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What is Apple Pay, and how does it work?

In recent years, contactless card payments have skyrocketed in the UK. 

For example, studies reveal that over 93% of all in-store card transactions of less than  £100 were completed via a contactless payment. 

This demonstrates the shift in trending global card transactions, encouraging more and more businesses to accept contactless payments.

Plenty of popular wallet app solutions or digital wallets enable merchants to let customers pay via contactless credit or debit. 

The most common ones include Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay

In the following sections, we focus on Apple Pay and cover:

  • What is Apple Pay?
  • How does Apple Pay work?
  • How to set up and use Apple Pay
  • Is Apple Pay a secure payment option?
  • Why you should start accepting Apple Pay 
  • How to accept Apple Pay purchases as a business

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay represents a mobile device payment system and a digital wallet created by Apple. 

Apple’s mobile payment system uses near-field communication technology to enable shoppers to initiate safe, contactless credit or debit card transactions in-store via devices like the Apple Watch, iPhone, Mac, or iPad.

Apple Pay supports a range of payment methods. Through its payment services, consumers can make online payments via websites or apps or in-store at a POS payment terminal

iOS users can also rely on Apple Pay to pay for public transport passes in London through their credit and debit cards, which are stored in the Apple Wallet app and automatically available. 

In addition, Apple also released its credit card in 2019 – the Apple Card – which is currently only available in the US. Users can also take advantage of the Apple Cash card, which is designed for peer-to-peer transactions via messages. 

It’s important to note that Apple Pay supports and works with credit, debit, and prepaid cards from major banks and some of the most popular card issuers. 

How does Apple Pay work?

It’s key to acknowledge the system as a whole to understand how Apple Pay works.

To make an Apple Pay transaction, consumers must first download the Apple Wallet app, upload their payment information, and go through a verification process. You can add multiple payment cards and save all your credit or debit cards to your account.

Apple Pay isn’t limited to Apple-specific terminals and works with any contactless payment system thanks to NFC technology that allows wireless communication with the POS system. 

Whenever consumers want to use the Apple Pay system to make a purchase, they need to position their authenticated Apple device close to the POS’s NFC card reader. Apple Pay users must be authenticated via Touch ID, Face ID, or passcode. 

The verification method depends on the Apple device being used for the payment.

How to set up Apple Pay

How to set up Apple Pay

You can set up Apple Pay on different iOS devices as a user.

Here’s what you need to do based on the type of device you’re using.

iPhone users

Download the Apple Wallet app and click on the plus icon. This will enable you to add a credit or debit card to your Apple Pay account.

You can select a card already stored in iTunes, or scan a new card with your phone camera. 

Next, you’ll need to verify the submitted card details. The verification process will be explained during the setup process. 

After verifying the card, you can instantly start making purchases via Apple Pay. Multiple cards can be stored within your Apple Wallet, making the payment process convenient and easy. 

However, you’ll need to select a default payment card that will be used for all purchases unless stated otherwise. You can change the default card via Settings in your iPhone’s Wallet and Apple Pay section. 

In this section, you can view data on all of your stored cards, together with billing addresses, emails, and phone numbers. 

Apple Watch users

If you’re using an Apple Watch, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. 

Visit the My Watch tab and select Wallet and Apple Pay. Next, add a payment card to use via the Add Card section and continue the verification process. 

Like in the previous example, you’ll need to select a default Apple Pay card. Again, you can make changes anytime via your iPhone’s Settings section

MacBook users

The setup process for MacBook users is very simple and straightforward

All you have to do is visit the System Preferences and select Wallet and Apple Pay. Next, choose Add Card and go through the same process outlined above.

Before you begin the setup on your Mac, ensure your device is compatible with Apple Pay. 

Once you’ve successfully created your Apple Wallet and Apple Pay accounts, you can select Apple Pay at checkout or double-tap your iPhone side button to pay in-store. 

Which Apple devices have Apple Pay?

The devices that are currently suitable for supporting Apple Pay include:

  • iPhone models with Face ID;
  • iPhone models with Touch ID (the iPhone 5s is an exception);
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air, iPad, and iPad mini models with Touch ID or Face ID;
  • Apple Watch Series 1 and later;
  • Mac models with Touch ID;
  • Mac models launched in 2012 or later with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch;
  • Apple Vision Pro.

Depending on your device, you may be able to use different services provided by Apple Pay.

For example, iPhone users can make purchases and payments in stores, on the web, person-to-person, within apps, and more.

On a Mac device, users can only make purchases and payments on the web, via Messages for Business, and within apps. 

Is Apple Pay secure?

Is Apple Pay secure?

In short, Apple Pay is considered highly secure as it relies on a method called “tokenisation” for safety reasons. 

Thanks to tokenisation, the user’s actual credit or debit card details are not shared with merchants and retailers. Instead, the payment system produces a token that features substitute infrastructure in the form of a Device Account Number that acts as a replacement for the credit card data

This number is encrypted and recorded in the device’s Secure Element

When making payments, the only necessary information is the token (not the card details). This makes this payment method much safer than others. 

The parties that have the power to decrypt and extract sensitive data from Apple Pay transactions are the card networks. This process occurs under extreme security protocols, making it safe and risk-free for users. 

Those unfamiliar with how Apple Pay works often have concerns about the risks of a lost or stolen phone.

However, there is a security element here too. 

As noted above, all Apple Pay payments must undergo a verification process with Touch ID, Face ID or a passcode. Therefore, if an individual finds your phone and wants to use your Apple Pay, they won’t be able to unless they know your passcode.

They’ll be able to access only your billing address and the last four numbers of the credit or debit cards stored in your account.

In addition, you can remotely delete any stored data in your iPhone using the Find My App service.

The benefits of Apple Pay for the business

If you’re a business owner wondering if offering Apple Pay is a good idea, here are some of the benefits to consider:

  • Advanced security features – As mentioned above, Apple Pay verifies transactions via biometric authentication, such as Face ID, Touch ID, passcodes, and other methods. A merchant that accepts contactless payments via Apple Pay can quickly establish customer trust and confidence, boosting brand reputation.
  • Quicker transactions – Rather than providing card details manually each time shoppers want to purchase your products or services, they can pay in seconds. This helps minimise checkout times (both in-store and online). As a result, customer queues can be shortened, leading to an increased and more efficient footprint in physical locations. At the same time, customer experience is improved online. 
  • Automation – Digital transactions can eliminate manual interventions, reducing the business’s payment processing operational costs. 
  • Lower abandonment rates – Thanks to the seamless checkout experience with Apple Pay, merchants can enjoy a reduction in card abandonment rates (a common challenge for business owners). This is especially applicable in cases of mobile shopping, where sales conversions skyrocket. 
  • Higher-value transactions – Apple Pay is extremely convenient and secure, making it an ideal option for shoppers who tend to spend more online or in-store. 

These are just a few examples of how Apple Pay can benefit your business. Depending on your industry or the type of products or services you offer, you can enjoy a range of other perks from accepting Apple Pay.

How to accept Apple Pay at your business

How to accept Apple Pay at your business

If you’re ready to make the next step and start accepting Apple Pay at your business, there are a few things to consider.

First, if you already accept credit cards, ensure your hardware is suitable for Apple Pay. For example, ensure your card reader is designed for NFC mobile payments. You can check for this feature by searching for an NFC mobile payment image on the device (three bowed lines). 

If your device isn’t built for NFC mobile payments, you must invest in appropriate hardware. 

Determine if your card processor supports Apple Pay. You can do this by reaching out to your card processor or researching on their website. 

Next, you’ll need to enable Apple Pay to accept payments. You can communicate with your card facilitator and ask them to allow the payment service. Once this step is complete, you must set up Apple Pay as an online payment app and add an Apple Pay button on your checkout page. 

In-store, make sure that the Apple Pay logo is visible at your checkout zone, informing shoppers that they can use this payment method when shopping. 

Don’t forget to train your staff to operate with Apple Pay and help customers who need support with the payment system. 


Apple Pay and other contactless payment solutions have been gaining popularity in recent years. Failing to incorporate these new trends from the digital payment space in your business may lead to competitive disadvantages.

The good news is that accepting Apple Pay is quick, easy, and straightforward. As a merchant, staying up to date with the capabilities and features of this payment system can be rewarding, contributing to higher sales volumes and fruitful gains. 

We hope this article will help you understand Apple Pay in detail and make the right choices for your business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Major banks support Apple Pay, including HSBC, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Nationwide Building Society, and more. Apple Pay also supports popular debit and major credit card providers, like Visa, MasterCard, and others. For a complete list of all the banks that support Apple Pay in Europe and the Middle East, visit this link.

Yes, Apple Pay is considered secure. It uses security features such as Touch ID, Face ID, passcode authentication, tokenisation, and device-specific account numbers to protect your payment information.

Apple Pay is supported on iPhone models with Face ID or Touch ID, Apple Watch, iPad models with Touch ID or Face ID, and Mac models equipped with Touch ID or with an Apple Pay-enabled iPhone or Apple Watch nearby.

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