apple pay app on phone

What is Apple Pay and How Does It Work?

Nowadays, our smartphones can do just about anything. They’ve replaced our need for radios, maps, calculators and more, and now, they’re all set to replace our wallets too.

One of the most popular contactless payment apps, Apple pay is a wallet app that stores your credit and debit card on your iPhone or other Apple device to allow you to pay with your smartphone.

In this quick guide to Apple Pay, we’ll explain how it works, and run through how to set it up and use it for your everyday payments.


What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay works by using a digital wallet app (named Apple Wallet) that stores your debit and credit card information. Through a near field communication (NFC) chip in your device, it allows you to easily make contactless payments with your iPhone, iPad or Apple device.

Gone are the days of stressing at the till when you can’t find your card, as everything’s stored in your phone. You can even use it to make in-app purchases, and pay online with select retailers.


How to set up Apple Pay

Even for the techno-phobes, setting up Apple Pay on your iPhone is super simple, and takes just a few minutes following these steps:

  1. Open up the Apple Wallet. This is an integrated app that will already be on your phone, so no need to download.
  2. Tap the plus in the top right hand corner, then ‘Add Credit or Debit Card’.
  3. You’ll have the option to manually enter your debit or credit card information, or use your camera to capture your information. For the latter, just hold your card within the on-screen frame, and it’ll enter all the details for you.
  4. If your bank or issuer requires it, confirm your details with authentication by SMS, phone or email.

Once you’re verified, you can shop with ease using just your smartphone. If you’ve added multiple cards, you can even set a default card as the one that’s automatically used as the payment card for your Apple Pay transaction. If you get a new card, just remove the old one and repeat the steps above for your new one.

For Apple Watches, it’s just as simple. Head to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, open up Wallet & Apple Pay, and tap ‘Add Card’. You may have to re-enter your security code, or verify your card details again, but once you’re set up, you’re ready to pay with just a tap of your wrist.

iPhone with Apple Pay website

How to use Apple Pay

The great allure of payment systems like Apple Pay is the ease of paying, as it’s often a much faster process than typical card transactions. It should be relatively simple regardless of the device you’re using, however completing your mobile payment will work slightly differently depending on the model of iPhone or Apple device you’re using.

Touch ID iPhones

For iPhones that operate with Touch ID (iPhone 6 and above), tap twice on the home button, and hold down while placing your phone next to the payment terminal (whether traditional PDQ machine or card reader) like you would with your physical card. If you have any issues using your fingerprint, an option should come up that allows you to pay with your passcode.

Face ID iPhones

If your model uses Face ID, either double tap your screen while holding your phone at the reader, or double tap the On button on the right side of your iPhone. Once your face is recognised, your payment should go through, or you may need to hold your device back against the card reader.

As masks are still mandatory in most stores as a result of the Covid pandemic, using Face ID currently remains on hold. However, Apple have recognised this and updated their software accordingly, allowing you to make payments more quickly when Face ID fails. It will only attempt to recognise your face once, then allow you to enter your pin to complete your payment.

Apple Watches

To make purchases with your Apple Watch, just double tap the side button on the right to bring up your card. Hold your watch face against the reader, then you should feel a light buzz and a beep when the transaction has gone through.


To make purchases online with Apple Pay, you can set it up on your Mac just like your iPhone.

For your Macbook pro, or compatible device, you can set up Apple Pay in just a few steps. Simply log in to your iCloud account, open System Preferences from the Apple menu in the top left corner, and select Wallet & Apple Pay. Click on ‘Add Card’, and put in your card number and details.

You’ll then be able to pay with Apple Pay when visiting supporting retailers through Safari. Just click the Apple Pay button at the checkout to choose this as your payment method.


Which banks support Apple Pay?

Apple Pay supports a particularly extensive number of credit and debit cards like MasterCard, Visa and Amex. Most banks in the UK support Apple Pay, including but not limited to the following:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Halifax
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds
  • Monzo
  • NatWest
  • Revolut
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Starling Bank
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • TSB
  • Virgin Money

Check out the full list of banks that support Apple Pay here.


Apple Pay for Merchants

Accepting contactless mobile payments as a business can be beneficial for a number of reasons.

Many consumers will expect retailers to have the latest technology to take different payment methods, and you could potentially drive business elsewhere by failing to keep up. For small businesses in particular, it can make operations a lot smoother as you’ll process customer’s transactions much faster.

If you’re a merchant looking to start accepting Apple Pay transactions, you’ll need a contactless reader. If you have a terminal that accepts contactless cards and transactions, you should be able to accept Apple Pay payments already. If not, just contact your provider to request an NFC terminal.

Make sure to advertise with your Apple Pay sticker, and you’re all set up.

Business advertising Apple Pay on shop front


Apple Pay vs Google Pay

Though seemingly great rivals, the two greatest mobile payment competitors have very little between them. Google Pay and Apple Pay offer almost identical services, barring that the app you use will be decided based on your chosen smartphone.

Whilst Google Pay will work with any android device or smartwatch with NFC technology running KitKat 4.4+, Apple Pay is compatible only with the iPhone 6 onwards, the Apple Watch and iPad models that have face or touch ID technology.

The chief difference is the slightly differing authentication, as Apple Pay uses Touch/Face ID and Google Pay requests your phone pin. However, this aside, the basic principles of their mobile payment services are the same – easy, safe and secure transactions.

For more details on how Google Pay works, check out our post How to Use Google Pay.

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