I absolutely love using Apple Pay to checkout in stores. Swiping a debit or credit card isn’t too inconvenient but it’s not the most secure way to pay, and new chip terminals in the US are frustratingly slow and unreliable. I use Apple Pay from my Apple Watch whenever possible, and I’m a serious advocate for the payment service among my family and friends with iPhones.
Two years since first launching in the US, Apple Pay is an option at lots of payment terminals all across the country, but you still can’t assume contactless payments like Apple Pay will be supported. It’s still necessary to carry your debit or credit card (or cash) just in case.
So we’ve looked at the biggest categories of businesses that still aren’t ready for contactless payments in the US and reached out to a few of the biggest holdouts to ask why they’re still resisting. We’ve also looked at some of the categories that people still want supported to see how things are progressing.
When Apple Pay launched in October 2014, there were about eight bank partners and 220,000 terminals ready in the US. Now Apple Pay is supported by hundreds of banks and in February over 2 million businesses were accepting contactless payments. Apple Pay has also expanded to 10 additional markets outside of the United States with more coming soon.
Two years ago, I could use Apple Pay at my local McDonalds, Walgreens, Subway, and a local drug store. Apple Pay was easier to use in large cities with more stores than small towns with a handful of businesses. Now I can use Apple Pay at plenty of local businesses thanks to the adoption of contactless payment terminals.
Now places where I regularly shop like Best Buy, Khols, Nike, American Eagle, Starbucks, Ulta for my wife, one of the two nearby movie theaters, Chick-Fil-A and plenty more officially support Apple Pay, so my usage has increased. Walgreens even lets you use their loyalty card with Apple Pay; the cashiers are usually grateful that they don’t have to scan yours or ask you to type in your phone number.
A local ice cream shop in my town that uses Square recently upgraded to the new contactless reader which enables Apple Pay support, and my local grocery store (a two store chain called Jerry Lees) knows about and accepts Apple Pay.
I wrote about the awkwardness of Apple Pay sometimes failing two years ago; when the cashier at my local grocery store actually suggested I pay with my watch that stigma was broken for me. Some people are still impressed which is fun, but for a lot of people it’s just the new normal which is even better.
I jokingly tweeted a few weeks ago that Apple Pay has officially gone mainstream when I noticed the place where I get my haircut taping a sign about not accepting Apple Pay on their terminal. Clearly enough people asked and expected to use Apple Pay that a sign was necessary.
Apple Pay is also available at almost all places with the contactless payment logo even if there isn’t specifically signage for Apple Pay. The EMV contactless symbol looks like four waves, a small square, a hand, and an oval. When you see this, it means you can probably use Apple Pay (although a few places like CVS manually disable Apple Pay).
You can also find Apple Pay in iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch apps and even on the web from iPhone, iPad, and Mac on a growing number of websites.
Apple Pay is in a lot more stores today than two years ago, but you still can’t totally replace your debit or credit card with it. Apple regularly works with banks and credit unions across the country to add Apple Pay support and now nearly all banks are supported. But readers often tell us that they want to hear about new businesses accepting Apple Pay too.
Flipping that switch is a much bigger task for businesses — it involves replacing payment terminals for one — but some businesses have contactless-ready terminals and block Apple Pay or have chip reader terminals that don’t work with contactless payments.
I posed this question on Twitter yesterday: What are the top three places where you’d want to see Apple Pay accepted if you could flip a switch? The responses were very helpful in understanding where the biggest opportunities for Apple Pay adoption exist.
The first four were the most popular responses by far with the other results getting a mention or two:
- Regional grocery store chains
- Gas stations at the pump
- Local shops
- Laundry machines
- Bus fare
- Restaurants (split billing, tips, kiosks on tablets, all sit down restaurants)
- Doctor’s offices
- In-N-Out Burger
- Parking meters
- Vending machines
At least one person responded to say that they’re still waiting for their US bank to support Apple Pay, and people in Spain and Germany said they just want support in their countries. Several people in Canada responded to say the question didn’t really apply to them because Apple Pay is generally accepted everything.
I agree with all of the responses above plus the people who said generally anywhere cash is accepted or where credit card readers are available. Solutions like Square’s contactless card reader (and competitors) help make that possible for almost any business. I would also add drive-thrus to the list: plenty of Apple Pay fast food chains don’t properly support drive-thru windows.
Let’s look at a few items on the list starting with gas stations. Chevron has said it is planning to accept Apple Pay at the pump but I can report that this hasn’t extended to my neck of the woods yet. Texaco under Chevron is also listed as an Apple Pay partner, but my suspicion is that some of these terminals are found inside and not at the pump. Paying for gas with a card is more convenient for filling up since you don’t know how much to pay ahead of time, and going inside is only really necessary with cash.
The only way I’ve been able to Apple Pay for gas in my area is with the Exxon Mobil Speedpass+ app. It’s a bit of a hack: you Apple Pay in the app then fuel up rather than wave your iPhone or Apple Watch by a terminal but it works. It’s just not worth driving out of your way for if you don’t live near a station.
Sit down restaurants can accept Apple Pay, which is way more ideal than handing a stranger your debit or credit card to walk away with and swipe. But this is currently limited to select OpenTable restaurants in certain regions.
The current list of regions is longer than two years ago but only includes specific restaurants in Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, New England, New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Portland, Houston, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Miami, Baltimore, Dallas, Salt Lake City, Nashville, Detroit, Louisville, Minneapolis, and Central Coast (California). I’m an Apple Pay advocate and dine out often but I’ve never been to one of these restaurants by chance.
It’s possible for vending machines and ATMs to work with Apple Pay. Chase and Bank of America already have Apple Pay ATMs that let you withdraw cash with your iPhone or Apple Watch rather than your debit card. (I’ve never seen one personally except on Twitter.) We heard about Apple Pay vending machines and parking spots two years ago but it’s clear replacing hardware takes a while. I’ve seen Coke vending machines with contactless payments and their loyalty card works with Apple Pay.
Doctor’s offices are also a great suggestion. Medical billing for me usually involves passing back a credit card over the counter, but I’m sure there are some offices that accept Apple Pay. I’d love an office that accepts Apple Pay and shares medical records for importing into the Health app.
Target topped our list for specific businesses, only second to generic regional grocery stores, and it’s a curious case. Target has accepted Apple Pay in its app since day one and accepts chip debit and credit cards in stores, but Apple Pay is not an option when shopping in person. Their CEO expressed interest before the 2015 holiday season, but there hasn’t been any news since then. We’ve reached out for a current comment and will update if we hear back.
CVS has the contactless payment hardware in place but goes out-of-the-way to not accept Apple Pay. This was initially because of CurrentC, a competing mobile payment service that fizzled out before launch, and now has more to do with CVS Pay. 9to5Mac asked CVS about the current state of Apple Pay at their stores and received this statement:
We currently do not offer Apple Pay. Today we announced the rollout of our CVS Pay solution chainwide and right now we focused on creating the best customer shopping experience and building loyalty within our own Mobile App. With CVS Pay, our customers get more than just payment functionality: they get a convenient and integrated experience that simplifies the entire checkout experience, from picking up their prescription to earning ExtraCare deals. We will continue to evaluate all potential Mobile Payment solutions that would be able to provide a great shopping experience for our customers.
Walmart doesn’t actively block Apple Pay but similarly provides their own mobile payment service that requires an app, Walmart Pay. When asked about supporting Apple Pay in stores, Walmart replied that they are open to a solution that could work similar to Exxon Mobile Speedpass+ but not straight forward Apple Pay:
We made a strategic decision to design Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type – even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. We are currently evaluating several mobile wallets we could potentially integrate into Walmart Pay in the future.
The thing for me is this: my local grocery store may have higher prices than Walmart (I’m not comparing but this is probably true), but I’ll go to my grocery store over Walmart whenever possible just to use Apple Pay. The same is true for Walgreens or Rite-Aid over CVS.
Hopefully when we revisit this topic in another year, the list continues to shrink even more.
I’ll wrap up with a few resources for businesses that don’t accept Apple Pay yet but would consider it. Square Contactless is an affordable card reader that works with Apple Pay, Android Pay, and chip cards and financing options are available to make deploying easier. I did a quick hands-on demo earlier this year to try it in action. I’ve since seen it used in at least two local businesses.
Apple also has resources for businesses and Apple Pay:
- About Apple Pay for merchants
- Apple Pay glass and register decals
- Apple Pay feedback for merchants, developers, and customers
- Add Apple Pay to your Maps listing
Finally, if you’re looking for more places to use Apple Pay, my recommendation is first look for the contactless symbol or Apple Pay logo, or just ask if Apple Pay is available. Apple also has a website (apple.com/apple-pay/where-to-use/) that lists specific partners, and you can search Apple Maps for businesses that accept Apple Pay by looking at their business listing. The local ice cream shop I mentioned that uses Square now lists ‘Accepts Apple Pay’ on their listing (and you can use Report an Issue on the listing to tell Apple about businesses that should have it added).