If you're one of the one in five people in Australia that has an American Express credit card, you're able to use your rectangular slice of plastic in a very high tech way: you can use it with Apple Pay. And it works very, very well. Apple Pay is still in its infancy in Australia, but already I've learned to love it.
Part of the wonderful ease of use of Apple Pay is Apple's secret sauce that goes into the interface, and part of it is from American Express. Put the two together, and it's far and away the best contactless payment system that I've used so far — better than any Android payment app, although I'm reserving my full judgment until I give Samsung Pay — for which I am quite excited, and which will hopefully launch in Australia within the next couple of months — a proper go. Apple has got this one right.
The Apple part is definitely the most visible; it's the actual interface of the Pay system, which doesn't even need any interaction from the user to make a purchase — just hold your iPhone, even locked and with the screen off, over a ready NFC payment terminal at a retailer that accepts American Express contactless payments, and use Touch ID. It's very simple, it works consistently, and it's not an obstruction to the process of actually buying something.
You don't have to unlock your phone manually, like Android Pay or many Android contactless payment apps, but if you do want to view your Apple Pay wallet, it's equally straightforward — just two taps of the iPhone home button from a powered down screen, while Touch ID does its work, and you're ready to go. Even if you're buying something online, you can use Apple Pay at an eligible retailer like Kogan or compatible apps like Catch Of The Day — that's where Touch ID comes in handy even moreso, with no annoying passworded logins or long, complicated credit card number strings to input.
But equally good is the way that the American Express half of the system works — you can see every payment as it's made, with every data point that the credit card provider captures it ties in to the equally excellent Amex app if you already have it installed on your phone, too, giving you direct access to historical statements or American Express offers. When a payment has been made — either on your card, online using your account, or on Apple Pay — you'll get a notification popping up on your lock screen to tell you about it.
And the amount of detail is extreme — you'll know what store and where the payment was made including the country and postcode, the category of purchase, how much you paid, and a reference number to start a dispute if you didn't actually make the payment yourself. It's great. And it's easy to use. And it, like every other part of Apple Pay, doesn't actually get in the way of actually buying stuff just as easily as you would with your actual card.
Apple Pay does have a long way to go, of course, and the biggest hurdle is adding Visa and Mastercard credit cards and more Aussie banks and providers to its wallet in Australia. If and when that happens, I think Apple Pay will really take off. Right now, I feel like a special member of an elite club, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.