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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.

Sure, every store has its own policy, but my store's policy seemed to be a common one. And since Apple Pay randomizes the card number for merchants and prints out that fake card number on the receipt, I had a feeling that returns would be problematic, even though Apple insists it wouldn't be. 

As it turns out, I was right...and I was wrong. I purchased items from Macy's and American Eagle Outfitters and then returned them later that day to test it out. There was a brief hiccup at American Eagle, when the cashier asked if he could see my credit card to confirm that the last four digits matched what was on my receipt (just like my old store!). I explained that I had used Apple Pay, and that the receipt wouldn't match my card because of the system's security measures. I then showed him my receipt and the card info stored on my iPhone, and also showed where the transaction was logged in Passbook. 

Stumped, the associate called his manager over, and we filled her in what was going on. The manager told me that she still needed to see my actual credit card to make the return, explaining that I couldn't get a refund without swiping the card. I obliged, but then asked if I could tap my phone on the terminal first just to see what would happen. Boom! The return went through, and the random four-digit number that Apple Pay had issued earlier flashed on the American Eagle register, so the employees could see that the Apple Pay card matched. It was a learning experience for both of us.

Macy's, on the other hand, didn't require anything except for my original receipt and my signature. No credit card to verify, no Apple Pay info, no photo ID--just my signature on the pin pad--which was both super convenient and also a little unsettling. With time, I expect returns with Apple Pay will become just as easy a regular credit card, but your experience may vary across stores for now.

Where we used it
Caitlin: My first Apple Pay experience was a late-night food run, because why not? My partner was craving a snack after watching the San Francisco Giants handily defeat the Kansas City Royals. After we got off the subway, we headed toward the closest food option that was still open: Conveniently enough, it was McDonald's. I'm not much for fast food, but I'll happily buy someone else a giant pack of McNuggets--plus, it was the perfect chance to test out Apple Pay. We ordered, I held my phone near the card reader, and the process was over almost before it even began. "Did it go through?" I asked the cashier. She nodded, excited to see Apple Pay in action. "Others here have seen it, but you're my first customer to use it!" she said. It felt like a high-five moment, but I was too busy photographing my receipt. The makeup artist who rang me up at the MAC counter inside Macy's in downtown Brooklyn wasn't quite as thrilled when I used Apple Pay--actually, she could've cared less. I waited longer for her to turn on her computer than I did paying for my item.


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