thin/light it holds 6-7 cards max, space for maybe 8 bills enough to do everything i need. Usually I have my driver's license, medical id cards, cash, maybe a student id card, and that is about it.
  • Maybe I was not clear on my point -- it is the small-but-not-insignicant number of failures using Apple Pay that keep me bringing physical cards around, even when I am going to stores that support Apple Pay.
  • I completely agree with your comment, it is always a good thing to have some other method to pay for items, we will not be able to go fully away from carrying physical cards for these types of transactions for atleast another 10 years I would say. I think that Apple Pay over the next 3-5 years will help grow the change that is necessary to get us there, along with other companies coming on board with their services - supporting Apple Pay, and similar services. We are moving that direction with everything going further digital/cloud based, military, government, mainstream businesses, if you don't move that route there is a good chance it will affect your business in a negative way.
  • The 10% "failure" rate could be due to faulty readers in the machines, which, since contactless payments of any kind are rare in the US, might never have actually been checked to see if they are working properly.
  • Could be - though at my local Subway, I use it almost every time. While it only failed once in all the times (about 2 dozen) I used it there, since there was nobody in line at the time I actually rebooted my phone, and it worked. It could have been a hiccup in the reader that coincided with the reboot, or it could have been something with he phone. I have no idea. Sent from the iMore App
  • That happens to me with NFC credit cards, which should be dead simple. The readers claim they can't process it and demand chip+pin to continue. Not sure what, if anything, Apple can do about that. (Register folks tell me they drop the readers and break them as well... :-/)
  • I like using ApplePay when I can. I just used it at Champs Sporting Goods and Meijer. The only difference I really see is that it just saves you the step of pulling out a physical card.
  • I love Apple Pay!!!
    I share the frustration at the already hacked multiple time CurrentC..
    I have used Apple Pay inside the gas stations such as BP, I heard that 7/11 gas stations were supposed to be supporting it and maybe in the future Wawa gas stations, but haven't seen any. Here is a quick list of areas that support in near me in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area of Va.: ( I am sure there are a lot more) To compile this brief list I used the app "Nearby" by MasterCard - I zoomed around using the Map, then used the list feature to list businesses that support NFC. 1. BP Gas
    2. Citgo
    3. McDonalds
    4. Good Will
    5. Panera Bread
    6. Walgreen's
    7. McDonald's
    8. Firehouse Subs
    9. PostNet
    10. Foot Locker
    11. Champs Sports
    12. New Your & Company
    13. T-Mobile
    14. Babies R US
    15. OfficeMax
    16. The Home Depot
    17. Subway - using their app
    18. ExxonMobil
    19. Petco
    20. Nails Plus
    21. Wawa Gas
    22. Chen's Bistro
    23. Sports Authority
    24. Toys R US
    25. Coca-Cola
    26. The Vintage Rooster
    27. Cherry Carpet
    28. Classic Hair Studio 2
    29. Mermaid Factory
    30. the Fresh Market
    31. Skinnies Records
    32. Covenant Counseling Service
    33. Kangaroo Gas
    34. Uncork'd LLC
  • I am going to Disney world in May and want to use Apple Pay while I am there so I don't have to carry my wallet. However, I also want to purchase and use a battery case while in Disney so my phone won't die during the day. Will Apple Pay work while using a battery case on my phone or will I need to take the case off to use Apple Pay? Thanks in advance. Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple Pay coming to Canada and other places outside the US is actually the number one factor for Apple Pay to achieve "critical mass" as Peter puts it. This is because (no offence) the USA payment and credit system is so terribly horribly backwards and out of date. It's those US terminals that all have to be replaced (and in fairness *are* being replaced as we speak), in every store and every city before widespread adoption can happen. In other countries, especially Canada, you have an entire country of people who already have the terminals because we've been using chip and pin for a decade or more, and contactless card payments for about 5 years. All the gear is already set up, it just requires Apple and the Banks turning a switch and every retailer in the country will be able to support it day one. IMO "critical mass" will be reached the moment Apple Pay leaves the old USA. Also: What's a "Panera Card"? Is that like for pizza or something?
  • I use it a lot at the vending machines at work, and at Walgreens, Jewel-Osco and rarely McDonald's if I go in (none of the McD's in our area support it through the drive thru). I've only used the in-app Apple Pay once and that was for purchasing a Groupon, but the experience was so fast that I would do it more in lieu of having to give CC info.
  • With self checkout you first have to select debit/credit and it only works with credit if it offers you a choice. At my grocery store there seems to be a $100 dollar limit, over that and the terminal wants my signature — what's up with that? I wish the "tap" word would stop being used because it implies that you have to risk dinging up your iPhone by physically bumping it against something and that is simply not the case. Near Field, not physical touching. My worst experiences with Apple Pay are in Apple Stores while not using their app. Their mobile POS devices are tragically awkward. Apple Pay should work best in Apple Stores, not worst. All in all, though, Apple Pay is a big win with me.
  • I've never used it. I feel left out. I have it set up and everything.
  • I use it at BJ's and Walgreens all the time. Now if only Best Buy and Walmart stop there CurrentC thing I'd never need to use a card while shopping. Oh and pay at the pump access would also be a nice move by gas stations.
  • "to be frank: I don't shop at most of the places it's taken. The places I do shop most frequently, including my grocery store...aren't yet signed up. So Apple Pay...really hasn't moved into a daily use for me yet." - Peter 100% where i'm at. I've yet to use it.
  • I would like to see apple pay evolve to be used at ATM and be able to take cash out if you forget your wallet.
  • I like it, but I don't see it being the sole option for NFC payments. I don't see it competing with PayPal either. My reasoning is that PayPal is platform independent and Apple pay is iOS only. Even if Apple pay is a better system, not everyone chooses Apple for their mobile device. Sent from the iMore App
  • ApplePay + LoopPay
    Apple should acquire or license LoopPay before Samsung jumps on it. Add LoopPay to ApplePay and use it virtually everywhere. LoopPay works at over 90% of merchants today. It has not failed me yet at any store that has a mag stripe reader. I have used it at CVS, Dunkins, BJ,s, walmart, grocery stores both national and local, convenience stores, mom and pop stores and independent stores.
    With ApplePay security and LoopPay technology you can leave your wallet at home.
  • I use it every week at Wegmans when I go to the grocery store. Works perfectly. I was worried since I have the 6 plus, it would be awkward to use. It's not! I wish VA would make my drivers license electronic. Then I really wouldn't need a wallet! Sent from the iMore App
  • I was just in from Israel to New Jersey and i used Apple Pay
    In Walgreen's and Macy's it I am waiting for them to Launch Apple Pay in
    Israel so i can add my Israel Amex card. All i have it my Citibank card.
  • I still haven't been able to use it. When I go to a place that is supposed to take it, they tell me their systems aren't upgraded yet to take it. Unreal.
  • I pray everyday that my bank and the local yokels would get on board with it. Thank goodness for Capital One and Barclaycard. I rarely eat fast food so McDonald's has seen no use while Subway gets occasional use. Unfortunately no local gas stations are on board which really sucks because I run all over the county for work. I really hope the momentum skyrockets on this in 2015.
  • It works great here in the UK. The rollout was smooth. Woke up Tuesday morning and I had Apple Pay and setting up my cards was easy. Apple Pay works with all contactless systems so that is the majority of the shops in the UK. There is a £20 limit like all contactless cards until the retailer updates their systems then it is limitless. Now I have just got to stop finding excuses to spend money to use Apple Pay!
  • Canada is now on board with Apple Pay but only for Amex cards (which is a bummer, since it is the least used credit card here) but if you are from the States, have a registered american credit card and you come visit us, you'll be able to use Apple Pay everywhere since 90% of our stores are NFC capable now. Chip and PIN and contact-less payment is a fabulous thing :)