Apple Pay is now available in Canada. That’s a line I’ve wanted to write for over a year, and now it’s real.
The biggest tech company in the world’s move into mobile payments isn’t without its caveats, but even in its limited reach, Apple Pay will have a halo effect on the rest of the Canadian payments industry.
Partnering with American Express, primarily because it operates as both a bank and a credit card issuer in Canada, Apple Pay is a deceptively simple way to pay both in-store at an touchless NFC-based terminal, or in an app such as Domino’s or Uber.
Similar in theory to existing mobile payment systems from other financial institutions like RBC and TD Canada Trust, Apple Pay utilizes a number of burgeoning payment standards, from tokenization to unique device identification, to reinforce transaction efficacy. And like Android Pay and Samsung Pay, neither yet operational in Canada, Apple Pay works with the iPhone’s native fingerprint functionality to add a second layer of security while expediting the payment itself.
Adding a valid American Express credit card to the iPhone is easy, and starting today the option to do so will be available right in the Wallet app, which primarily stores loyalty cards and event tickets. The credentials themselves are randomized within the iPhone’s Secure Enclave, which lives independently inside the iPhone 6 and 6s series, utilizing its own memory and number randomizer, unable to share data with the core A8 or A9 chip.
Beginning today, Apple Pay will work in a number of well-known Canadian quick service stores, including Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, Staples, Indigo, Petro-Canada, On The Go (Esso), and anywhere both AMEX and touchless payments are accepted. Initiating Apple Pay is simple: Either double-tap the home button to bring up a list of credit cards (if there is more than one); or bring the phone close to a supported payment terminal in-store, which kicks the NFC chip into gear and prompts the user to authenticate using his or her fingerprint.
Because American Express has determined that the chip-and-pin (EMV) infrastructure is so secure in Canada, the typical tap-to-pay limit of $100 associated with plastic credit cards has been lifted for Apple Pay users; they can make purchases based on their credit card limit, or in the case of an AMEX Charge Card, merely the amount of the transaction.
Apple Pay is also supported on the Apple Watch. The credentials must be added separately from the main iPhone, since Apple doesn’t share any of the card’s credentials between the device. While the information must be entered through the Watch app on the phone, the Watch itself has, like the iPhone itself, a Secure Element that both facilitates the randomization of the card’s numbers and the unique transaction codes for each payment.
Accessing Apple Pay involves double-tapping the bottom button on the Watch’s side, which brings up a list of cards. Holding the watch face close to the terminal initiates the purchase, and because the credentials are localized, neither an iPhone nor an active cell or WiFi connection is necessary to complete a payment from the Watch.
Finally, Apple Pay is also support inside select apps, many of which have been updated to work with the Canadian variant. Companies like Starbucks, Domino’s, Kickstarter, Uber, Priceline, Beyond the Rack, LivingSocial, GroupOn, Hotel Tonight and 1-800-FLOWERS are available at launch, with others coming soon.
Apple says that no update is necessary to add a compatible American Express card to the Wallet app. Starting today, it will prompt users to add a card and begin making touchless payments.
It’s unclear when Apple will reach a deal with the major Canadian financial institutions to add Visa and MasterCard (and other bank-issued American Express) cards, but this is a necessary first step in gauging interest in the platform, and to help convince Canadians that, amongst our established and mature payment ecosystem, there are sounds reasons to prefer the speed, convenience and additional security native to mobile payments.