Using a smartphone to pay for stuff at Victoria stores


Paying for things with the tap of a smartphone is starting to make sense.

There are several smartphone payment systems floating about. I decided to go with Apple Pay because I have an Apple-made phone, I could readily understand how Apple Pay works, and I don’t have to launch an app to use it.

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Apple Pay became widely available in May and June, linking to credit cards and debit cards issued by Canadian financial institutions. Prior to that, it was only available in Canada for American Express.

I’ve been using Apple Pay around Greater Victoria and Metro Vancouver for the past few weeks, and it has mostly worked.

It’s supposed to work at any payment terminal that accepts tapping, where you tap or hover a credit card near the terminal for purchases that are under $100. The iPhone takes on the role of  the card, and purchases are authorized by a fingerprint scan.

To avoid confusing cashiers who might never have heard of Apple Pay, I don’t announce that I’ll be using my iPhone to pay. If it’s not clearly labelled, I ask if the terminal accepts tapping. I then place the back of my phone against the terminal with a finger or thumb on the phone’s fingerprint scanner. There’s an almost immediate beep, signalling that payment was authorized, and the transaction is finished. I’ve set things up to get a message on my screen showing how much was spent, where and when. That information is logged on the phone.

I’ve found that touching my iPhone to the payment terminal, rather than just hovering, increases the chances of success. It works even when my iPhone is in a leather case. If there’s no terminal response, and you’re in the lockscreen, you can try double-click of the home/fingerprint scanner button to activate Apple Pay. 

I have paid for things with Apple Pay at regular haunts around Greater Victoria — B.C. Ferries ticket machines, London Drugs, Lumberworld, Thrifty Foods, Cineplex. I also used it while visiting Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver at The Soup Meister, where the cashier/cook smiled and said, “You gotta love technology.” Also at Lonsdale, I tried to pay for fudge at Olde World Fudge at a terminal that was supposed to be tappable, but my phone kept displaying this message: Hold Near Reader to Pay, even though the phone was in direct contact for at least five seconds. I ended up paying by tapping my credit card, which confirmed that the payment terminal was indeed tappable; it just didn’t recognize my phone.

[Update, Sept. 2, 2016: I made a $180 purchase by tapping with Apple Pay, but had to sign a credit card slip. So, it's possible to make purchases above $100 with Apple Pay, but there's that additional signature step. I've only done this once, so I don't know how large-amount purchases would be treated at other places. I'm guessing that either a PIN or a signature will be required. Also, at the Canadian Tire store on Douglas Street, Apple Pay was decllined, then accepted on a second try; the cashier said this was happening with all Apple Pay transactions. At a Petro-Canada station on Quadra, I tried to advance pay at the pump by touching my phone against the tapping panel, but I got a rejection message, was asked to see the cashier, and there was a loud beeping. I cancelled the transaction and used my credit card at the pump.] 

Why bother with using a bulky 113 gram phone to pay instead of using a slim 6 gram credit card?

In theory, it's more secure because a fingerprint scan is required, instead of just a tap. If a card is lost or stolen, someone could go around tapping up hundreds of dollars in purchases until the card is cancelled. Because a fingerprint is required, fraudulent tapping is more difficult than with a card. Financial institutions promise to reimburse you for fraud, but life is easier without having to deal with the bureaucracy of getting charges reversed and a card replaced.

My credit card number is not stored on the phone.

My credit card number and name are not shared with merchants; a code representing my card number is sent instead.

It’s marginally faster. I just have to pull out the phone, touch it against the payment terminal and touch the fingerprint scanner, versus pulling out my wallet, opening it, pulling out the credit card, and touching the terminal. But we’re talking an under-five-second difference, if that.

Before you can use an iPhone like a credit card or debit card, you have to set it up. I found the process to be straightforward. Open the Wallet app, select the option to add a credit card or debit card, and follow the directions, which include scanning the card number using the phone’s camera. You’ll then need approval from your card issuer. You can phone a number that appears on the screen. In my case, I downloaded my bank’s app, logged into my online bank account within the app, and followed the prompts.

Apple Pay only works on recent iPhones, basically the iPhone 6 and newer.

Here’s an explanation from Apple Canada.

[Topic: Apple Pay in Canada]

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