Update March 28: Now with fuller details on how to use Apple Pay, for instance on Apple Watch, plus setting up and using Apple Pay Express Transit.

Right now, contactless isn’t just the word for tapping to pay with your credit card – it’s the perfect description of how we need to be living our lives curing the coronavirus pandemic. And contactless is better than putting your card into the card machine and picking up a stylus to scribble on the touchscreen or even tap on a heavily-used keypad.

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There’s a reason why cash is called filthy lucre and it’s taken on a new meaning these days. Those dollar bills in your wallet. Whose wallet were they in before? Who touched them? Cash really isn’t that clean.

No, mobile payments is the answer. Take your card or phone or Watch and tap it on the card reader and you’re done. You can keep those surgical gloves on the whole time and keep your distance from the cashier.

Contactless payments really are the future. For instance, in the U.K. the banking system has just expedited an upgrade so that people can use contactless more, by increasing the maximum card payment amount from £30 ($35.35) to £45 ($53). Note that with Apple Pay, many retailers worldwide have already lifted such limits anyway – a sign of just how secure Apple Pay really is.

It’s not just cleaner, though it’s certainly that, it’s also faster and more efficient.

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple Pay and other mobile payment systems. How to set it up and how to use it.

Apple Pay: How to set it up

On your iPhone, look for the Wallet app icon. Open it and press the + sign in the top right corner and it’ll take you through to a screen showing the Apple Pay logo and introduction. You can now add one of your physical credit or debit cards to Apple Pay by holding it in front of your iPhone camera so it can capture the card details. The app will now contact your bank – note that not all bank cards are compatible with Apple Pay. But if yours is, you have now created a contactless card payment system in your iPhone even, get this, if the physical card doesn’t have contactless capabilities.

Repeat the same process for more cards – you can add lots if you’d like.

If you have an Apple Watch, when you set this up you’ll be encouraged to add your cards to your Watch as well.

Note that card issuers have limits to how many devices your cards can be on, so it’s worth keeping track: when you replace your iPhone you may need to delete the card from your old phone.

Apple Pay: How to use it on the iPhone and Apple Watch

For iPhones with Touch ID, you simply rest your finger on the Touch ID button, even if the phone is in standby mode. You don’t need to wake it. Hold the phone so the top of the iPhone is near the card reader. And that’s it. Don’t press for an extended period, that’ll wake Siri. It’s a common mistake. But it’s Touch ID, not Press ID, so rest your thumb or finger on the Home button, don’t press it in.

For iPhones with Face ID, things are even simpler: double-press the side button and the Apple Pay screen will leap into life. Make sure you’re looking at the display so the phone can recognize that it’s really you. Then hold the iPhone against the card reader to pay. If you have multiple cards in Apple Pay, then once you’ve done the double-press and waited for Face ID to recognize you, you can then switch between cards for the one you want.

For Apple Watch, the process is similar to Face ID: double-press the side button on the Watch and your default card will appear. You then have 60 seconds during which you hold it next to the card reader. You don’t need to authenticate with any other method because that authentication happens each time you put the Watch on your wrist.

You can swipe between the cards you have on your Watch if the default card isn’t the one you want right now. Note that if you are using it to pay on a public transit system where you have to tap out as well as in, you need to make sure to use the same card at both ends.

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Apple Pay Express Transit Set-up

Apple Pay Express Transit is a super-slick way to use Apple Pay on certain public transportation systems, such as the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority at select stations, and the entire London transport system, for instance.

In your iPhone Settings app, choose Wallet & Apple Pay. On the next screen, choose Express Travel Card, which will say None on the right-hand side. Then you’ll see your payment cards (or you can add one if none is there).

Tap on the card you want to use to pay for travel and authorize with Face ID or Touch ID as appropriate. And that’s it, you’re set up.

To set it up for your Apple Watch, you also use your iPhone. Open the Apple Watch app. On the My Watch tab, scroll down to Wallet & Apple Pay. Choose that option and Express Travel Card. Pick the card you want and authorize with Face ID or Touch ID. Done.

Apple Pay Express Transit: How to use

Right now, without Express Transit, you must wake your iPhone or Watch and validate that you want to make a payment. Neither process is arduous, but timing is important. Too late and people are waiting behind you, too soon and you risk it switching off again before you need it. When you pre-arm, it works for 60 seconds, which is usually enough, but not if there’s a surprise slowcoach ahead of you.

All these worries are behind you with Apple Pay Express Transit. Take the iPhone out of your pocket and touch it to the card reader. Or touch the Watch to the card reader. That’s it.

You don’t need to pre-arm or even to wake either screen. So long as it’s not actually turned off, it will work automatically.

No need to double-press the side button on the Watch or iPhone X (or later). No anxiety about 60 seconds. The Apple Pay Express Transit element is always ready.

Apple Pay Express Transit: Power reserve

This is very cool. On iPhones from 2018 and 2019, that is, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, there’s an extra feature called Power Reserve.

It means that if the battery on your phone is so flat that when you touch the screen all you see is the red battery image that tells you your iPhone won’t do anything until you charge it, that Power Reserve comes into action.

Even with the battery image on screen, and providing the iPhone is not actually switched off, you can still use Apple Pay Express Transit! This will be available for up to five hours after your iPhone has let you know it needs to be charged. You can even check this by pressing the side button to see if Express Transit cards are available (though, obviously, don’t keep checking this as it will deplete the Power Reserve).

Google Pay

If you have an Android phone, then Google Pay may be the virtual credit card system you prefer. On an Anroid phone such as the Google Pixel 4, for instance, you need to find the Google Pay app. You’ll see a screen which includes a box marked Set it up. Tap that. The camera will ask you to put the card you’d like to set up in direct view and, once the details are captured, it’ll contact your bank. A confirmation code will be sent and then you’re set. To use the phone to pay, press and hold the power button and the chosen credit card will leap into view. Hold near the card reader and you’re done. Or simply wake the phone and hold it to the card reader and the smartphone will do the rest.

Samsung Pay

If you have a Samsung phone – and, statistically, if you don’t have an iPhone, that’s quite likely – then Samsung Pay is another option. Among the apps you’ll find one called Samsung Pay. You need to sign in to your Samsung account, then follow similar steps as above to lock in your credit card or cards. In store, it’s slightly different to use Samsung Pay. Swipe up from the base of the screen and then confirm it’s you by touching the fingerprint sensor, for instance. Then hold the phone to the card reader.


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