Apple Pay: The Review

October 23, 2014 0 Comments

Apple-Pay-in-actionSo Apple Pay has been on the market for roughly four days. I think that is long enough for a review. With that being said, Apple Pay is easy to use. It’s really not worth writing a review about.

It works basically like this: You walk up to the payment terminal with any pin pad available. Look for a NFC (Near Field Communication) symbol on top of the pin pad. This signals to consumers that the merchant is able to accept contactless payments, such as credit/debit card blinks. Instead of swiping your card, you hold your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus near the pin pad, place your thumb on the Touch ID sensor (or whatever finger you use to unlock your phone) and the transaction is done. It was so easy. In fact, it was much easier to complete an Apple Pay transaction than it was to write this review.

The Security

Lots of people have address their concerns about the security involved. How can Apple Pay be trusted? Is it capable of being hacked, like everything else? While I am sure there are plenty of hackers working around the clock looking for ways the system can be exploited, I would say that Apple Pay is very difficult to hack. The way it works is that you provide the Passbook app on your iPhone with your payment information. After you’ve provided your credit or debit card information, your financial institution will then require you to verify the syncing processes, either though telephone or e-mail address. Once you’ve done that, your financial institution will provide you with substitute information, known as a device account number (a token), instead of your credit card number that you would use for normal transactions. This is known as ‘Tokenization.’

Although I used my AMEX card through Apple Pay, the card number isn’t my real card number. It’s a Token!

For example, a typical Apple Pay transaction works like this: You use Apple Pay at any grocery terminal. Using the device account number, this information is sent over the wire and decrypts the credit/debit card information, authorizes the transaction and generates a token. Once the transaction is authorized, the token and the transaction record is sent back to the retailer, without the encryption key.

Simply put, instead of using your actual payment information, it creates a fake one (that is how I explained it to a baffled cashier when I used Apple Pay recently). Apple Pay doesn’t store any payment information on their server, a device account number is used instead of a credit or debit card number, and a token is generated so the actual payment information isn’t revealed. With nothing to steal, nothing can be stolen and your payment information is never revealed to anyone.

The Experience

So far I’ve used it at a couple of large stores and small merchants and I would say that the process are run rather smoothly. The first place I’ve used it when it released on Monday was at a Duane Reade location close to downtown Manhattan. The transaction worked perfect, as expected; however, the process wasn’t as quick as I originally thought it would be. Mainly due to the fact that Duane Reade loves harassing consumers by asking 5 million questions before accepting a payment via credit/debit card. Needless to say, I had some choice words so say about my Apple Pay experience at Duane Reade:


This certainly got the attention of the “most followed drugstore/retailer on twitter:”

Since then, Duane Reade has eliminated some of the useless questions regarding the payment process for their credit and charge cards. The same questions still remain for debit cards, which is to be expected, but at least it is a step in the right direction. It all goes to show how far you can get when a complaint goes somewhat viral.

I’ve managed to had no other problems using it at other retailers besides Duane Reade. The process has gone smoothly in merchants such as McDonalds, CVS, 7Eleven, and Rite Aid. Although recently I Rite Aid wasn’t able to process my Apple Pay transaction, which was weird because I’ve always been able to process Apple Pay transactions there.

I even managed to use Apple Pay at a local Grocery store. I go there to get my usual snacks, as always because it is the only retailer that has the snacks that I really want to eat. The cashier tells me the amount that I’m supposed to pay. I casually use my Apple Pay on the pin pad close by. The cashier must have thought I was just checking my text messages or something. She wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I wasn’t sure if the process went through. There was nothing on the pin pad to indicate if a payment has gone through or not. I asked her, “Did it go through?” She looks over at the terminal and yells “What Did You Do?!” I explained to her that it was Apple Pay, and it just released a few days ago. Very rarely does anyone use contactless payments there, so it is not unexpected for anyone there not to be familiar with Apple Pay, but reaction was still priceless.

Bugs To Work Out

Nothing is extremely flawless, and I think that rule applies to Apple Pay as well. The only issues I seem to have are the notifications that still go through as ‘paid’ even when an Apple Pay transaction has been rejected by the retailer. Kind of similar to the Rite Aid transaction that didn’t work as of recently. Although this isn’t really much of an issue, people can easily get confused to think that transactions are being processed twice.

Speaking of transactions being processed twice, it seems that there are a couple of users that are having their Apple Pay transactions being processed to their bank more than once. CNBC reports that Bank of America customers are being charged twice on their accounts when they use Apple Pay, which isn’t really a glitch with Apple Pay, but rather a glitch with the financial institution.

Final Verdict

I say that Apple Pay is one of the greatest things to happen to mobile payment in a long time. Its fast, secure and very easy to use. While it isn’t new, as I’ve seen Google Wallet, it could definitely revolutionize the way we pay at merchants and retailers, and probably incentivize more merchants to hop on board, as more and more consumers begin to address issues with security and financial safety.

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