Now iPhone 6 users can buy their next tank of gas, Whopper, or even a new Retina iMac with a swipe. With the launch of iOS 8.1 Monday, Apple officially released Apple Pay, the mobile payment feature that allows iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners to make purchases at retailers such as Chevron, Macy's, and McDonalds by tapping their phone on the register.
It's a feature that's been available for most Android users for a while, but this is the first time it's been an option for Apple devices. So you might have a few questions, such as:
What Devices Does It Work With?
Apple Pay requires NFC (near-field communication), a hardware component built into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Older iPhones don't have NFC, so they won't work with Apple Pay. NFC will be built into the Apple Watch, so it will work for in-store payments it's released next year.
The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 announced last week will also work with Apple Pay, but only for in-app purchases, not in stores. Whatever your device, you'll need to run iOS 8.1 or above.
How Do I Add My Cards?
Add your credit card info to your device via Apple's Passbook app, which comes with the phone. To add a new card, open Passbook and then click the + at the top of the screen. The first option on the page should be Credit and Debit Cards. Tap the Set Up Apple Pay button on that card to pick how you want to pay using your phone.
You can choose to have all your phone payments go on the same card you already use for iTunes purchases. Or, you can add a new Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card. If you don't feel like entering all those digits, then take a photo of your card to upload it faster. I had no trouble adding my debit card to my phone, but ran into issues when trying to add my Best Buy Mastercard as well. Not all cards are currently supported, so you might run into a few snags.
How Do I Use it in Stores?
When you visit , go through your transaction as normal. When it comes time to pay, put your finger on the TouchID sensor of your phone and tap your handset on the retailer's register. In most cases, the place to tap will be the same place you'd typically swipe a card; it'll bear an image that looks like a sideways Wi-Fi symbol.
I went to the Walgreen's down the street from my apartment a few minutes after downloading 8.1 to give it a whirl. There, the process happens on the same card readers that have been in the store for as long as I can remember. Tapping my phone on the reader launched Passbook and my debit card. A check mark appeared on the screen indicating the swipe was successful, and the kiosk updated as if I had swiped my plastic card.
Because I used a debit card, I still had to enter my PIN on the display. Remember, your phone is simply replacing the swipe of your card, so you also might have to sign for purchases.
What About In-App Purchases?
When you need to buy a few boots in Candy Crush, you'll still buy them through iTunes, just like you always have. Apple Pay is integrated into a few other apps like Airbnb and Groupon, where you might not normally make an iTunes purchase. There, a Buy with Apple Pay button will show up as a payment option when it's time to check out. Tap that button and place your finger on your TouchID sensor to complete the purchase.
Is This Safe?
While Apple Pay might make it look like your credit card is digitally saved on your phone, it's not. What's actually being used to make all those purchases is a digital token. Think of it like a new credit card number just for your phone. The number only works as part of an NFC payment, so even if someone manages to get the number, they won't be able to use it without your phone.
If you lose your phone, you can disable Apple Pay or remotely wipe your device entirely from Find My iPhone. And because it uses a different number, your physical credit card will continue to work as normal.
Your digital card enjoys the same protections as the plastic version, and with your phone's passcode and the TouchID requirement, it will be a whole lot harder for thieves to use your stolen phone for unauthorized payments than it would be to use your plastic card.