Monday of this week saw iOS 8.1 land on Apple devices, and perhaps the most expected feature in the update was Apple Pay; the new NFC based, Touch ID approved payment service that was going to revolutionize how we pay for things. Or not, because of course NFC based payments have existed in Android phones for a while now, and even in plastic credit cards (mostly outside the US, but my Wells Fargo Visa card has both a chip and touch pay capabilities).
Adding cards was very simple, but then again both the cards I wanted to add are supported by Apple Pay already. I have read many stories from people who did not have any supported cards to add.
My first card was the one already associated with my iTunes account, and that was added simply by me entering the verification number (the three or four digit security number printed on the card)
The second card I added using the camera to scan it, and then entering my billing details. That was painless too, and in no time I have both cards sitting in Passbook ready to be used
Many people’s first experiences with Apple Pay, and I suspect their first with touch pay, have been in stores like Walgreens or Wholefoods Market, and for relatively low cost items. My first experience was in an Apple Store (Stonestown in San Francisco), and for a relatively expensive item (around $250). Why that matters will become clear soon
Firstly though, here’s how that first purchase went for me: I selected the item from the shelf in the store, tracked down a blue shirt employee with one of the mobile payment register devices they use in the Apple Store, and gave him the box, When he saw me ready with the iPhone 6 he was actually excited that I was going to use Apple Pay. The touch part is a little more awkward than using a card, partly because the phone is larger, and partly because of the need to keep your thumb (or finger, if that’s what you registered for TouchID) on the button. But it worked
Then came the surprise: he flipped the “terminal” over again and asked me to sign on the screen. That I was not expecting since I had “signed” the transaction with my thumb print I assumed. When I expressed that, the store guy agreed that it was odd, but said it was part of the way it worked. I signed, and then gave him my info for the email receipt (something else I don’t have to do if I just use the card since they know the card number and connect it to my account automatically – maybe next time that will happen with Apple Pay too if they associate my device ID to my account now)
Later in the week, I had a long discussion with @GlennF and @jsnell about this experience as both were convinced that either I had not really used Apple Pay, or that the guy in the store had made a mistake since there was not meant to be any signature required in the process.
After a little research, I discovered this FAQ for ApplePay where it states this:
Will I have to sign a receipt when paying with Apple Pay?
As you do today with a plastic credit or debit card, you might need to sign a receipt, depending on the store and the transaction amount.
So, the TouchID verification is not a guarantee that you won’t still have to sign. A little more digging around and it appears that the credit card companies are using the same limits they use for signature-less card transactions, so the only advantage of ApplePay is the extra security (and that is mostly an advantage to the bank at this point, since consumers are protected anyway).
In order to really see for myself whether the issue was just the higher transaction value, I stopped by Walgreens today and bought a tube of Pringles. Paid with ApplePay with no issues (the cashier didn’t think it in any way strange, but they have had touch payment terminals in the stores with prominent Google Wallet displays for a while now). This time it was indeed signature-free. But it would have been had I used my touch pay credit card, or even just swiped a regular old mag-stripe credit card.
So, painless, but hardly an advantage. Apart from the improved security.