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Two coasts, 10 days: Macworld's thorough field test of Apple Pay

Caitlin McGarry, Leah Yamshon | Nov. 3, 2014
No gimmicks, just life: We put Apple Pay through its paces to figure out if the future of mobile payments is here.

Apple Pay in operation

Apple Pay's eventful early days were full of highs and lows. Excited iPhone users rushed to test the mobile payment service on day one and found it super seamless. Cashier confusion, Bank of America's double-charging foul-up, and the NFC block at Rite Aid and CVS marred the rollout, but a major product launch is never smooth. And who knew CurrentC, a QR code-based app that isn't even on the market yet, would turn into such a huge thing?

As early reviews and news poured in over Apple Pay's first 10 days, Macworld hit the streets of San Francisco and New York City to give the service a real-life test run in two vastly different environments. We didn't try to replace our wallets with Apple Pay or any other such gimmicks. We wanted to see how Apple Pay could fit into our daily routines. Is it easy to use? Convenient? And, most importantly, does it have the potential to change the way we pay for everything? New York-based Associate Editor Caitlin McGarry and San Francisco-based Associate Editor Leah Yamshon have the answers.

How easy is easy?
Caitlin: I really thought setting up Apple Pay would be time-consuming. I sat down with my wallet and opened Passbook ready to tap in every number. And you can do that, if you want. But holding my credit and debit cards in front of my camera and watching it lift the numbers was infinitely cooler--and easier. All I had to do was enter the security codes and confirm the expiration dates. One credit card company required me to verify Apple Pay using its own app, which was easy enough. My bank didn't require any verification, but did send me an email to let me know that my card had been set up on Apple Pay, just in case.

Actually using Apple Pay is a breeze. Simply hold your phone near the NFC reader and watch your screen come to life--all you need to do is verify your identity with Touch ID. Toggling between debit and credit cards was as simple as tapping your preferred card (my cards were various colors, and matched the color of the corresponding physical card). The toughest part of using Apple Pay is remembering that Touch ID takes more than a tap to recognize your fingerprint.

Leah:  Generally, Apple Pay has been a cinch to use when buying stuff, but I was particularly curious in seeing how merchants would handle processing returns with Apple Pay. I used to be a cashier at a major chain clothing store, and I remember our return process all too well: We had to make sure the customer had the original card they used with them, because we could only refund customers in the same way they paid. That meant I'd check the receipt and the card to make sure the last four digits matched, and then I'd swipe the card myself.


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