Apple Pay launches: a review

Last week I wrote an article about how bad the EMV situation appears to be in the United States as we near some big deadlines for deployment. Today, I have a happier story to write about the payments space, and that is all about Apple Pay. If any retail purchase I have ever made qualified as research, it was the two payments I made today [Monday] using Apple Pay. Here's how it went.

First stop: load the cards

I read a rumour somewhere that the iOS 8.1 update — critical for enabling Apple Pay — would release at 11am Mountain Time, so promptly at 11am I checked for an update and there it was. I downloaded it, installed it, and about 20 minutes later was ready to add cards.

American Express has been extremely proactive in communicating about Apple Pay. I received an email from them last week informing me of how it would work, and another reminder email from them this morning. AMEX is the card I use for my iTunes account, so I had the added bonus of not needing to do anything but add the four-digit security code in order to activate the card. Within moments, my card was live and in person in my Passbook app.

Next, I added my Chase debit card. Chase has been less proactive in their communications — I've heard more from their public relations person about what they're doing with developers than I have heard from them as a consumer. But I was easily able to add the card. In fact, you can just take a picture of the card and it automatically captures the card number and expiration date, as well as the name on the card. Then you have to enter the security code from the back in order to activate the card.

That done, I decided to give my Chase WorldPay card a try — you know, the one I made fun of last week. And sure enough, consistent with my so-called WorldPay experience, the card is not enabled for Apple Pay. So it was rejected. I’ve heard that business accounts are not currently set up on Apple Pay. I guess my experience confirms it.

Second stop: buy some lunch

I decided to go to Panera to try out my Apple Pay experience. Turned out to be a bust, though. I arrived at about 12:15pm at what is admittedly always a very busy Panera location, in Aspen Grove in Littleton, Colorado. The line was easily ten people long. I waited in line, got up to the front, placed my order, and only then realised that I was not in a line that was enabled for Apple Pay. Three registers. Two with tap and pay signs on them and the upgraded payment devices, and one without. Guess which line I was in?

So that was a bust. While in line, I saw plenty of people with smartphones, but it didn't appear that anyone was trying to pay with them.

Third stop: buy some bread

Instead of trying my luck with the Panera cash register lottery system a second time, I left and went to Whole Foods instead. I bought some bread for dinner tonight (I know, I could've purchased the bread from Panera. But then I wouldn't have a story to tell).

Even though I only had two items, I decided to try the full service line because I was worried that if any register might not have Apple Pay, it would be the express lanes.

I was in luck! Upgraded card capture device, with a little topper explaining Apple Pay. The cashier rang up my purchases. I held my phone up to the NFC reader and put my finger on the fingerprint scanner on my phone. Before the cashier could even ask her question: "Oh, are you going to use Apple Pay?" — the transaction was completed. Turns out I was her first customer to use pay that way. And let me tell you, it was fast and oh-so-easy. I was always partial to the idea, but now I'm whole-heartedly sold.

Security side note: AMEX

When I got home, I had an email in my inbox from AMEX notifying me that they had noted that I had added my card to my phone. But they specifically had instructions on what to do if I get asked to provide the last five digits of my card number.

Because of the security on Apple Pay, every transaction is a unique number. So if I do get asked to provide the last five digits of my account number, I need to use not the five digits of my card — a number I unfortunately know quite well. I need to use the five digits provided as the Device Account, which I’m guessing is different for every transaction.

Even more interesting for AMEX, if I pull up my card in my Passbook Wallet and touch the little i icon, it pulls up my last handful of transactions on my account. Which provides a very handy level of visibility into my account activity.

So all in all I am pleased with my payment experience. I'll be spending today in an airport travelling to a conference, but I may well try to stop by McDonald's just to see how that works. Just to be comprehensive in my coverage. And not because of the novelty factor of paying like it's actually 2014, and not 1975. Or anything like that.

This article originally appeared with the headline 'Yes, I have tried Apple Pay' on the RSR Research website. It is reproduced with the organisation's permission. 

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