Travel, Technology, Health

Apple Pay in Singapore

May 31, 2016 / Eddy / General, Technology

Apple Pay has finally arrived at our shore in a big way on 25th May 2016 when  5 banks, DBS, POSB, UOB, OCBC and Standard Chartered came on board. With the backing of all the three major credit card companies including AMEX, Visa and Mastercard.

For more information on Apple Pay, check out

The whole contactless payment scene is not new in Singapore with the earlier implementation of the NETS, Cash Card, Flash Pay and EZ-Link and subsequently when VISA with its Paywave and MasterCard with its Paypass, many have already adopted the contactless method of payment. It also makes Singapore an ideal place for its implementation outside of the US as the framework is already available.

Apple Pay does not replace Paywave or Paypass but rather enhances them. With Paywave and Paypass, we basically just have to touch our credit or debit card against the contactless card reader and payment is transferred. This method does away with signatures or pin numbers. However this also means that anyone can use your credit or debit card to make payment for up to S$100. The old signature payment also is not very secure as signature can be forged and some times the cashier doesn’t compare the signature behind the card and the ones on the payment slip.


Apple Pay vs Paywave and Paypass

I guess most of us would have our phone in our hands so there is no need to dig into the wallet to pull out the credit or debit card to make payment so convenience is key here. That’s not really what set Apple Pay apart, the key is security.

As mentioned earlier, there is no signature or pin number needed to make payment using Paywave or Paypass and the cashier doesn’t even need to see the card so it’s like paying with cash, without handing anything over. There is no security. If you drop your card, someone can pick it up, make payment with it until the time you reported your card missing.

Apple Pay on the other hand is tied to your iPhone and require Touch ID (ie your fingerprint) to activate the iPhone to be ready for payment. So if your iPhone gets stolen, unless they have your finger, they cannot make payment.

The level of security from Apple Pay does not just end there. When you use Paywave or Paypass, your credit or debit card number is transmitted over to the contactless reader and the last 4 digits gets printed on the receipt. With Apple Pay, your credit or debit card number is not transmitted over but a system generated Device Account number tied to your iPhone is transmitted. Only that last 4 digits is shown on the iPhone and on the receipt. Even if someone could guess the first 12 digits, it is useless without the iPhone.

On a side note, all the above security measures beats the signature based payment.

Apple Pay is Fast

Using Apple Pay is relatively simple.

First look for the Paywave or Paypass machine as the one below at the cashier or self payment machine.

Apple Pay on the Paywave or Paypass Contactless Reader

If it does have the Apple Pay logo then just tell the cashier you are paying through Apple Pay. If they don’t know what you are talking about then just tell them that you are paying through Paywave or Paypass. Doesn’t matter which as it is the same machine in Singapore and the cashier just need to activate that same one button on their cash register.

When it is time to pay, you can either

  • Double-tap the Home button to bring up the Apple Pay Screen OR
  • bring your iPhone near the contactless reader such as the one above and the Apple Pay screen will appear
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Next use one of your designated fingers which is set up with Touch ID on the Home button to authenticate and unlock Apple Pay. This should take a spilt second. You can actually double-tap the home button way before payment and since your finger is already on the Home button, your fingerprint would have been captured by Apple Pay.

Apple Pay - Now to touch the iPhone against the Contactless Reader

When authenticated, you will see the following screen. Of course, the picture of the card will be different depending on the bank its from. Apple did say that even if the card is correct, the picture may be different so don’t worry as long as the last four digits are correct.

Now just tap the head of the iPhone against where you would normally tap your Paywave or Paypass card and that’s it. It will show “Done” on your iPhone and the cashier’s credit card printer will start churning out the payment slip. It’s actually much faster than Paywave payment or at least it feels that way.

That’s it.

Some Observations

  • There is not much specs on where the NFC chip on the iPhone is and from looking at the circuit board and also through experimentation, it is located near where the rear camera is. So when you tap about that part on the card reader, it should work. At the very beginning, I was trying to tap the entire iPhone full body and flushed against the contactless reader and it was a hit and miss. When I hold the iPhone perpendicular to the card reader (top of the phone touching the card reader) and it works, it is also an easy way of holding the phone while still touching the Touch ID.
  • You do not need to hold your finger down on the Home button throughout the payment process. It takes a spilt second and then you are free to position the iPhone however you like on the card reader.
  • Apple Pay works with the standard phone casing as long as it is not metallic.
  • Apple Pay works with both Credit Cards and Debit Cards from the banks that signed up with Apple Pay
  • Apple does list several merchants on the Apple Pay description page but they are not an exclusive list. What’s key is look out for a merchant that supports Paywave or Paypass. Of course if you are using VISA, it will be Paywave and Paypass for MasterCard. For Amex card, the store will have to accept Amex for your card to work.
  • If you touch your phone against the EZLink Reader on the bus or MRT, the Apple Pay app will be activated. Basically any NFC Reader will bring it up but since payment through Apple Pay is not supported on the EZLink reader which uses CEPAS, you cannot pay for your rides now. Perhaps in the future.

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