Apple Pay and Apple Cash Review: How to Use, Set Up, and Fees

Written by Jordan BlansitUpdated: 29th Sep 2021
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Apple Pay and Apple Cash are a pair of linked digital services that can help streamline your financial needs.

While one lives in your Wallet, the other lives in Messages, allowing you to pay your bills securely and instantly or send and receive money with no additional downloads needed.

Of course, as Apple services, you do need Apple products to use them – and perhaps our handy-dandy guide to understanding them.

Apple Pay Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Free and easy to use
  • Robust security features
  • Bundled within Wallet app
  • Compatible with most major card issuers, regional banks, and credit unions

Cons:

  • Only available on iOS devices
  • 3% fee for all credit card purchases
  • Not all merchants support contactless technology

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is the contactless payment technology that drives your Apple Wallet. It uses your Apple products’ secure technology to pay for products at physical retail locations, online, and in-app.

The company bills it as a way to replace physical cash and cards with an “easier, safer, more secure, and private payment method.”

Apple Pay supports most major debit and credit cards provided by the big three card companies: Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

Moreover, it works with federal payment (debit) cards for Social Security and veterans’ benefits, among others.

And because it requires Touch ID, Face ID, or your passcode (or PIN activation on your Apple Watch), it’s more secure than waving around a piece of plastic in the grocery store, on the subway, or even when paying for a taxi.

How Does Apple Pay Work?

On your mobile devices, Apple Pay uses Near Field Communication technology to facilitate your device’s interaction with NFC-enabled payment terminals.

In other words, when your device is close enough to the POS system (or when you initiate an online transaction), Apple Wallet pulls up your card data to pay for your purchases – without requiring you to unlock your phone.

But before you can “Tap to Pay,” you have to make sure your card details are in order.

Fortunately, setting up Apple Pay is simple – in fact, it only takes four steps:

  • Open your Wallet app
  • Tap “+”
  • Scan your card or enter your details manually
  • Follow any bank-initiated instructions to confirm

If you add more than one card, you might want to set up a default card. To do this, just go to “Wallet & Apple Pay” in your device settings and select a new default card under the header “Transaction Defaults.”

Separately, you can use Apple “Express Travel Card” feature to select a default card for public transportation payments.

Then, it’s off to spend your hard-earned money anywhere that accepts Apple Pay – once you know how to initiate a payment, that is.

How to Use Apple Pay

Fortunately, this process is simple, too. Simply go to any merchant that offers contactless payment options and launch your Apple Pay feature in one of three easy ways.

If you have Touch ID:

  • Rest your finger on Touch ID
  • Hold the top of your phone near the contactless terminal until the display reads “Done”

If you use Face ID:

  • Double-click the lock button
  • Enter your passcode or use your face to authenticate Face ID
  • Hold the top of your phone near the contactless terminal until the display reads “Done”

If you use Apple Watch:

  • Double-click the side button
  • Hold your Apple Watch display near the contactless reader
  • Wait until you feel a tap

But keep in mind that these methods work to activate your default card.

If you want to use a different card without opening your Apple Wallet in-store, you can switch by swiping left or right with Apple Watch or tapping the card image to select another on your phone.

Moreover, some merchants may still require you to enter a PIN. In that case, just enter “0000” and continue with the transaction as usual.

Your receipt will automatically record in your Wallet app.

Apple Pay Features and Benefits

Easy Setup Process

Setting up Apple Pay takes just moments. All you need is an Apple device logged into your iCloud account, your Wallet app, and the debit or credit card you want to add.

From there, you can customize options such as your primary card, Travel Express default options, and more.

Robust Security and Privacy

One of Apple’s hallmarks is the security of their network and products, and Apple Pay’s series of security features is no different.

To start, Apple does not store your card data on your device or on Apple servers. Instead, Apple “tokenizes” your details into a string of letters and numbers, rendering your data unreadable.

And when it comes time to pay, Apple uses a device-specific number and unique transaction code to process every purchase – without sending your data to merchants.

Plus, they don’t keep any identifying transaction data, adding an extra layer of privacy and anonymity.

Secondly, all transactions require a verified user’s preauthorized fingerprint, Face ID, or phone passcode. In theory, this renders Apple Pay unusable in the event that your device is stolen.

For Apple Watch users, the system requires you to set up a unique PIN to access your Wallet.

Every time you remove your watch and put it back on, you have to re-enter your PIN to use Apple Pay.

And lastly, if your device is stolen, you can remotely deactivate your Apple Pay accounts.

85% of U.S. Retailers Accept Apple Pay

Contactless technology has been growing in popularity for several years now, with 85% of retailers in the United States and the U.K. now supporting Apple Pay.

Touchless Payments

Another benefit of Apple Pay’s contactless technology is the ability to make payments hands-free (except for the hand holding your phone, of course).

All you have to do is hold your device near an NFC-enabled payment terminal and verify your identity with your fingerprint or Face ID.

That said, some vendors do require a PIN or signature, even with touchless technology.

Is There a Monthly Fee for Apple Pay?

Nope! Apple Pay is completely free when you use debit cards or your Apple Cash balance. That said, Apple Pay does charge a 3% fee for credit card purchases.

Apple Cash Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • No fee to send, receive or request money using standard delivery
  • FDIC insured through Green Dot Bank
  • Send up to $10,000 per transaction and transfer up to $20,000 per week via your debit card or bank account

Cons:

  • Available only on iOS
  • 1% fee (minimum 25 cents, maximum $10) for instant transfers
  • Minimum $10 to fund your balance
  • Transaction and weekly balance and purchase limits apply

What is Apple Cash?

If Apple Pay is the mechanism that makes your Apple Wallet work, then Apple Cash is the prepaid debit card that comes included.

This service is automatically built into your Apple Pay platform to let you send, receive, and request money directly from your Messages app, or pay for online or in-store transactions.

Bear in mind that, as another Apple service, you have to have an Apple product to make use of this service.

Additionally, you must be a U.S. citizen of at least 18 years with a valid iCloud account.

How Does Apple Cash Work?

Apple Cash is a virtual “debit card” that lives in your Apple Wallet.

You can fund your card by transferring money from a debit or prepaid card, or by depositing any Daily Cash earned on your Apple Credit Carddirectly into your account.

Plus, any money sent by your contacts will automatically deposit onto your Apple Cash card.

Once you’re rolling in dough, it’s time to spend your cash anywhere that accepts Apple Pay – or use your balance to pay friends and family directly in Messages.

Note that while Apple Cash is used to support credit cards for Message payments, that feature is no longer active.

Apple Cash Features and Benefits

Easily Send Money in Your Messages App

Using Messages to facilitate friends and family transactions is one of the primary benefits of Apple Cash.

You can set Apple Cash up in your Wallet or after the first time someone sends you cash via Messages.

Once the transfer has been initiated, you have seven days to accept the funds, as well as the terms and conditions.

After that, any payments sent your way are automatically accepted. (You can revert back to manual acceptance in settings if you wish.)

To send or request money through Apple Cash:

  • Open or initiate a conversation with your intended recipient or sender
  • Find the “Apple Pay” button in the app drawer below the messages box
  • Enter the amount you want to send or receive
  • Send your message

Then, your recipient can choose to go through with the payment by confirming their identity.

Fast & Easy Money Transfers

Once you have Apple Cash set up, you can send and receive funds in Messages with a couple of taps, or by using your voice-activated Siri to send money to your contacts.

From there, the money is stored in your Apple Cash card, or you can transfer it to your bank or debit card in one to three days.

Family Options Available

If you have a Family Sharing group set up, the Family Organizer can add any children or teenagers under the age of 18 to their Apple Cash account.

The family plan comes with plenty of parental controls, so you can limit who can send and receive funds, receive notifications when your child makes a transaction, and even remotely lock their account.

What’s the Difference Between Apple Pay and Apple Cash?

Essentially, Apple Pay powers Apple Cash. Apple Pay works as a payment system that allows you to use the cards saved in your wallet for transactions.

On the other hand, Apple Cash is a virtual, prepaid debit card that lives in your Apple Wallet and can be used via Apple Pay or your Messages app.

How Do Apple Pay and Apple Cash Compare to Other Services?

#1. Apple Pay vs. Cash App

Cash App is a financial payment app that lets you use your credit and debit cards to make transactions and send money to friends and family.

You can also load your Cash App balance from your bank account.

Once your account is fully verified, you can send up to $7,500 per transaction, though you’ll have to pay a 3% fee on all credit card transactions.

#2. Venmo vs. Apple Pay

Venmo is a PayPal-owned financial service that lets you send up to $4,999.99 per transfer (and per week) with a verified account.

Like Apple Pay, you’ll incur a 3% fee for all credit card transactions, but debit and prepaid card purchases, and transfers are completely free.

And unlike Apple Pay, Venmo is available on multiple operating systems.

#3. PayPal vs. Apple Pay

PayPal is another money transfer service available on both Android and iOS devices that lets you send money for free between friends and family via your bank account or cash balance.

That said, PayPal charges 2.9% plus 30 cents to send money using your debit or credit card or PayPal Credit line, and bank transfers take up to five days, rather than free.

However, it has an incredibly high transaction limit of up to $60,000 with no weekly maximums.

#4. Apple Pay vs. Zelle

Zelle is a peer-to-peer money transfer service often offered through banks or credit unions.

With Zelle, you can transfer money instantly with a linked bank account, or up to three days if your bank doesn’t partner with this service.

And while there are no fees involved, you can’t link a credit card, thereby limiting your payment options.

Apple Pay and Apple Cash FAQs

Is Apple Pay Worth It?

As a free service accepted at a large percentage of online and brick-and-mortar retailers, Apple Pay is often worth it for those who enjoy the convenience and built-in security.

That said, if you use credit cards, you may be better off swiping your plastic and avoiding the 3% charge.

Is Apple Pay Safe to Use?

Apple doesn’t save card numbers or transaction details on their servers, and the tokenized backend structure makes your details unreadable.

And once your card details are properly encrypted, your information is securely stored in a dedicated chip found in Apple products.

In other words: yes, Apple is just as safe as a debit card or bank transfer – if not more so.

What’s Better, Apple Pay or Venmo?

Apple Pay and Venmo are similar services in many aspects. That said, Venmo is available on multiple operating systems, while Apple Pay is limited to Apple products.

On the other hand, Apple Pay has a higher daily and weekly send cap than Venmo.

Is Apple Cash Worth It?

Apple Cash is a “debit card” linked to your Apple Wallet. It’s a convenient way to send and receive funds amongst Apple users, and you can even use your balance to cover in-store and online payments.

Since it costs nothing to use, it can be worth it – especially if you have an Apple credit card that deposits Daily Cash in your wallet.

Is Apple Cash Safe to Use?

Apple Cash is protected by Apple’s industry-leading encryption and security programs. While no financial service is completely fraud-proof, Apple Cash is as close as they come.

Bottom Line: Apple Pay and Apple Cash Review

Apple Pay and Apple Cash are linked services that let you securely send and receive money to merchants, family and friends, and even your annoying roommate hassle-free.

While Apple Pay does charge a 3% fee on credit card transactions, the rest of its services are 100% free – and with contactless technology and top-notch encryption at your back, you can be sure that your details are safe and germ-free.

Jordan Blansit
Jordan Blansit

Jordan Blansit is a Senior Writer, Researcher, & Product Analyst for SimpleMoneyLyfe with an inexplicable predilection for mortgages, investing, and personal finance. When she’s not click-clacketing from the comfort of her living room, you can find her in the California Redwoods or Oregon Siskiyous. Jordan’s areas of expertise are mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, and investing.