Apple’s iOS 8.1 was released to the public early Monday. Among a host of improvements over the 8.0 release from September is the activation of the new Apple Pay system of wireless payments for users of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Why Apple Pay Matters
We previously discussed why we are excited about Apple Pay. In short, different credit cards offer different category bonuses, and one of the best ways to maximize your miles and points-earning potential is to use the right card for the right purchase on your everyday spending.
For example, three Chase cards provide a great example of why juggling cards can result in higher earnings. Chase Sapphire Preferred card earns 2x points on dining and travel, while Chase Ink Plus earns 5x points on office supplies and telecom purchases and 2x points on gas station purchases and hotel stays. Chase Freedom, meanwhile, earns 5x points on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter in rotating categories. This quarter, for example, purchases at department stores and on Amazon.com earn 5% back.
These cards all earn Ultimate Rewards points, and points earned across all three cards can be combined and freely transferred to some of the very best air and hotel programs worldwide.
In theory, many people may know using certain cards in certain situations can maximize their earnings potential, whether they’re aiming to earn miles for a future trip or simply the most cash-back. Juggling cards can be a hassle, though.
I typically carry 4-6 credit cards in my wallet to maximize my points-earning wherever I go, and another couple just for benefits while traveling, like the American Express Platinum and Citi Executive AAdvantage card. That means lugging around a thick wallet, sifting through cards at checkout and facing an awful lot of pain and trouble with cancelled cards if I ever happen to lose my wallet.
As more merchants join the program, Apple Pay will allow you to leave those cards at home but still earn the highest bonuses on your everyday purchases. Rather than sorting through a pile of cards, you’ll simply have to tap the one you want on screen and then scan your fingerprint on the iPhone’s built-in fingerprint sensor. You can have all of your cards with you, with none of the hassle! I look forward to carrying just one or two cards for merchants that don’t accept Apple Pay and in case my phone’s battery is ever depleted, knowing I’ll still earn maximum travel most of the time.
Setting Up Apple Pay
Once iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users have installed the iOS 8.1 update, they may begin adding cards to their account by tapping on Passbook. Simply scroll up a bit within this app and you’ll see a + icon appear. Next, you’ll be given the option to add new credit or debit cards to Apple Pay:
Selecting this option, Apple will give you the option to add your card on file with iTunes or to add a different card. I added cards from scratch:
Next, you’ll be presented with a screen to capture your card’s information. Before filling these fields out, try using the camera feature, which can scan the front of your card. This feature is impressively accurate, and can successfully add not just your card number, but also your name as written on the card and your card’s expiration date in many cases.
You’ll always need to type in the security code separately, and can add or correct any information the camera failed to scan properly before continuing.
American Express and Apple Pay
I was able to add three different American Express cards without a hitch. This included a personal Blue Cash Everyday card, a personal Starwood Preferred Group card and a Business Platinum Card. Each requires you to agree to some terms and conditions from the card issuer.
After accepting the T&Cs, each card briefly entered an automatic verification stage after being added. Within 30 seconds or so, I received a push notification letting me know the card was now available for use.
Once added, the details page for each card shows your most recent transactions (this can be turned off if you’d like). Unique for now to American Express cards is an extra line of relevant information. For example, a Blue Cash Everyday card invited me to check out the latest Amex Offers. Pressing “Tap For Details” took me to the Amex app automatically to learn more.
Chase and Apple Pay
I tried adding my Chase cards next, starting with my Chase Freedom card. This time, an extra step of validation was required.
Chase emailed me a security code; once inputted, the card became available for use. You may also choose to receive a text or call, or call Chase yourself in order to complete activation.
I next tried to add my Ink Bold, Ink Plus and Amazon.com Visa cards. I was disappointed to find that none of these could be added to Apple Pay, each presenting this error message:
It looks like only Chase personal cards are presently compatible with Apple Pay, meaning business cards like Ink are still out of the picture. Word is that Amazon has explicitly opted not to have their card participate in Apple Pay (UPDATE:Amazon.com Visa cards by Chase now work with Apple Pay!), but Southwest, United, Hyatt and Marriott cards are compatible, among many others. Here’s a full list of Apple Pay-compatible Chase cards.
Barclaycard and Apple Pay
I tried adding my Barclaycard Arrival+ next. Barclaycard is presently listed on Apple’s website as “Coming Soon”, so I wasn’t surprised to receive the same error message I’d seen from Chase with this card. Hopefully “soon” means very soon, as I love earning 2x points on all purchases with the card.
Citicard and Apple Pay
Adding my Citi AAdvantage Platinum MasterCard to Apple Pay was dead simple, not even requiring an activation code.
My Citi Executive AAdvantage card, however, requested an activation code and provided options to have one sent to me by text or automated call, or for me to call in to have the card activated by a representative. The text option didn’t seem to work, so I tried the automated phone option next. After a few minutes, I hadn’t received a call, so I tried calling Citi. After 10 minutes on hold, I gave up for the time being.
It seems obvious Citi’s servers are overwhelmed with new activations, so I’ll just try back on this one in a day or two. Technical hitches aside, I was happy to see my cards could be added right away; checking back for the activation code will require only a tap since the card data is already in Apple Pay at this point.
Now that my cards are added to Apple Pay, the next step will be trying the service out. That will likely mean a trip to McDonald’s, Walgreens, Toys R Us or one of the many other national retailers offering support on day one. It appears up to 8 cards can be added to Apple Pay at a time, which should be more than enough for even the wildest points-and-miles earners out there.
The key for Apple Pay now will be to reach as many retail settings as possible, as quickly as possible. The card-issuing banks seem to be moving in lockstep on this issue with Apple, as they realize the security offered by Apple Pay as opposed to traditional cards can prove to be a big money-saver, even if they give a small sliver of each purchase to Apple. That’ll mean lower costs for them and more convenience for us. Best of all, though, will be the opportunity to earn points and miles more easily!