The ultimate guide to how and where to use Apple Pay

The ultimate guide to how and where to use Apple Pay

Nearly two years after it launched in October 2014, Apple Pay—the company’s flagship mobile payment platform—continues its breathtaking growth. CEO Tim Cook announced in July that the service is now used in three-fourths of “mobile wallet” transactions made in the United States, and that more than 1 million new users join every week. Banks and retailers are still joining up, and even Kanye West’s pop-up shops are now taking Apple Pay payments. Soon, the service will available not just on iOS, but on the web, too.

Ready to start using it yourself? Read on to learn more about how Apple Pay works, how to get your iPhone ready for it, and most importantly, where you can go test it out. We’ll keep this page up-to-date as more banks, stores, and apps gain Apple Pay support, too. 

What’s the latest?

Even more new banks! On August 17, Apple added more than two dozen U.S. banks and credit unions to its ever-growing list of partners. The new additions include:

  • Bank of St. Francisville
  • Bank of Winnfield & Trust Company
  • Billings Federal Credit Union
  • Central Bank (OK)
  • Citizens Business Bank
  • City County Employees Credit Union
  • First Community Bank (both Arkansas and Michigan now)
  • First Federal Bank of Florida
  • First International Bank & Trust
  • First Internet Bank of Indiana
  • First Volunteer Bank
  • HOMEBANK
  • Industrial State Bank
  • Kitsap Credit Union
  • KleinBank
  • LA Capitol Federal Credit Union
  • Member One Federal Credit Union
  • Midwest Bankcentre
  • National Bank of Commerce
  • Needham Bank
  • Northwestern Bank
  • Park Side Credit Union
  • Park State Bank & Trust
  • Redstone Federal Credit Union
  • Scenic Community Credit Union
  • Services Credit Union
  • Springs Valley Bank and Trust
  • State Bank of Chilton
  • Summit State Bank
  • Sun Federal Credit Union
  • The Arlington Bank
  • The Bank of Hemet
  • U.S. Postal Service Federal Credit Union
  • Union Bank
  • United Bank of Union
  • Valley View Bank
  • West Financial Credit Union

The list of retailers continues to expand as well: On August 19, Chick-fil-A began accepting Apple Pay payments both in-restaurant and at its drive-thrus.

Want to use Apple Pay? Get your iPhone ready

In order to use Apple Pay, you need to have a compatible device and the right version of iOS. For in-store purchases, Apple Pay is compatible with the iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus, and the iPhone SE, which are the only iPhones equipped with the requisite NFC radio antennae. Besides NFC compatibility, the other piece of the hardware puzzle is a Touch ID sensor, but—unfortunately—iPhone 5S owners are out of luck. For in-app purchases, Apple Pay works with the iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus, and iPhone SE, as well as the iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, and iPad mini 3—again, thanks to the Touch ID sensor.

You’ll also need to update your iPhone to iOS 8.1 or newer, which will turn on your phone’s Apple Pay feature. (If you haven’t updated to iOS 9.3.5, however, you should do so at your earliest convenience due to a security issue.)

Once your iPhone is in order, you’ll need to link up a credit or debit card to use for payments. If you already have a card linked to your Apple ID for making iTunes and App Store purchases, you can opt to keep using that card with Apple Pay—you’ll just have to re-enter the card’s security code so Apple knows you’re legit. Take note: Some banks will add an extra layer of security to this step, asking you to enter a code they send to you via text, so that they too know you’re on the up-and-up.

You can also add different cards—just launch Wallet and tap the plus-sign in the top-right corner. You’ll then be prompted to add either a credit or debit card to use with Apple Pay or another pass to store in Wallet. Tap “Add Another Card,” then follow the entry fields on the next screen. You can speed this up by taking a picture of your card with your iPhone.

Whether you’re using the card already linked to your Apple ID or adding a new one, your iPhone will guide you through the setup process, which includes verifying your card, granting Apple Pay access, and then storing it in Wallet. Be sure to have your card handy so you can verify the card with its security code.

The card linked to your Apple ID will be listed as your default Apple Pay card, but you can always change that by going to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay and updating your transaction default information—or do it in-app by selecting your default card, choosing the “information” button on the lower right-hand side of the screen, and changing the details from there.

Apple Pay on the Apple Watch

To set up Apple Pay on your Apple Watch, you’ll use the Apple Watch app for iPhone. In the My Watch tab, scroll down to Wallet & Apple Pay. In that section, you can mirror the alerts that show on your iPhone, or choose Custom and elect to have alerts come to your watch or not.

Even if you are already using Apple Pay on your iPhone, you’ll need to add your cards again to your Apple Watch. Luckily, setting up your cards is pretty easy. You can use the iPhone’s camera to capture the info on the front of the card—the account number, cardholder’s name, and expiration date. You’re then asked to verify that it detected the right info, and add the three-digit code on the back of your card. Each credit card company has a different verification system, so you might need to be a little patient.

apple pay setup 3up

Once you’re set up, you can find your debit/credit cards in the Wallet app on the watch, but it’s much faster to use the shortcut. Just double-press the button underneath the Digital Crown, the same button you press once for the Friends ring and Digital Touch feature. Pressing twice will bring up your default Apple Pay card, with your other cards available too if you’d like to select a different one.

How it works

When buying something at a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll hold your iPhone up to a wireless payment terminal near the cash register, and then use Touch ID to complete your purchase. These sensors are the same ones you’ve already seen in stores, often equipped with both card swipers and a tap-to-pay contactless terminal. The beauty of Apple Pay is that you don’t even need to wake up your iPhone or launch Wallet—your phone wakes up automatically when it gets in range of the terminal and initiates the payment process.

mcdonalds apple pay McDonald’s

Scan your phone, and press Touch ID. That’s it. 

If you’re buying something through a partnered online store on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll just use Touch ID to complete the purchase. Depending on the app, you may have to toggle on a setting to allow the app to access Apple Pay, or to set Apple Pay as your default method of payment.

If you’re buying something with your Apple Watch, double-press the button underneath the Digital Crown. Pressing twice will bring up your default Apple Pay card, with your other cards available too if you’d like to select a different one.

Once you pick the card you want to use, you’ll just hold your Watch close to the contactless payment terminal until you hear a beep and/or feel a vibration. It helps if you turn the Watch face toward the payment terminal, almost smooshing them together like they’re kissing. So you typically can’t see the watch’s face while the payment is happening, unlike when using Apple Pay on an iPhone, where the screen is typically facing you.

apple watch apple pay

Depending on the retailer, the card you’re using, and the value of your purchase, you might need to enter your PIN or provide a signature to complete the transaction.

Get shopping 

What makes Apple Pay such a game-changer is how many retail partners the platform has, with new stores being added constantly. Besides the Apple Store, you can use Apple Pay at these brick-and-mortar locations:

  • Acme
  • Aeropostale
  • American Eagle Outfitters
  • B&H
  • Babies ‘R’ Us
  • Barneys New York
  • Bashas’
  • Best Buy
  • BevMo!
  • Bi-Lo
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Champs Sports
  • Chevron and Texaco, including retail stores like ExtraMile
  • Chick-fil-A
  • Coca-Cola vending machines
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Cub
  • Dan’s Fresh Market
  • Davis Food & Drug
  • Dick’s Fresh Market
  • The Disney Store
  • Duane Reade
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Express
  • Farm Fresh Food & Pharmacy
  • FireHouse Subs
  • FoodMaxx
  • Foot Locker, including Kids Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, House of Hoops, and Run by Foot Locker
  • Footaction
  • Fuddruckers
  • GameStop
  • Golden State Warriors games (at the Oracle Arena)
  • Hannaford
  • Harveys Supermarket
  • Hornbacher’s
  • Jamba Juice
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs
  • JetBlue (on select flights between New York and San Francisco or Los Angeles)
  • Jewel Osco
  • Kohl’s
  • Lego
  • Levi’s
  • Lin’s Fresh Market
  • Luby’s
  • Lucky
  • Maceys
  • Macy’s
  • McDonald’s
  • Meijer
  • Nike
  • Office Depot
  • OfficeMax
  • Orlando Magic games (at the Amway Center)
  • Panera Bread
  • Peet’s Coffee
  • Pep Boys
  • Petco and Unleashed by Petco
  • Phoenix Suns games (at the Talking Stick Resort Arena)
  • RadioShack
  • Raley’s
  • Rubio’s
  • Save Mart Supermarkets
  • Select kiosks, vending machines, and self-pay stations (in partnership with USA Technologies)
  • Schnucks
  • Sephora
  • Shaws
  • Shop’n Save
  • Shoppers
  • Six:02
  • Sports Authority
  • Sprouts Farmers Market
  • Staples
  • Star Market
  • Stater Bros.
  • Subway
  • SuperValu
  • Toys ‘R’ Us
  • Trader Joe’s
  • United Supermarkets
  • Walgreens
  • Walt Disney World Resort
  • Wegmans
  • White Castle
  • Whole Foods Market
  • Winn-Dixie

A few more stores are on Apple’s “coming soon” list:

  • Albertsons
  • Anthropologie
  • Au Bon Pain
  • Baskin Robbins
  • Big Lots
  • Carmike Cinemas
  • Edition
  • El Pollo Loco
  • Forever 21
  • Free People
  • JCPenney
  • Johnny Rockets
  • L.L. Bean
  • Marriott
  • Regal Cinemas
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • T-Mobile stores
  • Ulta Beauty
  • Urban Outfitters

And of course, any number of apps work with Apple Pay as well. Check here for a full list. 

Supported banks and credit unions

Apple Pay is supported by a plethora of U.S. banks, credit unions, and credit card companies. For a complete list of banks and financial institutions that support the service, check here

Where have you been using Apple Pay? Let us know in the comments.

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