Why Apple Pay beats chip cards

“Many merchants and retail workers are watching their lives play in slow motion when they process credit cards. To combat fraudulent transactions, the retail industry is shifting away from the traditional magnetic stripe toward tiny computer chips embedded inside cards,” Brian X. Chen writes for The New York Times. “The chip initially may annoy consumers. For most chip transactions, you have to dip the credit card into a slot and wait for the transaction to be approved before you can remove it and scribble your signature.”

“Mobile payments could be a quicker alternative,” Chen writes. “I tested chip cards and each of the mobile payments services in three different stores: Walgreens, BevMo and Nancy Boy, a small beauty supply store in San Francisco. I inserted a chip card or tapped a phone and timed how long it took each transaction to be approved and start printing a receipt. The results varied slightly, but the mobile wallets were generally much faster than the chip.”

“Apple Pay is supported by more banks than the Samsung and Android wallets,” Chen writes. “Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, said, “Users tell us they love the convenience and speed of paying with their iPhone or Apple Watch.””

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As explained in the full article, this is largely a perception issue. Leaving the card in the slot makes the transaction feel longer, but the transaction time behind-the-scenes is the same with a chipped card as it is with Apple Pay or any of the Apple Pay knockoffs. According to Chen, Visa is addressing that perception issue with Quick Chip, a coming software upgrade that will allow the terminals to instruct the customer to insert the card and then remove it right away.

Regardless, physical cards can be lost or stolen and easily used by people other than their rightful owners. Apple Pay is simply more secure as a lost or stolen iPhone or Apple Watch will generally only work for their owners thanks to Touch IS, Secure Enclave, and the way Apple Watches are secured.

People who trust Apple Pay knockoffs like Android or Samsung Pay make us laugh.

Apple Pay coming to mobile websites this year – March 24, 2016
Apple Pay is crushing Samsung Pay – February 27, 2016
Apple Pay support reaches 1,000 U.S. banks and credit unions – February 5, 2016

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Albert P.” for the heads up.]


  1. The time taken to do the transaction is greatly affected by the time taken for the terminal to communicate with your bank’s server. Therefore making simplistic comparisons can be very misleading.

    I don’t know the process for when chip cards are used in the US, but here in the UK, where chip enabled cards have been in use for many years, you need to remove the card before the receipt is printed or the transaction concluded, so it’s not too likely that you will leave the card in the reader and walk away.

    In something like a restaurant, where a waiter brings a hand held wireless terminal to the table, the waiter will frequently remove the card and use it as a convenient sharp edge to neatly tear the paper from the printer and then hand you your receipt together with the card.

    We don’t seem to have any issues with chip cards these days. When they were new, people did silly things, but the systems have been refined to make that more unlikely. I would hope that US terminals have adopted all the lessons learned from how they were used elsewhere for the last twenty years or so.

    1. I thought that it was funny how the author made “chip cards” seem new and cutting edge…here in the U.S., perhaps, but a long-time standard outside of our partially walled borders.

      1. Just to show just how old Chip & PIN technology is outside of the US. My daughter is in her forties and she was recently complaining about how difficult it is to read the embossed writing on her credit card and wondered why they don’t just use ordinary print, which is so much clearer.

        I explained that it needed to be embossed to work with Zip-Zap machines. She had absolutely no idea what I meant and initially thought that I was making up stuff. She’s had credit cards ever since she went to university and has no recollection of ever verifying a transaction with anything other than a PIN. Even when I searched for a photo of a Zip-Zap, she reckoned that she’d never seen one being used.

  2. I think you’re correct about perception of transaction time. It just seems longer because there are more ballet steps before completion.

  3. “you have to dip the credit card into a slot and wait for the transaction to be approved before you can remove it and scribble your signature”

    That’s not how it works in Canada, where we’ve had chipped cards longer. Here, you have to enter a PIN while the card is in the terminal, not sign it after.

    Only if you use a US card here does it skip the PIN and require a signature.

    Not sure how a chip+signature is better than a chip+PIN for authorizing a transaction…

    1. I’ve used my Canadian chipped VISA card in Costra Rica the same way I do at home. We have two methods. 1. I can insert the card and enter my PIN. No signature required. 2. I can tap the terminal with my card. PERIOD! No signature required. This is probably why ApplePay hasn’t come to Canada yet in any real way.

  4. I use Apple Pay whenever possible. My watch, press button twice, turn wrist, DONE. It is the easiest method of payment that I have ever used, and I hope that Apple Pay as well as other NFC-type payment systems become the norm.

    I’ve used it at Casey’s, Cub Foods, Walgreens, and even Micro Center.

    I hope that restaurants in the future use NFC payments as well, because I HATE handing the waiter/waitress my card and watching it walk away in their hands.

  5. It’s not really a perception issue, it’s a time misplacement issue. When I swipe a card, the card goes straight back into my wallet. When I Apple Pay, my Watch stays where it is, or my iPhone remains in my hand and it goes back in my pocket or wherever one may be used to carrying their iPhone.

    With a chip transaction, you’re taking the card and inserting it somewhere for a period of a transaction. This is a very uncomfortable thing to do with what could be a variety of distractions around you.

    Why they didn’t implement quick-dip from day 1 astounds me… then again I think it’s totally idiotic that they ask for signatures.

  6. In Australia, most places have PayWave for chipped cards – you simply tap the card on the terminal, no insertion required. And if the transaction is less than $100 you’re done. If it’s more, then just enter your PIN.
    At the moment, only Amex and ANZ cards allow Apple Pay here.

  7. My objection to the card readers is that it offers written instructions to wait, then enter the PIN and finally to remove the card. There’s quite a delay between each stage, so you need to keep watching the reader rather than have eye contact or interaction with the sales assistant. I think that it’s far less friendly that way.

    My solution would be to have a vibration motor like in a cellphone. It would vibrate briefly when the card is inserted, vibrate a couple of times when you need to enter the PIN and finally vibrate intermittently when the transaction is completed. The user could then simply gently keep their hand on the terminal while waiting for the prompts. It would also work well for visually impaired users too.

  8. This article makes the USA sound like a 3rd world country.
    The rest of the world are well used to chips on credit and debit cards.
    Taping on payment terminals is fairly common outside of Nth America.

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