Why can’t I use Apple cash at stores?

Apple Cash is a mobile payment service by Apple that allows users to send, receive, and request money from other Apple device users through iMessage. It operates through a virtual debit card linked to a user’s Apple Cash balance in the Wallet app. While convenient for peer-to-peer transactions, Apple Cash has some limitations when it comes to in-store payments.

What is Apple Cash?

Apple Cash is a mobile payment service introduced by Apple in 2017. It allows users to:

  • Send and receive money from other Apple device users via iMessage
  • Store money in an Apple Cash card in the Wallet app
  • Use the Apple Cash card for purchases online, in apps, and at Apple Pay-compatible merchants
  • Transfer money from Apple Cash to their bank account
  • Receive person-to-person payments into their Apple Cash account

To use Apple Cash, users must have an eligible device such as an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. They also need to set up Apple Pay and add a debit card to their Wallet app as a funding source. When money is sent to a user via Apple Cash, it gets deposited into their Apple Cash card balance. They can then use that balance to make purchases or transfer it back to their bank.

How does Apple Cash work?

Here is a brief overview of how Apple Cash allows users to send, receive, and use money:

  • To send money via iMessage, users tap the Apple Pay button and authenticate with Touch ID or Face ID. They enter the amount and select a recipient from their contacts.
  • The recipient will get a notification of the payment. By tapping Accept, the money gets added to their Apple Cash card.
  • To receive money, users just need to share their Apple Cash card with the payer. The money will be automatically deposited when sent.
  • The Apple Cash card in Wallet functions like a virtual debit card for purchases and payments. Users can enable it on their iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • For purchases, users can use the Apple Cash card through Apple Pay at merchants that accept contactless payments.
  • Users can also transfer Apple Cash balances back to their bank account linked to their Wallet at any time.

Apple Cash utilizes the debit card networks to facilitate money transfers. It is authorized and regulated in the US as a money transmitter by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Why can’t I use Apple Cash at stores directly?

There are a few reasons why Apple Cash cannot be used directly for in-store payments like a physical debit or credit card:

  • No physical card – Apple Cash does not come with a physical debit card. The virtual card in Wallet is only for online, in-app, and Apple Pay transactions.
  • Requires merchant acceptance – The virtual Apple Cash card can only be used at merchants that accept Apple Pay contactless payments. Not all stores have this capability.
  • Limited card issuance – Apple Cash cards are not available in all countries and regions. Usage is currently only approved in the United States.
  • Transaction limits – Apple imposes limits on the amount of money that can be sent via Apple Cash per transaction and over a 7-day period.

Let’s explore these reasons in more detail.

No physical Apple Cash card

One of the biggest reasons you cannot directly use Apple Cash at a physical retail store is that there is no physical card associated with it. The Apple Cash card that gets added to your Wallet when you set up the service is a virtual Mastercard debit card.

Physical debit and credit cards have a magnetic stripe, EMV chip, or contactless technology like NFC that allow card terminals at stores to identify and process them. The virtual Apple Cash card does not have any of these physical components and only exists digitally in the Wallet app.

Without a tangible card to tap, insert, or swipe at an in-store terminal, the virtual Apple Cash card cannot be directly used there. You need a physical vessel for the card details like plastic or a mobile device for merchant transactions.

Using the Apple Cash card with Apple Pay

Although there is no physical Apple Cash card, you can still use the virtual card for in-store purchases by adding it to Apple Pay. Apple Pay allows you to use supported iPhone and Apple Watch models to make contactless payments at merchants.

By holding your device near a contactless terminal, the Apple Cash card details are securely transmitted via NFC so the transaction can be processed. The merchant never sees or stores your actual card details.

So in summary, while you cannot directly use Apple Cash at stores, you can still use the Apple Cash card in stores that accept Apple Pay contactless payments. It just requires an additional step of making it an Express Transit card in Apple Pay before you can use it.

Requires merchant acceptance of contactless payments

Being able to use Apple Cash at physical stores also depends on whether the merchant has contactless payment acceptance. Many major retailers now accept contactless credit and debit card transactions through systems like NFC. However, adoption is still not ubiquitous.

Some smaller businesses still rely on traditional card terminals with chip and PIN or magnetic stripe swipe only. Without contactless capabilities, those terminals have no means to interact with the Apple Cash card added to Apple Pay.

Contactless payments require payment terminals with near-field communication (NFC) technology to transmit card details wirelessly to complete transactions. Merchants must have invested in deploying these contactless terminals to accept Apple Pay payments involving Apple Cash.

Users cannot just tap an iPhone or Apple Watch to pay at any store. You can only use Apple Cash at major chains and retailers that have enabled contactless payments through NFC terminals.

Checking merchant acceptance

How do you know if a store accepts contactless payments before trying to use Apple Cash there? Here are some ways to check:

  • Look for contactless payment symbols at checkout or on doors
  • Look for Apple Pay branding if it is an Apple Pay accepted merchant
  • Check if contactless cards work by using a test plastic contactless card
  • Ask the cashier if they accept mobile or contactless payments
  • Consult payment processor guides for locations that have contactless enabled terminals

Doing an quick acceptance check first will save you the trouble of trying to use Apple Cash at a checkout that can’t take contactless payments.

Apple Cash cards limited to the United States

Another factor that limits usage of Apple Cash cards at stores is that issuance of the virtual cards is currently restricted to the United States only.

Apple Cash is only available for eligible devices with Apple ID and payment accounts in the United States. The Apple Cash card in Wallet to be used via Apple Pay is also only available in the U.S. right now.

That means in other countries, you cannot set up an Apple Cash account or get a virtual card. Without an active Apple Cash card, you obviously cannot use it for any in-store transactions, even at merchants that accept contactless payments.

The service may expand to additional countries in the future where Apple can reach agreements with payment networks and banks. However, there is no timeline for that at the moment.

Unless you are based in the U.S. and have an Apple Cash card successfully set up, you will not be able to use Apple Cash for any in-store purchases in other countries.

Transaction amount limits

Apple also enforces some transaction limits on Apple Cash that can impact using it for larger store purchases.

There are a couple applicable limits:

  • Per transaction limit – $10,000 per single transaction
  • 7-day transaction limit – $20,000 in total transactions over a 7 day period

Those limits are quite high for individuals. However, the per-transaction cap may prohibit using Apple Cash via Apple Pay for very large retail purchases over $10,000 in one go.

You would need to use a different card or other payment method for a single transaction above the $10,000 Apple Cash limit.

The 7-day limit would also require carefully tracking your cumulative Apple Cash spending if you frequently make high-value purchases. Going over $20,000 in a 7-day window would result in additional transactions being declined.

So Apple Cash transaction restrictions can come into play if you tend to spend more than the set per-transaction and 7-day limits.

Why transaction limits?

Transaction limits are common for peer-to-peer mobile payment apps and virtual card services. There are some benefits to having limits in place:

  • Risk management – Limits help reduce potential losses due to fraudulent transactions or scams.
  • Protection for users – Caps on spending can help prevent users overspending beyond their means.
  • Regulatory compliance – Transaction limits may be necessary to comply with anti-money laundering regulations.

For a relatively new payment service like Apple Cash, it makes sense for Apple to take a more cautious approach with restrictive transaction size caps. However, they may revisit adjusting limits upwards if the service continues growing in popularity and mainstream usage.


In summary, Apple Cash cannot be directly used at physical stores as a payment method yet because:

  • There is no physical Apple Cash card, only a virtual card for online and Apple Pay transactions
  • Merchants need compatible contactless payment terminals to accept the Apple Cash card via Apple Pay
  • The Apple Cash card is currently only available in the United States
  • Apple imposes transaction amount limits that may restrict very large purchases

Hopefully this breakdown explains why you can’t just walk into a store and directly use Apple Cash to pay like a regular debit or credit card. For now, in-store usage is limited to Apple Pay contactless transactions at participating merchants in the U.S. only.

As adoption of Apple Cash expands globally and more stores enable contactless acceptance, the service may evolve to become more usable for in-person retail transactions. But for now, it’s best suited for peer-to-peer money transfers and online/mobile payments via Apple Pay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use Apple Cash at ATMs?

No, the virtual Apple Cash card cannot be used at ATMs for cash withdrawals. You can only use it for payments and transfers to bank accounts.

Are there fees for using Apple Cash?

No, there are no fees for sending or receiving money through Apple Cash, or using the virtual card for transactions.

Can I get a physical Apple Cash card?

Apple does not currently issue physical Apple Cash cards. The card only exists virtually in the Wallet app.

Can I use Apple Cash internationally?

No, Apple Cash only works between accounts in the United States right now.

Can I use Apple Cash on Android devices?

No, Apple Cash requires an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad. It’s not available on Android devices.

Why are Apple Cash transaction limits so low?

The per transaction and 7-day limits of $10,000 and $20,000 are actually quite high compared to other mobile payment apps and virtual card services. The limits are in place to mitigate risk.

Key Takeaways

  • Apple Cash relies on a virtual card in Wallet, not a physical card, so it cannot be directly used at store payment terminals.
  • Contactless payments via Apple Pay allow usage at stores, but merchant must support NFC terminals.
  • Apple Cash is currently only available in the United States.
  • Transaction limits may prohibit very high-value purchases.
  • Usage may expand once Apple Cash rolls out to more regions globally.

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