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Apple Pay: What is it and how does it work?

You might have heard of Apple Pay or even seen other people using it, but what exactly is it and how does it work?

Apple Pay is a payment service that’s uniquely available on Apple’s own products. There are two versions of it, one being a mobile payments system and the other being a web payments system.

The former of these is available on the iPhone 6 and onwards, as well as any Apple Watch from Series 1 onwards, while the latter is available on Apple devices running iOS 10 or macOS Sierra or later.

The mobile payments let you put compatible debit or credit cards on your iPhone and then use the device as a contactless payment system thanks to NFC technology, while the web payments system is a quick and simple way to pay for goods and services online.

How can I use Apple Pay?

Check our full article for how to use Apple Pay for full step-by-step instructions on using this feature yourself. The short version of how to use the mobile payments system on your iPhone is as follows:

  • Open Apple Wallet and add the credit or debit card you wish to use
  • Use Apple Pay in shops, by double-clicking the side button and holding the phone next to the contactless payment point

When using the web version, first register your card with Apple Pay, and then look for the black ‘Buy with Apple Pay’ button on the website or app that you’re using. Press this, and then double-click the side button on your iPhone or Touch ID on your Mac to confirm the purchase.

When using Apple Pay on an iPhone, there’s a handy feature called Express Travel Card. This lets you press your phone on a transport terminal, like those on the TFL network in London, and easily pay for travel. This even works for a short period after an iPhone has run out of battery.

Is Apple Pay secure?

Apple claims that its system is not just easier, but also is a “safer, more secure and private payment method.” Barclaycard gives the following assessment:

Apple Pay is a very secure way to make payments. This is because your card numbers are not stored on your device, and are never shared by Apple Pay, or sent with your payment. Instead, Apple Pay gives you a unique Device Account Number, that’s encrypted and stored in a secure part of your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. So, when you use Apple Pay, your Device Account Number and a specially created security code are used to process your payment.

In order to make your account as secure as possible, you’re advised to choose a device password that nobody could guess easily, and to only register your own biometric data on Touch ID or Face ID.

Are there alternatives to Apple Pay?

The most obvious alternative to Apple Pay is Google Pay, which works on a very similar basis to that outlined above. Apple Pay is restricted only to Apple products, while Google Pay is for Android phones. However it’s web function work across Apple and other devices too. Samsung also has Samsung Pay, which works on devices like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.

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