6 questions you probably have about Apple Pay

Tim Hortons, Uber and Ticketmaster are all accepting the service

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Next time you’re in line paying for groceries, instead of pulling out a credit or debit card, depending on which you bank you’re with, you’ll be able to use your iPhone to make a safe transaction with Apple Pay.

1. Who can use Apple Pay?

While RBC and CIBC were the first of Canada’s five biggest banks to offer it to their users, TD Canada, Scotiabank and Bank of Montreal recently announced they’d be joining the ranks as well, making the service widely available. The Alberta-based ATB Financial as well as the Canadian Tire Financial Services have also made the service available, but only for MasterCard users, though ATB has stated they are working on allowing debit transactions.

Apple Pay is only available to those with the iPhone 6 or later models. If you’re using an iPad, you’ll be able to make in-app purchases, but in-store purchases are off the table. For those using an Apple Watch, it’s the reverse: you can make purchases in stores, but you can’t make in-app purchases.

How convenient is Apple Pay really? »

For now, if you’re an Android user, you’re out of luck when it comes to a native payment app. While there is an Apple Pay equivalent for Android—unsurprisingly named Android Pay—there’s no word on if it’s coming to Canada. Samsung plans to introduce its own mobile payment system in 2016, but an official release date hasn’t been announced. In the meantime, Android users have plenty of bank-specific mobile wallet options like the RBC Wallet and the CIBC mobile payment app to name a couple, plus other apps like Suretap and UGO.

2. How do I use it?

First, you have to enter your credit or debit card information into the native iPhone Wallet app. Then, you’ll be asked to verify the app either through an email sent to you from your bank or through your bank’s mobile app. If you’re at the store and want to use Apple Pay, all you have to do is either open the Wallet app and select your card of choice, or if your iPhone is locked, double-press your home button from the lock-screen for quick and easy access. To make a purchase, you have to hold your phone near a payment terminal and press your finger against the fingerprint scanner.

3. Is it safe to use?

If your phone gets stolen, you can rest easy that thieves won’t be able to use Apple Pay to go on a shopping spree on your dime. Any in-store purchases will require you to hold your finger against your iPhone’s fingerprint scanner for the transaction to go through. There’s no way around that.

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Apple doesn’t collect your credit card number or details on payment transactions. Your payment history is stored in the Wallet app, but it can be deleted. The store you’re shopping at or the app you’re purchasing in doesn’t get to see the payment information either. Instead, a device account number is generated by your financial institution and stored in a secure chip inside your phone, which serves as the intermediary between you and the retailer.

4. Where can I use it? 

Tim Hortons, Petro-Canada, and McDonald’s are among the growing list of retailers offering Apple Pay, with Air Canada, Staples and Domino’s all expected to follow. Moneris, which processes debit and credit card payments in plenty of restaurants and stores in Canada, says that 85% of its merchants have terminals ready for Apple Pay. In fact, according to the Apple website, Apple Pay should technically work at most places that already accept contactless, Near Field Communication (NFC) payment. So, next time you shop at a store at which you’ve tapped to pay, try your iPhone instead of your Visa card because it just might work—even if the person behind the cash register had no idea.

Uber has already integrated Apple Pay in the U.S., and now it’s in Canada, too. There are also a bunch of apps that accept it, like Starbucks, Groupon and Ticketmaster.

Relax, mobile banking is safer than you think »

5. That’s great, but what’ll it cost me?

There’s no cost for consumers to use Apple Pay. Merchants aren’t being charged additional fees either, which likely leaves the banks footing the bill.  However, before you start leaving your credit and debit cards at home, you should remember that if your phone runs out of battery, you’ll be stuck without Apple Pay, or any form of payment at all.

6. What makes it any better than a credit or debit card?

Apple Pay’s greatest potential is in how it’ll make in-app purchases faster than punching in your billing, shipping and contact details. When paying in a store, Apple Pay is faster than using chip cards and punching in your PIN, and likely just as fast as tap-to-pay methods. But where any thief can take your tap-to-pay card and make purchases, if your Apple Pay-enabled iPhone is taken, your funds will still be protected by the fingerprint scanner.

A nice bonus is that your transaction history can be viewed in the Wallet app, so that you can keep an eye on spending habits. Any transactions you’d rather not see can be deleted.

This article was updated June 1, 2016.

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