Apple’s Tap to Pay on iPhone Comes to Canada

The other side of Apple Pay is now available in ten countries
Apple Tap to Pay on iPhone 2024
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It seems that Apple’s Tap to Pay on iPhone feature has entered another expansion phase. Following its debut in Japan last week, Apple is now rolling the service out in Canada, bringing the number of countries where merchants can accept payments with only their iPhone to an even 10.

Apple unveiled Tap to Pay on iPhone a little over two years ago, effectively unlocking its smartphone platform for use as a mobile payment terminal for receiving contactless credit, debit card, and digital wallet payments.

Unlike Apple Pay, Tap to Pay on iPhone has no user-facing components. Instead, it’s a set of APIs that allow third-party developers like Stripe, Shopify, and Square to access the iPhone’s NFC hardware to receive contactless payments.

The first two of those companies were on board when Apple launched Tap to Pay on iPhone. Square may have had some early misgivings, but it was quick to embrace Tap to Pay in time for its ultimate launch later that year.

It was Square that provided the most interesting example of how Tap to Pay for iPhone could simplify the lives of small business owners. The payment company had made a name for itself in practically giving away hardware to let people use their mobile phones to process credit card transactions. Those began as mag-stripe readers that plugged into the 3.5mm headphone jack, and later the Lightning port, and culminated in a portable Bluetooth device that could accept contactless payments and chip cards.

Square’s readers became so popular that a cottage industry of accessories popped up around them, such as cases to help strap the reader to the back of an iPhone and turn it into a mobile payment terminal. However, that always seemed like an ironic solution, considering that every modern iPhone had the necessary NFC hardware to do the job independently.

Like most of Apple’s financial endeavors, Tap to Pay on iPhone took some time to roll out. It began as the typical US-only affair, and even there, Apple piloted it as its Apple Park Visitor Center before gradually bringing it to its own retail stores. However, it didn’t see a broader launch in the US until after iOS 16 landed in the fall of 2022, and it took until 2023 before expanding to Australia, Taiwan, and the UK. Since then, it’s also come to Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and, just this month, Japan and Canada.

Tap to Pay on iPhone in Canada

Apple announced the Canadian rollout today, along with a list of the payment platforms that are on board, or soon will be.

For the initial rollout, that’s Adyen, Moneris, Stripe, and Square, the last of which wasted no time letting its customers know — the email from Square landed in my inbox around the same time the Apple announcement went live. In the coming months, several more will be added, including Aurus, Chase Payment Solutions, Fiserv, and Helcim.

Contactless payments such as Apple Pay are already accepted at more than 90 percent of Canadian retailers, and with this new capability, virtually every business, big or small, can use Tap to Pay on iPhone at checkout.Apple

While the integration with Square means we’ll probably see more small merchants using it at places like kiosks, trade shows, and farmers’ markets, it’s also coming to retail stores later this year.

Canadians increasingly rely on a variety of digital and contactless payment options, so we’re excited to partner with payment platforms to offer merchants across Canada a private, secure, and easy-to-use capability that meets customers where they are. We’ve seen how merchants and customers around the world appreciate the versatility of Tap to Pay on iPhone, and in a region as diverse as Canada’s, we look forward to making it easy for businesses of any size to transact from coast to coast with just an iPhone.Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet

That includes the Apple Store, which oddly isn’t ready for it yet despite Apple having only 28 retail locations in Canada. Apple also says it’s coming to other merchants, although it only cites Sephora by name.

We’re thrilled to soon expand Tap to Pay on iPhone to our Canadian market after introducing it to our stores in the U.S. last year and seeing how the beauty community has embraced this new way to pay. Today, our Beauty Advisors use their iPhone to provide shoppers with curated beauty recommendations, and thanks to this new flexible payment acceptance solution, they will soon be able to seamlessly complete contactless transactions on that same iPhone — wherever they are in the store.Stefan Jensen, Sephora’s vice president treasurer

As expected, Tap to Pay on iPhone will work with all the credit and debit cards commonly accepted in Canada, including American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, as well as Interac, a debit card system unique to that country.

As with the rollout of Apple Pay in 2016, Interac support may be one of the things that prevented Tap to Pay on iPhone from coming to Canada sooner. Interac is run by the major Canadian banks, which initially refused to support Apple Pay for Visa and Mastercard transactions until it was also compatible with Interac debit cards. Apple Pay was available to Canadians with Canadian American Express cards in late 2015 but couldn’t be used with other Canadian payment cards until mid-2016.

Tap to Pay on iPhone requires an iPhone XS or later running the latest version of iOS and a supported iOS app like Square. Customers can simply hold their contactless card or digital wallet near the merchant’s iPhone, and the payment will be processed securely with NFC technology in the same way as making a payment at a standard merchant terminal with Apple Pay.

There are no additional fees for using Tap to Pay on iPhone, although they’ll typically carry the same processing fees that payment platforms charge for payments made via standalone terminals. For example, Square in Canada charges 2.65% for credit card transactions and 0.75% plus $0.07 per Interac debit card transaction — the same rates it charges for card-present transactions through its own hardware readers.

Purchase limits will also be enforced in the same way, although the iPhone naturally supports the more advanced Consumer Device Cardholder Verification Method (CDCVM), allowing it to recognize when digital wallet like Apple Pay is being used as opposed to a physical card. Since Apple Pay requires Face ID or Touch ID to authenticate a payment, transaction limits are typically much higher for those.

In Square’s case, that’s $25,000 for a payment made using a digital wallet through Tap to Pay on iPhone while a physical card is limited to $250. However, these are upper limits and are still subject to whatever the individual banks or card issuers set for their specific payment cards. For example, AMEX has no limit for a CDCVM transaction, while many Visa and Mastercard issuers stick to the lower limit regardless of whether you’re using Apple Pay or a physical card.

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