Apple Pay is magic – except in the U.S.

M.G. Siegler for 500ish:

Sometimes I feel like in the U.S. it’s hard to recognize just how profound of an experience Apple Pay is, as a consumer. That’s because while the numbers suggest a fairly high level of retail penetration, and usage seems to be increasing nicely, it’s not ubiquitous. To fully understand the magic of Apple Pay, you have to go to a country where it is truly everywhere.

Over the summer, my family spent a couple weeks in Denmark. The only time I think I recall pulling out my credit card was at a hotel to check-in. And, to be honest, I’m not even sure I did it then! I’m just stretching my brain to try to think about when I would have used one. Every single place, from restaurants, to bars, to cafes, to shops, to taxis, accept mobile payments.

Your phone becomes a magic wand; the invisible magic is paying people. Again, you only truly realize this in places where mobile pay is ubiquitous. Because you realize how often you actually execute the process of paying for something in a given day. And once you’re a few days into using mobile pay and gliding through life, you only realize how insane the “old way” of doing things is when you are forced to pull out your wallet. Like an animal.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s an issue of infrastructure and education. Even some places in the U.S. that take Apple Pay still demand that you sign! Nope, they don’t get it. Apple can’t do too much except wait when it come to the infrastructure issue, but the company has only themselves to blame for not educating everyone, retailers and shoppers, about what Apple Pay is and how it should work. Eventually, the U.S. will catch up.


  1. It’s ubiquitous in the US, if you only patronize places that take ApplePay. After a while, you figure it out, which grocery stores, which pharmacies, which restaurants, which fast-food restaurants, etc.

    1. I live in Silicon Valley and use Apple Pay nearly everywhere I shop. But I can’t imagine the transition for restaurants here. Unlike in Europe, our sit-down restaurants don’t have portable card terminals—they take your card to the back and swipe it. Apple Pay obviously doesn’t work with a setup like that. How would/will this change?

  2. The most ridiculous thing in the US is when I have to sign in addition! Really, this is such nonsense! And nobody even checks the signature. I just sign something that does not come near my real signature. So what is the signature good for? As a Process Manager this gives me the creeps!

    1. A couple of years ago I was visiting the USA with my wife and I managed to leave my wallet at home, so had no credit cards with me. Fortunately my wife had all of hers and she lent me one of her cards to keep with me for our trip.

      I know her PIN and paying at terminals worked as usual, but what really surprised me was that I was often being required to sign payment slips and I forgot that I was using her card instead of mine. My signature isn’t remotely like my wife’s signature. Furthermore, as we were relatively recently married at that time, the surname on her card was different to mine and of course the first name was the wrong gender anyway. She writes a fairly legible signature while I do a rather graphic scrawl. At no point did anybody ever check my signature against the one in her card.

      1. Bugs Bunny works just fine. Try it.

        I think the earlier commenter is right, it’s an artifact of the software/hardware/firmware in older terminals even though the credit card companies aren’t interested in the signatures anymore.

  3. I love Apple Pay and Apple Card. It’s all we use when we can. Stupid stores ask8ng me to sign when I use Apple Pay, whew, I’m a true geezer, but most of these whippersnappers have no clue. Now, Tokyo Olympics in less than a year. Forget Apple Pay, you can hardly get wifi access in Japan! And if you don’t have T-Mobile for cell, it’s almost too wet to plough. ホラ、日本の皆さん、もうすぐだよ!やれ、やれ、やれね。日本はハイテックによって、やっぱり第三世界に似ていますよ!

  4. It’s great, but I feel like it will never be everywhere in the US. POS here are so messed up its a joke. Some merchants take apple pay, some take mobile pay but apple pay doesn’t work. Some won’t take anything but cash (chinese donut shops). Some won’t take a card or mobile pay unless you spend at least 10 dollars. It’s all a clusterfuck and if you think it will straighten out soon, Orange monkey Trump will be elected the new dictator for life next year……

    1. Quite a few gas stations and walk up/takeout food places are cash only. And there’s a major line of grocery stores in my home area that will only accept debit cards not credit cards (or the other way around I forget since I’m not around there the last few months). and another which dropped either Visa or MasterCard I don’t remember which.

      So no cashless Nirvana yet….

  5. Apple Pay works some of the time, but not totally reliably and it is not definitely not accepted everywhere.

    About 80% of US consumers prefer credit or cash; 50% use a bank debit card. 53% use a check (i.e., bank money order). 44% use PayPal, 9% use Apple Pay.

    Why is this? Well first of all, unlike most countries, Americans enjoy a fairly well regulated banking system. Cash and credit are cheap and effective and RELIABLE. You can even buy stuff when your battery is dead.

    In my experience, Apple Pay turns out to be as slow or slower than credit card purchasing. With tap-to-pay credit cards, one doesn’t even have to carry around a $350+ electronic Apple gadget. Don’t blame me, go ahead and convince the 91% of Americans who don’t use Apple Pay.

    Then there are the merchant costs.

    If Apple didn’t have a monopoly on apps it allowed on its iOS store, a flood of payment apps would attempt to gain a foothold. Apple doesn’t let any of them compete head to head against Apple Pay, including direct bank payment apps. Apple always takes a cut. Apple Pay doesn’t cut out the middle man credit card company, nor does it make POS terminals cheaper…

    Uneducated Americans aren’t Apple’s biggest problem. The issue is that they’re merely inserting themself as a US-style payment processing middleman masquarading as a Chinese-style mobile phone pay system. It’s entirely reliant on old debit and credit card standards and rules. Tim isn’t bothering to tout how much money he has saved banks or merchants, because he already pocketed the “savings”. In developing nations, defacto banks are already the dominant players. AP is running a distant third in China and lagging behind the good ol’ chip and pin credit card everywhere else.

    Hopefully the day will come when the only entities involved when making a purchase are you, the store, and your bank. Nobody else.

    1. If Apple Pay is not the fastest way of paying then either you or the merchant must be doing something wrong. It should be at least as quick as tap to pay. I can get my iPhone out of my pocket and to the terminal much faster than it takes me to take my wallet out, find the card and hold it to the terminal. In addition, Apple Pay can be used for higher value transactions compared to tap to pay.

      1. You are probably correct. However given how complicated POS terminals are these days, why would we be surprised when Apple Pay becomes just another slow means of payment out of the gazillion other payment options? The US cannot even get chip and pin credit cards to be uniformly implemented.

  6. Denmark is one of three countries in the world with the highest ubiquity of paying digitally: with card, or Watch, or by transfering money digitally from an app (MobilePay). Unfortunately, Apple has been slow in the uptake introducing itself to the Danish digital payment market and so, although all the various kinds of payment consoles in the shops are capable of connecting with Apple Watch, maybe 35% of them aren’t set up to do so.

    But those are hard times for beggars and street peddlers: hardly anyone carry cash nowadays, and so many of them wear a sign saying, “I take MobilePay” – which indicates that they are sufficiently integrated in society to have both a mobile phone and a bank account …

  7. Pet peeve: You go through a drive through and stick your arm out the window with Apple Watch and the minimum wage wonder won’t turn the reader upside down. So you have to contort your body and arm to get the watch upside down to register the transaction.

    1. You won’t close your rings going through the drive!!!! Don’t you follow the Apple nagware? Apple says you must have your Prius Lyft driver deposit you at least a km from your desired destination. And swing your arms vigorously as you strut forth to get your daily latte, so Apple accelerometers can track you well.

      Or Apple would be happy if you first get a titanium antique credit card, then christen it immediately via a pilgrimage to your nearest Apple Boutique. Buy a €90 Rose Gold selfie stick and AppleCare, tie your Watch on it, so in the future all drivebys will be painless. Be sure to sit in your idling gas guzzler SUV blogging about how Apple makes you so very happy.


  8. Our son had the ubiquitous experience this summer in the UK. Sometimes I’ll talk to the retailer (manager/owner) in our area, asking what they pay for current transactions to see if it’s the charge that’s the problem. Invariably, none knows what their current rate is. There’s ignorance all around. I’m guessing people just don’t care what their costs are. It’s sad.

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