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Five things to know about using Apple Pay in Canada

A customer uses an Apple Inc. iPhone to pay via the Apple Pay system in this file photo.

Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Apple Pay wants to make your wallet irrelevant, and it gained a few more allies in that effort. On Wednesday, TD and Scotiabank went live with Apple Pay for their credit and debit cards. As well, BMO said the system will now work with its debit cards.

How many people can use it now?

Until today, Canadians could not use their bank cards or bank-issued credit cards with Apple Pay. The service was only available to about 4 million American Express cardholders since October.

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Royal Bank of Canada and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce bank customers can now add their bank-issued debit or credit cards. ATB Financial and Canadian Tire Financial customers can add their credit cards too. TD Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia and Bank of Montreal are reportedly weeks away from joining Apple Pay. CIBC's PC Financial sub-brand apparently has "no timing" on being added.

There are 28.5 million adults with Interac debit cards issued by Canada's banks, and about 70 million credit cards. But only about 38 per cent of Canadian smartphone users have iPhones, and among them only some are Apple Pay ready (guessing from the global trends, a significant number are likely too old).

I have one of those cards! What can I do today I couldn't do yesterday?

Fun fact: If you already have an NFC enabled "tap to pay" credit or debit card, that simple piece of plastic can already do everything at a retailer's point of sale (that accepts tap payments on their credit/debit card machine) that Apple Pay can. As an added security feature, Apple Pay only works on payments under $100 (anything over that, you have to enter a separate PIN).

Where Apple Pay adds function is in security: your iPhone needs to read your fingerprint in order for a tap transaction to process. Right now, anyone who might have grabbed your NFC-enabled credit card could tap your money away without having to prove their identity. With Apple Pay, a virtual credit card number is created so if you lose your phone you don't have to cancel your credit card; it can just be deactivated remotely.

Instead of entering your credit card details on your smartphone, you can also use Apple Pay on some apps that support digital purchases. There are reports Apple is getting ready to add its payment services to e-commerce websites, too.

Does my i-Device have Apple Pay?

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The following devices work at physical retail locations out of the box: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone SE. Apple Pay is also on iPad Pro, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 but lacks tap to pay, so you're limited to in-app purchases. You can also use the Watch for Apple Pay, which means you don't need your phone on you to buy stuff.

Sign me up! How do I do it?

In Settings, under Wallet & Apple Pay there is a link: "Add Credit or Debit Card". Clicking on that shows you a commercial for why this is a good idea (which warns "Apple may use anonymous data location to improve its services"), and then hitting Next activates your camera and a credit-card shaped window. Line up your card with that window and it will read the numbers on it (you can also just use a keypad). Then once you do the usual expiration date and security code routine, you have added a card to Apple Pay. It will then ask if it can "Access your location while you use the app?" which it says will be used to show "relevant passes" and "identify store locations." Apple Pay will still work without this extra layer of tracking data, but it's entirely your choice to trust them with it.

What happens if it doesn't read my fingerprint?

This actually happens fairly often. The Apple ID sensor has trouble reading fingerprints of wet, sticky or filthy fingers. But according to Apple Support, there are other times you will need to re-enter your passcode to get Apple Pay to work:

  • If you've just restarted your device
  • If your fingerprint isn't recognized five times in a row
  • If you haven't unlocked your device in more than 48 hours
  • If you've just enrolled or deleted fingerprints
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