Apple Pay adoption rate

Not to quibble, @ace, but that’s a 3 year old stat from before the pandemic. I did not find Apple Pay to be really useful until the spring of 2020, when my infrequent ventures out of the house to buy supplies were into an environment where we were being told that touching surfaces was a very risky proposition. Even though the science eventually deprecated that idea, using iPhone and (more cool IMO) Watch to make a payment without touching the terminal eased a lot of anxiety for me.

I suspect that Apple Pay has become more utilized in these past two years. The same “Digital Transactions” site reported 9 months ago that of 100 major retailers surveyed, 84 offered some kind of mobile-payment, and of those, 97 percent of them offered Apple Pay, versus 64 percent offering Google Pay and 59 percent Samsung Pay.

I know by itself that doesn’t mean much, and doesn’t directly respond to the old stat about iPhone users actually using Apple Pay, but it does appear to be true that if retailers are going to offer mobile payment at all, they feel compelled to offer Apple Pay front and center.

Who knows? Maybe as users we are more vocal about asking “Do you accept Apple Pay?” and less likely to accept that iPhones are a “niche market” (which of course they are not!).


No offense taken—I should have looked more carefully at the date or clarified my number. But you got me thinking, so I tried to find more up-to-date numbers. This site claims that Apple Pay usage at merchants that accept it actually dropped in 2021 from the high in 2017. Of course, there are more merchants, so overall usage is probably up, but still…

There are also a lot of stats here, but I can’t quite parse which of them might be interesting.

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Statistics like these can be maddening to tease out.

For instance, over the past few years far more cards have started integrating contactless/NFC tech and/or EMV chips. Although not quite as secure as Apple Pay (since it’s not a device-specific card number), these offer most of the same security. I suspect some people may prefer to tap/insert a card instead of unlocking and tapping a phone.


So I started to Google this, but I couldn’t find a simple, succinct summary page. Given the community knowledge present here, can someone summarize the differences between: Contactless Payment, Tap to Pay, Apple Pay, Chip/Swipe payment? And bonus points for indicating when (if ever) an Apple credit card is required, and how (by looking at indicators on the terminal) you know whether you can use your iPhone/Apple Watch or not? And finally, to keep this on topic, does Apple Pay compete with the other options, or with other payment methods such as Google Pay or Samsung Pay. I know that’s a big ask, so thanks in advance for the time it takes to reply!

There are liars, damned liars, and statisticians as Mark Twain once said…he was quoting British PM Benjamin Disraeli.

Not really picking on statisticians but as you probably realize you can pretty much prove anything with statistics depending on how you ask the questions or run the experiments or how you disregard data for various reasons.

You’re right though…figuring out whether a statistic or study is meaningful or biased or a self serving outcome is maddening because unless you go back to the original reference material (and not even then in some cases) it’s really hard to make a judgement. For instance…if the question was “have you ever done xyz”…then conclude that if 70 percent of the respondents said No that 70 percent disapprove of xyz is disingenuous…and figuring out the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say is hard.

I have to say that Apple Pay is becoming increasingly available over the past couple of years for us…back pre-pandemic…we traveled full time in the RV and waving your watch or phone at a payment terminal was uncommon enough so that it was novel. Since then…and I have no idea if it’s due to pandemic don’t touch equipment upgrades or just regular old advancement of technology upgrades or whatever it is much more ubiquitous. Just finished a trip from SW FL to IN/KY and back for 2 weeks and we paid cash exactly once in an Elks lodge. Everything else was either wave the watch at the terminal or use the same associated card…we use both as a bill consolidation service in our household.

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  • When credit cards were first invented, the card’s number (printed and embossed on the card) was the only mechanism to identify the corresponding account. Merchants would either write down the number or would use carbon paper (or NCR paper) to take an imprint of the number.

  • Later on, magnetic stripes were added. These allow electronic readers to work (so the merchant can immediately communicate with the bank for authorization), but they don’t add any security. When the card is swiped, it provides constant data to the reader, including the card number, your name, expiration date, service code and a verification code. Because the data on the stripe never changes, anyone with the information (e.g. someone running a card skimmer or someone who hacked the point-of-sale terminal) can easily create a duplicate stripe on another card. (See also Magnetic Stripe Card Definition).

  • With the introduction of cards with EMV chips, it became possible to make transactions more secure. When you insert a chip card into a reader, the chip’s processor has an active role in processing the transaction. The reader sends data to the chip, which processes it and sends back a cryptographically secure response. If the response is incorrect (as verified by your bank, I believe), the card is considered fraudulent and the transaction is blocked.

    Because the chip performs actual processing that involves encryption keys known only to the bank, someone monitoring the data flow to/from the card will not get enough data to be able to make a counterfeit chip.

  • Contactless payment is pretty much the same technology, but it uses wireless communication. The chip is connected to an NFC radio communication interface.

    When you tap the card against a reader device, a magnetic field in the reader induces a current in the antenna embedded in your card. This provides enough current to power the chip, which performs operations similar to what the EMV chip does when physically inserted into a chip reader.

  • Tap to Pay is a synonym for Contactless payment. It’s primarily a marketing term.

  • Apple Pay leverages the contactless payment technology. Instead of talking with the NFC chip in a card, the reader device communicates with an NFC radio in your phone. The processing is done by software on your phone (based on data installed by your bank when you register your card). As far as the merchant’s reader device is concerned, it is no different from a contactless card.

    Apple Pay is not the only tech using a phone’s NFC hardware to simulate a credit card’s EMV chip. Google Pay (but not the original Google Wallet service) and Samsung Pay behave similarly.

An Apple credit card should never be required for Apple Pay. It is a completely separate product, even though it is managed via the iOS Wallet app alongside your other credt, debit and merchant cards. The Apple credit card can (and IMO, should) be thought of as just another credit card.

As for looking at the terminal, Apple Pay should work anywhere contactless payments are supported. Most of the time, if you don’t see a sign explicitly saying “Apple Pay”, you should be able to see the EMV-standard contactless payment icon:

But there are exceptions. I’ve seen some stores that accept contactless card payments but not Apple Pay. As far as I can tell, the merchant (or its bank) needs to explicitly configure their system for this.


@Shamino Wow! Bravo! Beautiful piece of writing, and perfectly clear. Exactly what I wanted to know. Thanks! (Your “beers owed” tally is getting alarmingly high, btw). :smile:


I have, twice, had cases where Apple Pay failed in spite of signs promoting contactless payment and assurance from the cashier that they took Apple Pay. In both cases, they were shops that did not take American Express, and my Apple Pay is configured with an American Express card as the primary card. I have inferred from this massive and extensive field research (n=2, remember) that a merchant must both support Apple Pay and the card you have configured. Of course, it could have just been coincidence.

If the merchant doesn’t take cards issued by American Express, then they would not accept it using Apple Pay or any other method. If you had selected a card issued by another common issuer (Visa, Master Card), it probably would have been accepted. I use several different cards for Apple Pay, depending on rewards available for a particular class of merchant.

Note: American Express has a far smaller footprint than cards. I believe that is because their terms for many merchants are not as favorable as the other cards.

I also vaguely remember ads from several years ago from either MasterCard or Visa promoting their card because certain destinations did not accept the other.

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Which is as I would expect. Apple Pay is merely a vehicle for connecting your card’s account with the merchant’s account. If they don’t accept your card (e.g. American Express), then that’s that.

This is in contrast with services that are themselves credit card accounts. For instance, PayPal or the orignal (no longer used) Google Wallet. These services process the transaction and then proxy the payment on to your credit card, debit card or bank account. When you use these, the merchant gets payed by the service (PayPal, Google Wallet, etc.) and not directly by your card’s bank.

With Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay (and probably others), the merchant is payed by your card’s bank and not by Apple (or Google or Samsung).

Actually, Disraeli spoke of lies, damned lies and statistics.


Thank you. Most of that, I sort-of knew, but could not have explained well if at all.

That, I did not know. Thank you again.

Weirdly, and from what I can tell “only in some countries” (which includes ours), Apple Pay transactions tied to my bank debit card still require the actual PIN code of the underlying card 9 times out of 10. It may just be my bank and how they set up Apple Pay, but I think it means that my Apple Pay account “knows” my PIN, or else it is transmitted from the bank on the initial handshake so that the terminal can match it with what I punch in. It means I still need to touch the terminal, which I think is exceedingly dumb with all the encryption and “we never see your card number” technologies underlying the transaction.

The Olympics were Visa only in their ads. Costco only accepts Visa currently. I’m guessing they get really favorable terms for the exclusivity.

I believe the way that works is, Citi is the exclusive credit card supplier for Costco. Their card is on the Visa network, and Costco in general does not accept credit cards. (Cash, Debit Card, Gift Card…and Visa) In order to have a Costco-branded Citi Visa card, they have to accept any other Visa network cards that may be presented. The Costco card has a membership card and photo on the reverse.

Previously, they had an American Express Costco-branded card, so they only accepted AMEX cards in addition to the other forms of tender (which you’ll notice are all cash, one way or another). My guess it was more expensive for processing, and those of us who had them used them in really disappointing ways from Costco’s point of view. (Like, not at all outside the store and I also avoided using it at the Costco gas pump because buying fuel on credit just seems wrong.)

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CitiGroup gave Costco customers a much better deal then AmEx:

It’s still not as good a deal as Apple’s Credit Card. But Costco doesn’t accept the Apple card.

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They do not. But their terminals now are touchless and accept Apple Pay. As noted above, the underlying payment method still needs to be one that Costco accepts.

I recall one of their checkout clerks telling me when new terminals were installed (pre-pandemic) that they were supposed to work with devices like iPhones and Watches, but “Costco is too cheap” to activate the feature. They changed their minds when touchless became an essential feature instead of a novelty, and also installed touchless panels on their gas pumps.

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The Apple Card is on the MasterCard network, not Visa. So this shouldn’t be a surprise.

I think “one of their checkout clerks” was repeating rumors without any facts.

I have been using Apple Pay at Costco since the hardware was installed (first with an AmEx card, and today with a Visa card). If it wasn’t working for you at some point in the past, then it was a system error that was since fixed, not a deliberate decision by the company. (Or maybe my local warehouse was a beta-test site for the feature.)

The contactless readers on the gas pumps, on the other hand, did take a year or two to go live after they were physically installed. But that was the case for all cards, not just Apple Pay. Today, it works with everything you throw at it.

And even cooler, if you have a Costco Visa card, one tap is sufficient to both provide your member ID and your payment information. With any other payment device, you need to provide your Costco membership ID (by swiping the card) and then afterward swipe/insert/tap your payment device.

Out of curiousity – does this work if you have the Costco Visa card set up in Apple Pay and you pay via Apple Pay? Or do the privacy protections of Apple Pay prevent Costco from verifying your membership when you use Apple Pay, even if it’s pointing to a Costco Visa?


I’ve never tried that. I assume it won’t work. The signage on the pump says that in order to use Apple Pay, you need to swipe your membership card first and then tap the phone.

You can also swipe (but not tap) your Costco Visa to verify membership prior to paying with another card/device.

This tells me that the Costco Visa card is providing two different account numbers. Your Costco ID and your Citibank Visa account number.

Can Apple Pay provide both? Good question. Citibank would need to provide both numbers as a part of the card registration process and the Apple Pay system would need support, but it should be technically possible.

I’ll have to give this a try the next time I go to get gas.