Now is the Time for Apple Pay to Strike in the US
The switch to EMV in the United States sure has been a mess, hasn't it? Whether you're a customer or a merchant, the conversion has likely been expensive at worst, inconvenient at best, and confusing all the way through.
The conversion for merchants has been less than smooth. A study by CardFlight from last month shows that about 37% of merchants are EMV-capable and about 25% of total in-person transactions are using EMV. Those numbers are still pretty low when you consider that the EMV deadline was set for October 1, 2015 and people are still barely getting going.
On the consumer end, EMV hasn't been a cakewalk either. For example, I didn't even get an EMV card from my bank until January of this year. Now that I have it, I find about half of the places I shop actually have EMV capabilities turned on. Many places have an EMV terminal, but some sort of paper sign over the card slot telling me to please swipe my card instead.
On the occasions that I can use the chip and pin, it's a pain. The big problem is that transactions just take longer and require more concentration on my part than I'm used to. I get errors when putting the card in the machine because I didn't line it up exactly right. I sit there patiently waiting for the card to be read, enter my pin, and wait again for what feels like forever before the reader beeps incessantly at me to PLEASE REMOVE YOUR CARD. I understand the security benefits of EMV, but from a user experience perspective, it's adding friction and annoyance to a process that used to be very straightforward.
This is where Apple Pay (and Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and any other standard NFC-based payment system) comes into play. Paying for something with Apple Pay is far easier than both my new EMV card as well as the magnetic strip cards of old. I don't have to press any buttons or enter a PIN in most situations1. I simply hold my phone up to the card reader with my fingerprint on the iPhone's home button and I'm done. It takes about a second to read, and has never failed of gotten a bad card read.
I really think this is something Apple should be pushing as hard as they can with payment processors, merchants, and customers. I know I'm not the only one who is frustrated by this whole EMV conversion, and Apple should be tapping into this frustration as much as they can. People pay for things everyday, and if your phone can make that a comparatively delightful experience, that will build customer loyalty and drive up that all-important "customer-sat" number Tim Cook loves so much.
As a fan of technology, I sometimes do things that most people won't, and shouldn't do with gadgets, but Apple Pay is not one of them. I think everyone who has a phone that supports Apple Pay should be using it whenever they can. It's easy to set up, is more secure than traditional credit cards, is just as secure as EMV payments, and is a much more painless checkout experience overall. If you haven't gotten Apple Pay set up on your iPhone yet, I'd highly suggest you try it out this weekend and I'm sure you'll fall in love.
- Some merchants can require you to enter a PIN, but most don't in my experience. ↩