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How to use Apple Pay: the ultimate guide to paying with your iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac or iPad

Key Points
  • Apple Pay is the best way to buy stuff in stores, and it hides your card numbers from retailers when you use it.
  • It's easy to just tap your iPhone or Apple Watch to buy coffee, a transit pass and more.
  • Here's how to use Apple Pay on your iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac and iPad.
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, speaks during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, March 25, 2019.
Stephen Lam | Reuters

I love using Apple Pay to buy stuff but, often, when I use my iPhone at a cafe or in the cafeteria, I hear from someone nearby: "I didn't know you could do that!" When I was recently buying a new iPhone with my father in law, he was surprised to learn that I could use my iPhone to make the purchase and said "You gotta show me how to set that up!"

So I'm going to do that.

Apple Pay has been around since 2015, and it allows you to buy things by tapping your iPhone at a checkout terminal. These terminals are all over the place: Coffee shops, gas stations, retailers and even some public transit lines. You don't have to take out your credit card card. It's even a great backup if you accidentally left your wallet in the car. And all you need is an iPhone 6 or newer.

There's also a privacy benefit to using Apple Pay. Apple doesn't track your transactions or tie them to you, and it doesn't share your credit card or debit card numbers with merchants when you make a purchase. So, if a retailer gets hacked and thieves get a bunch of credit card data used to make purchases there, your card number won't be taken if you used Apple Pay.

It's supported by banks and credit cards around the world, so chances are you own a credit card or have an account at a bank that uses it.

Plus, you can use Apple Pay on other Apple devices like your Mac or iPad to buy stuff on websites if you use Safari. Once you set it up on your phone, you'll just need to enter in the 3-digit or 4-digit CCV number on the back of your card to use it on your Apple Watch, iPad or Mac.

By the way, don't confuse Apple Pay with the Apple Card, which is a separate credit card you can apply for and use. Apple Pay is a system that lets you buy stuff with cards you already have, while the Apple Card is just a separate credit card option. The two work together, but you don't need the Apple Card to use Apple Pay.

How to use Apple Pay on your iPhone

Todd Haselton | CNBC

The iPhone is the best starting point for using Apple Pay, since it's the device you'll use to tap-and-pay at retailers around the world. To get started:

  • Open the Wallet app on your iPhone.
  • Tap the "+" button on the top-right to add a card.
  • Tap "Continue."
  • Grab the credit or debit card you want to associate with Apple Pay.
  • Position your iPhone's camera to focus on card number (it's either on the front or back).
  • Your iPhone will pull in the card number written on your card.
  • Confirm the details are right and tap "Next."
  • Enter in your card's 3-digit or 4-digit CVV number (usually found on the back).
  • Tap "Next."
  • Agree to your bank or credit card's terms of service.
  • Repeat these steps to add additional cards.

Now you'll see the card in the Wallet app on your iPhone.

How to use Apple Pay to buy stuff with your iPhone

A worker demonstrates Apple Pay inside a mobile kiosk sponsored by Visa and Wells Fargo.
Getty Images

Now that you've set up Apple Pay on your iPhone, it's time to use it. If you walk into a shop that accepts mobile payments, you'll see logos that show if Apple Pay is accepted. (Pro-tip: some stores show the cards they accept, even Apple Pay, with stickers on their front door.)

You're looking for these symbols:

Here's what to do when you're ready to buy something:

  • If you have a newer iPhone with Face ID (like the iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max), just double tap the power button on the side of the phone and your cards will appear.
  • If you have a phone with a home button, open the Wallet app and bring up the card, then hold your finger on Touch ID (on the home button) to verify yourself.
  • Bring your iPhone close to the contactless terminal.

I've found most retailers are happy to help if you get confused. Even if you don't see a sign, you can always ask if they accept Apple Pay. You'll probably be surprised how many retailers (especially in the U.S.) accept it.

How to use Apple Pay on your Apple Watch

VCG | Visual China Group | Getty Images

Once you've set up Apple Pay on your iPhone, you can add the cards to your Apple Watch to use it to buy stuff, too. Here's what to do:

  • Open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
  • Choose "Wallet & Apple Pay."
  • Select "Add Card"
  • Hit "Continue."
  • Select one of the cards you'd like to use on your Apple Watch (and that you've already set up on your iPhone.)
  • Verify the 3-digit or 4-digit CCV code.
  • Agree to the terms.

Now, you can use your Apple Watch or your iPhone to buy stuff where Apple Pay is accepted. Just do this:

  • Double tap the power button (not the digital crown) on the side of your Apple Watch.
  • Your cards will appear. Swipe to choose the one you want.
  • Hold your Apple Watch near the reader in the store to buy something.

How to use Apple Pay on a Mac

Apple Pay on Mac.
Apple

Apple Pay not only works in the physical world, but also works with the Safari web browser and apps on the Mac, so you can use it to buy stuff online. You just need a Mac with a Touch ID fingerprint reader or a model introduced after 2012, and an iPhone or Apple Watch that's set up with Apple Pay. You can add cards on your Mac by doing this:

  • Open System Preferences from the top-left menu.
  • Select "Wallet & Apple Pay."
  • Choose "Add Card."
  • Select one of the cards you've already set up on your iPhone and confirm the CCV (or enter in a new card.)
  • Agree to the terms.

When you're checking out on a website that accepts Apple Pay, just select that option and choose the card you want to use. You'll verify yourself using either the fingerprint reader on your Mac or using an Apple Watch or iPhone. Just double tap the side button on your iPhone X or later with Face ID, touch the Touch ID home button on an iPhone 8 or earlier, or double tap the side button of your Apple Watch to confirm.

How to use Apple Pay on an iPad

Apple Pay on iPad
Apple

You can also use Apple Pay in Safari and in apps on an iPad, just like on a Mac. To add a card on an iPad, do this:

  • Open Settings.
  • Tap "Wallet & Apple Pay."
  • Tap "Add Card."
  • Position your iPhone's camera to focus on card number (it's either on the front or back.)
  • Your iPhone will pull in the card number written on your card.
  • Confirm the details are right and tap "Next."
  • Enter in your card's 3-digit or 4-digit CVV number (usually found on the back.)
  • Tap "Next."
  • Agree to your bank or credit card's terms of service.
  • Repeat these steps to add additional cards.

That's it! Now you've learned how to use Apple Pay on your iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac and iPad.

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