Using Apple Pay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Apple Pay has the potential to increase ease and protect your credit card information while making purchases. Launched in 2014, the payment service facilitates tap-to-pay in physical retail stores, online apps and websites, and person-to-person payments with Apple Cash. Here is a guide on how to utilize Apple Pay.

Utilizing Apple Pay on an iPhone or Apple Watch

Prior to using Apple Pay, you will need to add a minimum of one credit or debit card to Apple Wallet. For detailed instructions, you can refer to Engadget’s guide to setting up Apple Pay.

Understanding that not every store supports the use of Apple Pay in physical retail stores is important. For example, Walmart has been hesitant to adopt this method and has instead chosen to promote its (QR-code-based) Walmart Pay. Home Depot is also not compatible, although competitor Lowe’s recently started accepting Apple Pay (in stores and its app) in late 2023.

If you are unsure whether a store accepts Apple Pay, you can search for a tap-to-pay logo or the Apple Pay icon. Alternatively, you can ask Siri to display nearby locations that accept the service.

Apple Pay confirmation screen on iPhone. A debit card (with bank info and last four digits blacked out) with a black box with a green smiley face floating above. Below, the text Apple Pay confirmation screen on iPhone. A debit card (with bank info and last four digits blacked out) with a black box with a green smiley face floating above. Below, the text

What you’ll see on the screen when completing an Apple Pay transaction on an iPhone with Face ID (Screenshot by Will Shanklin / Engadget)

When you arrive at an Apple Pay-friendly terminal, follow these steps on your iPhone:

  1. Click the side button on the right side of your iPhone two times.

  2. Authenticate with Face ID by looking at your iPhone (or use the Touch ID sensor if it’s an older model).

  3. Place your phone on the card reader near the tap-to-pay logo. After successfully reading the payment, you will see a checkmark and hear a ding.

Photo of a man’s wrist wearing an Apple Watch. The Apple Pay screen is on the watch's face. It says Photo of a man’s wrist wearing an Apple Watch. The Apple Pay screen is on the watch's face. It says

Photo by Will Shanklin / Engadget

If you are using an Apple Watch to make a payment, follow these instructions:

  1. Double-click the side (lower right) button on your watch.

  2. Tap your Apple Watch to the payment terminal near its tap-to-pay logo. A ding and a checkmark will appear when the transaction is successful.

If it doesn’t work, ensure that the location accepts Apple Pay, and that their systems are operational. If so, inquire with a staff member about the best place to tap on their payment terminal.

To use Apple Pay with a card other than your default one, tap the onscreen card after double-clicking the device’s side button (but before paying). You can navigate through your added cards and choose the one you prefer before tapping to confirm.

Browsing with Apple Pay for buying things online

Screenshot of an Apple Pay checkout confirmation at Target's website. An Apple Pay overlay prompts the user to confirm using Touch ID. Behind is the checkout screen.Screenshot of an Apple Pay checkout confirmation at Target's website. An Apple Pay overlay prompts the user to confirm using Touch ID. Behind is the checkout screen.

Screenshot by Will Shanklin / Engadget

Many websites and third-party apps accept Apple Pay, offering convenience and additional security by allowing you to avoid entering your credit card information. Instead, Apple Pay utilizes an encrypted one-time “virtual token” in place of your actual credit card details. If hackers were to breach the vendor’s systems, they would only access the encrypted token associated with your Apple Pay, which is not usable for additional transactions.

You can take advantage of Apple Pay for online (web and in-app) transactions on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Vision Pro:

  1. When finalizing your purchase, look for Apple Pay on a website or in an app. Choose it as your payment method during checkout.

  2. When it prompts you for verification, use Face ID (newer iPhones and iPads), Touch ID (Mac and older iPhones and iPads) or Optic ID (Vision Pro) to authorize the secure transaction. You’ll hear a ding and see a confirmation animation upon approval.

Please note that if you are using a MacBook (with the lid closed) connected to an external monitor, you can use Apple’s Magic Keyboard with Touch ID in place of opening the laptop’s lid to access its sensor.

Sending Money with Apple Pay

Apple Cash screen in a Messages chat. Below the iMessage text box, a large black area shows Apple Cash screen in a Messages chat. Below the iMessage text box, a large black area shows

Screenshot by Will Shanklin / Engadget

Apple Cash enables you to exchange funds through the Messages app. It serves as an alternative to platforms like Venmo and Cash App, allowing you to transfer money with individuals you know and trust.

First, ensure you’ve set up Apple Cash. On iPhone, open the Wallet app and tap the Apple Cash card. If prompted, tap “Set up Apple Cash.” On iPad, Apple Watch or Vision Pro, navigate to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay, then choose the Apple Cash card and follow the instructions.

When Apple Cash is activated, follow these steps to send money:

  1. Open the Messages app and select the chat for the person you want to send money to.

  2. Select the plus button to the left of the text input box.

  3. Choose Apple Cash from the fan menu on the left.

  4. Enter the amount you want to send.

  5. Send the money.

  6. The Apple Cash symbol will appear in a drafted message. When ready, send by tapping the up arrow.

  7. Complete the transaction by following the security prompt, using Face ID, Touch ID or your passcode on iPhone or iPad. On the Apple Watch, you’ll double-tap the side button. On Vision Pro, it will utilize Optic ID.

Using Apple Pay on Amazon

Regrettably, at the moment, you cannot use Apple Pay on Amazon’s website or mobile app. The closest alternative is for vendors using Amazon Payment Services on their storefronts outside Amazon. Amazon gives these sellers the opportunity to accept Apple Pay.

If you come across a third-party site or app utilizing Amazon Payment Services, the process aligns with the steps outlined in “How to use Apple Pay online” earlier. Add the items into your cart, select Apple Pay as your payment option, and conduct the security steps to confirm and finalize the transaction.

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