How does Apple Pay work at checkout?

Apple Pay is a contactless payment system developed by Apple that allows users to make secure purchases in stores, apps, and on the web. With Apple Pay, users can check out quickly and conveniently using their iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac. So how exactly does Apple Pay work when paying at checkout?

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is Apple’s mobile payment and digital wallet service. It allows users to make payments in person, in apps, and on the web using their Apple devices. To use Apple Pay, you must have:

  • An eligible Apple device – iPhone 6 or later, Apple Watch, iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 or later, iPad mini 3 or later, or Mac models introduced in or after 2012 with macOS Sierra.
  • A supported card added to your Wallet app – Debit and credit cards from major card issuers and networks are supported.
  • Biometric or passcode authentication enabled on your device.

Apple Pay uses NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to securely transmit payment information when making contactless transactions. It also generates a unique, dynamic security code for every purchase, so your card details are never shared with the merchant.

Setting up Apple Pay

To use Apple Pay in stores, apps, and on the web, you’ll need to set it up first:

  1. Open the Wallet app on your Apple device.
  2. Tap the + icon in the top-right corner.
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to add your debit or credit card.
  4. Your card issuer will verify your information and determine if your card is eligible.
  5. Once successfully added, your card will appear in your Wallet app.

You can add multiple credit and debit cards from various banks to your Wallet and set one as your default card for payments.

How Apple Pay works in stores

Using Apple Pay at checkout in stores is fast and convenient. Simply follow these steps:

  1. When you’re ready to pay, wake your iPhone and place your finger on Touch ID, or double-click your Apple Watch side button.
  2. Hold your iPhone or Apple Watch near the merchant’s NFC payment terminal.
  3. A subtle vibration and beep confirm that your payment information has been sent. The payment is now complete!

There’s no need to open an app or even unlock your device. With just a touch, your default card is selected and payment is transmitted securely using a one-time dynamic security code.

Authenticating payments with Touch ID and Face ID

On iPhone models with Touch ID or Face ID, users can authenticate Apple Pay purchases with a fingerprint or facial scan rather than entering a passcode. This makes the checkout process even quicker while maintaining security.

To enable this feature:

  1. Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay on your iPhone.
  2. Under ‘Allow Payments,’ select the option for ‘On iPhone Unlock’ or ‘Immediately’ to allow Touch ID or Face ID authentication right away when using Apple Pay.

Once enabled, you can simply hold your iPhone near a payment terminal and authenticate with a fingerprint or face scan to complete a transaction. No passcode required!

Using rewards cards and merchant apps

Apple Pay can also store your rewards cards, gift cards, and merchant app payment methods. Simply add them to your Wallet app and they’ll be available right alongside your debit and credit cards when you make a payment.

To add rewards cards or merchant apps:

  1. Open the Wallet app and tap the + icon.
  2. Scroll down and select ‘Store Cards.’
  3. Search for and select your card or app.
  4. Enter any required information to add the card.

Now when you pay at checkout, you can quickly switch between payment methods and apply rewards or gift cards all from your Wallet.

Using Apple Pay on the web

Many websites now accept Apple Pay as a payment option during checkout online. Look for the Apple Pay logo or ‘Buy with Apple Pay’ button during checkout.

To use Apple Pay on supported websites:

  1. When you reach the payment page, select Apple Pay as your payment method.
  2. Your Apple Pay sheet will appear where you can review your information.
  3. Use Touch ID or Face ID on your iPhone to authenticate.
  4. Your payment will be transmitted securely to the merchant.

Apple Pay online also utilizes unique transaction codes to keep your card details private.

Managing your Wallet security

Apple Pay provides multiple layers of security to protect your payment information, including:

  • Device passcodes – Requiring Face ID, Touch ID, or device passcode entry on each transaction.
  • Encrypted card storage – Payment cards added to the Wallet are encrypted on your device so even Apple can’t access them.
  • Dynamic security codes – A unique, one-time code is generated with each purchase instead of sending your actual card number.
  • Biometric authentication – Face ID and Touch ID ensure it’s really you making the payment.

You can also view, manage, and enhance your Apple Pay security settings any time:

  1. Go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay.
  2. Manage your transaction defaults, card authorization, lost mode, and more.
  3. Enable additional authentication requirements as desired.

What to do if your device is lost or stolen

If your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is ever lost or stolen, you can protect your Apple Pay information by putting your device into Lost Mode using Find My. This suspends Apple Pay and prevent misuse of your cards.

To enable Lost Mode on a missing device:

  1. Open the Find My app and select your missing device.
  2. Tap Activate to put the device into Lost Mode.
  3. Enter a passcode if prompted and tap Next.
  4. Your device will lock, display a message, and suspend Apple Pay.

You can also sign into to put your device into Lost Mode if you don’t have another Apple device available.

Removing cards from Apple Pay

You can view, edit, and remove cards from your Apple Pay Wallet at any time:

  1. Open the Wallet app and tap on your card.
  2. Tap the More (…) button in the top-right corner.
  3. Tap ‘Remove Card’ to delete the card from your Wallet.

Removing a card stops all future Apple Pay transactions with that card. The card issuer may also allow you to place a hold on the card for Apple Pay purchases only without removing it from your Wallet.

Transaction history and receipts

Your Apple Pay transaction history is stored securely on your device. To view it:

  1. Open the Wallet app and tap your Apple Pay card.
  2. Scroll down to see your recent transactions.
  3. Tap any transaction to view details and receipts.

Print or digital receipts are provided just like any other purchase. You can also find Apple Pay transactions in your iTunes account purchase history and on your monthly card statements.

Using Apple Pay internationally

Apple Pay works internationally as long as you have an eligible and supported card added to your Wallet. You can continue to use it when traveling just as you would at home by holding your iPhone or Apple Watch to an NFC terminal.

Some things to note when using Apple Pay internationally:

  • Contact your bank to enable international transactions on your card if needed.
  • Transaction currency exchange rates apply.
  • International transaction fees may be charged by your bank.
  • Some merchant apps and rewards programs may only work in certain countries.

Apple Pay vs Google Pay

Google Pay is Google’s payment system and Apple Pay alternative for Android devices. Apple Pay and Google Pay work in very similar ways with contactless payments, app transactions, and tokenized card storage. Key differences include:

Apple Pay Google Pay
Works on Apple devices only Available on Android devices
NFC payments require Touch ID/Face ID No biometric unlock required on most Android devices
Rewards cards must be added through Wallet app Many rewards cards can be automatically imported from Gmail
Supported in 45+ countries Supported in 30+ countries

Both services utilize tokenization, NFC, biometrics, and other security measures to protect user payment information.

Apple Pay frequently asked questions

Is Apple Pay free to use?

Yes, Apple Pay is a free service to use. However, any standard transaction fees from your bank for debit or credit card use still apply.

What cards are compatible with Apple Pay?

Most major credit and debit cards from top providers like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are Apple Pay compatible. Your card issuer decides eligibility.

Can I use a prepaid debit card with Apple Pay?

Yes, many prepaid debit cards work with Apple Pay as long as they were issued by a major provider.

Do I still earn rewards when using Apple Pay?

Yes, you earn any rewards, points, miles, etc. from your credit or loyalty cards just as you normally would when using Apple Pay.

Are my payments protected if my phone is lost or stolen?

Yes, you can use Find My app to quickly suspend or remove your cards from Apple Pay if your device is lost or stolen to prevent fraudulent use.


Apple Pay provides an easy, secure, and private way to pay both in stores and in apps. With Apple’s commitment to security and privacy, you can feel confident using Apple Pay for all of your daily transactions. Paying is as simple as a touch or glance with your iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, or Mac. So give Apple Pay a try to experience checkout made effortless.

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