Apple Pay is that simple system that turns your iPhone, for instance, into a digital wallet, making card payments so simple you don’t even need to take your actual wallet out of your pocket or bag.
But while the Apple payment mechanism quickly becomes second nature, there can be a learning curve, and sometimes it’s steep enough for people, after an initial misstep, to turn away from it. That’s a shame, because Apple Pay is brilliant: straightforward, intuitive and secure. Here’s everything you need to know.
Set-up is simple
If you’ve just got a new iPhone, part of set-up is the option to add cards to Apple Pay. Adding cards is sublimely simple: hold the physical card where the iPhone camera can see it and the number, name and expiry date will be read and appear on the iPhone screen as if by magic. You simply enter the card verification number and you’ll be asked to confirm it’s you by entering a code sent by text message, for instance .
If you’re upgrading from a previous iPone, you may be using the super-smooth way that’s been around since iOS 11 where you hold one iPhone in front of the other and leave the two handsets to get on with transferring data. In this case, you will find details of the cards are there already and you just need to activate them.
What’s wrong with a real card?
When writing an earlier version of this guide, four years ago, I was asked several times why a regular credit or debit card isn’t as good. Well, it is, except that in many retailers, the upper limit required for a physical card is not there for Apple Pay. And, of course, you don’t need your physical wallet with you to pay by Apple Pay. Since the card in your iPhone wallet doesn’t show your full card number, it has a security aspect there, too.
How to use Apple Pay with Touch ID iPhones
If you have an iPhone with Touch ID, from iPhone 6 onwards, using Apple Pay is extremely simple: rest your finger on the Touch ID button, hold the iPhone near the card reader screen. And that’s it.
Remember, if you find Siri popping up by mistake, you’re pressing too hard. After all, it’s Touch ID, not Press ID.
How to use Apple Pay with Face ID iPhones
You don’t have to wake the iPhone to use Apple Pay. From any screen, including any app, the home screen and the lock screen, you simply double-press the side button.
The result will be that Apple Pay will open and your default card shows. As you look at the screen, it will recognize you, showing a smiling face in a circle which turns into an iPhone in a circle, with the words “Hold near reader”.
In a second or so, it will have completed the transaction. Cool, huh?
To change which card is your default, go to Settings, Wallet & Apple Pay and choose Default Card under Transaction Defaults.
Apple Pay Express Transit
This recent addition to Apple Pay is very useful. At certain transport networks, such as London Underground, New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and plenty of other places, you can choose a card for Express Transit. In Settings, choose Wallet & Apple Pay and then Transit Cards (or Travel Cards). Pick the card you want to use and you’re away.
With a card saved as your Express Transit choice, just take the iPhone out of your pocket and touch it to the card reader.
You don’t need to pre-arm or even to wake either screen. So long as it’s not actually turned off, it will work automatically.
Apple Pay on Apple Watch
This works exactly like the iPhone: double-press the side button and hold the Watch, screen down, next to the card reader. Note that you don’t need to look at the Watch, it’s authorized by the fact that you’re wearing it, not via Face ID, which isn’t on the Watch. It works just the same for Apple Pay Express Transit, that is, once you’ve picked which card, you don’t need to press the side button, it’ll all work automatically.