How to Use Apple Pay: A Complete Guide

How to Use Apple Pay: A Complete Guide

April 4, 2024 7 min read

Man using iphone apple pay

Apple fans already enjoy a suite of innovative tools for their phones, watches and tablets. Apple Pay, the brand’s approach to swipe-free payments, adds another convenient perk to the list.

So, just how does the technology work? And is it safe to use everywhere? We break down the benefits of Apple Pay technology, along with how to use it securely for sending money to friends and family.

What Is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is Apple’s digital payment service. It’s designed for use on any of its devices, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac computers. By adding the account details from their credit cards, debits, cards or other payment services to their Apple Pay account, consumers can pay without sharing specific details of their accounts.  

Apple Pay can be used with any device that has access to Apple payment details, including a computer. When used on a phone or smartwatch, you can make payments by simply holding the device near a payment terminal. This touchless technology allows you to keep your cash or credit cards in your pocket (or at home if you prefer).

Which Devices Work With Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is designed to work with any Apple device but may not work with very old devices that can’t be updated with the most recent Apple Pay app version.

The following devices support Apple Pay as of March 2024: [1]

  • iPhones with Face ID or Touch ID (except for iPhone 5s)
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad mini models with Face ID or Touch ID
  • Apple Watch Series 1 and later
  • Mac models with Touch ID or those introduced after 2011 connected with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch
  • Mac computers with Apple silicon paired with Touch ID for Magic Keyboard
  • Apple Vision Pro

While all of the above devices support Apple Pay, they may support it in different ways. For example, both iPads and iPhones can be used to pay on websites within the Safari browser and for person-to-person payments. However, iPhones also support payments at retailers, some transit systems, and schools; iPads don’t support these locations.

How Apple Pay Works

Apple Pay works in stores in much the same way as contactless card payments work. Once you’ve added your credit or debit card to your wallet, you can hold your device near the payment terminal. Double-tap the side button, and the terminal will scan the payment information from your phone or watch and complete the transaction. 

How To Set Up Apple Pay

It’s easiest to install Apple Pay on an iPhone or Apple Watch, even though it works on other devices. To get started, follow these steps:

  • Log in to your device.
  • Open the Wallet App.
  • Tap the “Add” button, which may appear as a plus mark.
  • Select a payment account option, such as a credit or debit card.
  • Read and agree to the Apple terms and conditions.
  • Enter your debit or credit card information by scanning the card with your phone’s camera or manually entering the numbers.

With the payment method added, you can now use it to pay through the Apple Pay app – even if you don’t have the payment method on you.

How To Pay With Apple Pay

Apple Pay is convenient to use on the go at a variety of retail locations, from vending machines to your favorite clothing shop. So, how exactly does it work?

  • When at a store, check to see if the credit card machine or self-checkout equipment has contactless payment technology. You may see an illustration with three or four curved lines and a card symbol or an Apple Pay symbol.
  • Double-tap the payment button on the right side of your phone or watch
  • Choose the payment method you want to use and verify it using your Apple passcode, facial recognition, or fingerprint.
  • When prompted, put the phone near the payment terminal and wait for it to process. It will work just like using a contactless credit card.

You can pay with Apple Pay when shopping from your iPad or computer by using the Apple Pay option at checkout.

Key Apple Pay Features

Here are just a few things you can do with Apple Pay:

  • Pay at retailers and online.
  • Pay over time with Apple Pay Later (a financing service that breaks up purchases into four equal payments.) This is subject to credit approval.
  • Send or receive money from friends and family with the Apple Cash digital card.

Is It Safe to Use Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is a highly secure method of payment, thanks to the steps Apple has put into place for using the technology.

With Apple Pay, each phone or device has a unique encrypted identifier that can only be used from that device. When the payment goes through, a unique transaction code is generated just for that transaction. These measures keep your credit or debit card number from being shared with the retailer or person to whom you are sending money.

To use Apple Pay, your device must have the enhanced security features enabled. Face ID or Touch ID, two forms of biometric security, ensure you (and only you) are approving payments with the device. Your device passcode can also be used in some cases.

Can Apple Pay Be Hacked?

No system is perfect, and Apple’s payment systems could be exploited by hackers under the right conditions. However, Apple has taken steps to protect data and keep transactions secure.

To ensure your financial information isn’t exploited, you should keep your device secure with a unique passcode or enable its biometric security measures at all times. Keep an eye on credit or debit card activity, and sign up for alerts so you know of any unapproved charges right away. Be sure to contact your financial institution as soon as you learn of a potential breach.

Where Apple Pay Is Accepted

Apple Pay was designed to make it easy to pay anywhere, whether it’s to a local coffee shop or across the world. Just about any establishment that supports contactless payments will take Apple Pay, including most retailers and even some bank ATMs. 

Apple states that 85% of retailers accept this payment method, and many online stores also let you select Apple Pay as a payment method upon checking out.

Apple Pay Alternatives

While Apple Pay is convenient and widely accepted, it’s not ideal for everyone. Those without Apple devices won’t be able to use it, for example.

Other options that may work better include:

  • PayPal: This widely used platform has been around for over 20 years and serves as a checkout option for major websites. It offers fast cash transfers to bank accounts and a credit card and line of credit to qualifying users.
  • Google Pay: This alternative to Apple Pay is for Android device users and offers many of the same features. It supports peer-to-peer payments, fast retail checkouts, and online purchases.
  • Ria: This online money transfer service is a popular pick for sending cash to over 200 countries. Send as little as you want, with limits up to $5,000 (or more in some cases). The low fees and competitive currency exchange rates make it an affordable option for those wanting to send money to loved ones or friends domestically or across the globe. Ria works from your desktop or through the free and convenient mobile app, as well as by sending or receiving cash in person at a variety of retail locations.

Is Apple Pay Right for You?

In a world where consumers are often on the go — and vulnerable to theft — it’s important to have a convenient and secure way to pay for purchases and send money to loved ones. If you have an iPhone or other Apple device, Apple Pay may be a natural fit for your financial life.

However, not all smartphone users prefer Apple, and some may be uncomfortable with using the biometric features for secure payments on the go. Apple Pay is also not built for seamless peer-to-peer payments unless both parties have access to a bank account.

For times when you don’t want to use Apple Pay to send money, Ria is a great alternative. Learn more about this accessible cash payment app and how it can work for you. 


[1] Devices Compatible with Apple Pay, Accessed March 17, 2024 https://support.apple.com/en-us/102896

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