Published in: Credit Cards | May 21, 2019

Is Apple Pay Safe to Use?

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Apple Pay might be the most widely-adopted mobile payment application, but is it safe?

Person in supermarket holding phone up with screen displaying mobile wallet and pay option.

Image source: Getty Images

Apple Pay is arguably the most widely-adopted mobile payment app, and it’s projected to continue dominating the market. The app is expected to account for 50% of contactless mobile wallet users by 2020.

With its growing popularity, consumers are finally starting to jump on board the contactless payment revolution. However, some hesitancy still lingers when it comes to mobile wallets -- likely because many consumers fear they aren’t secure enough.

What is Apple Pay and how does it work?

Apple Pay allows you to make purchases in stores and online by using your Apple devices instead of using cash or a physical credit or debit card. Simply enter your card information into Apple Wallet. When you get ready to make a purchase, use Apple Pay to expedite your checkout process by eliminating the need to swipe your card or set up an account online.

Depending on your phone model, you may also need to hold your finger over Touch ID, use facial recognition, or enter a passcode. Other than that, you shouldn’t need any additional steps -- you don’t even need to open an app! Keep in mind that Apple Pay isn’t accepted universally, but it will work at any merchant on the growing list of retailers who accept Apple Pay.

As a bonus feature, you can also send and receive money directly through your messages. This is great for transferring funds to friends and family without incurring any extra fees.

Why Apple Pay might be safer than using your card

Despite the ease of use, you might still worry that using a mobile wallet like Apple Pay won’t protect you from credit card fraud. While having your credit card information stored on your phone might feel vulnerable, in reality it’s probably safer than using your physical card.

Unlike traditional online payment terminals that store your credit card information, Apple does not store any financial information directly on your devices or on their servers when you use Apple Pay. In fact, Apple doesn’t even have access to your card information. It’s only communicated between the card and the payment terminal when you make a purchase. The only information stored on your phone is your unique Device Account Number, which is encrypted and serves as an alias to protect you.

So, how does this actually play out to keep your finances safe? Let’s look at the case of stolen cards. If someone steals your physical credit card, they can use it immediately and often won’t be questioned even if it’s used in person. However, if you choose to make purchases with Apple Pay and your phone is stolen, the thief won’t be able to access your mobile payment information. It will be shielded by a number of protections, including a password and biometric authentication such as your fingerprint.

That being said, if a thief got ahold of your credit card information some other way, they could still add it to an Apple Pay account and begin spending in-store until you notice and take action. This isn’t a flaw with Apple Pay’s system, but more so with banks not verifying cards that have been added to mobile payment systems. Luckily, the best credit cards offer zero liability fraud protection.

How to avoid fraud while using Apple Pay

Apple Pay appears to be a safer alternative than traditional plastic credit cards, with Apple taking extra security measures to protect both your privacy and your financial information. There are still additional steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Never share your Apple ID and password with anyone and be sure not to repeat passwords from other accounts. Opt into two-factor authentication to unlock your phone, such as a passcode and fingerprint. This decreases the odds that someone will be able to access your sensitive information if they get ahold of your phone.

Don’t forget to set up the “Find My iPhone” feature so you can easily locate your phone if it is ever lost or stolen and disable Apple Pay to remove your financial information remotely. Finally, make sure you only add your credit and debit card information to your mobile wallet when you are connected to your own password-protected private Wi-Fi network. Never use public Wi-Fi as this can open you up to hackers.

Apple Pay is a great alternative to the traditional payment system. However, no payment method is entirely secure, so it’s up to you to take some important precautions.

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