Getty Images/iStockphoto


How to set up Apple Pay for a business

Setting up Apple Pay is a simple process, but IT decision-makers should understand the considerations that come with it and how it varies for organizations of different sizes.

Organizations can offer a convenient, contactless payment method in the form of Apple Pay, and that convenience extends to its setup process.

Apple Pay is Apple's mobile payment service, available on iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches. It enables mobile payments for private transactions in stores and supports payments on the web and in iOS apps. Contactless reward cards from retailers are available as well.

When a consumer taps a card reader with their iPhone to make a payment with Apple Pay, they must use Face ID, Touch ID or their passcode to complete the purchase. Apple Pay doesn't share their card number or identity with the retailer, nor does it store actual card numbers on their device or an Apple-managed cloud.

Apple Pay has some drawbacks for consumers. Its limitations start with merchant support for contactless payments. Consumers should still carry their credit card as a backup in case their iPhone battery drains or they need to buy an item from a retailer that doesn't support Apple Pay. Major US banks such as Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo support Apple Pay, although the same can't be said for smaller banking institutions such as local credit unions.

5 steps to set up Apple Pay for a business

One advantage of Apple Pay is its ease of setup, making it an accessible payment option for organizations of all sizes. As an SMB owner or IT administrator, you should understand how Apple Pay works and what the different steps to implement it are.

Chart showing the steps of making a payment through a digital wallet app.
Apple Pay provides a simple checkout experience for customers.

1. Align with your payment processor

There are some prerequisites for organizations to support Apple Pay. Your business must accept credit cards with a credit card processor that's already in place to accept and process customer payments. Check with your current payment processor about their support for Apple Pay. There might be some charges for bringing the service live on your account.

If you don't have a payment processor that supports Apple Pay, Apple's list of preferred payment service providers is a good place to start. When you choose a payment processor, make sure to confirm their Apple Pay support and consider factors such as what fees and processing charges your organization will incur and what escalation path they provide for any security or service issues.

2. Deploy point-of-sale terminals with NFC technology

Next, your organization must have a contactless payment-capable point-of-sale (POS) terminal. This terminal must have near-field communication (NFC) technology, which enables contactless transactions between the customer's Apple device and the POS terminal. You'll also need an updated payment terminal with support for EMV chip cards. In some cases, the terminal should also be able to process card transactions via the internet. These requirements often mean POS hardware upgrades, so Apple Pay rollouts can become part of more extensive digital transformation or technology initiatives in larger organizations.

The current generation of POS terminals supports contactless payment. Verifone and Ingenico, which serve vendors such as Walgreens and Whole Foods, are two popular options. Other terminals to consider include ToastTab, Clover and Square, which target smaller retailers and dining establishments. While Apple Pay doesn't charge a transaction fee, the POS terminal vendor does.

For example, Square charges 2.6% plus a 10-cent fee for contactless payments. Other hardware costs might also arise. These terminals include the latest NFC technology, which enables contactless payments between the customer's Apple device and the POS terminal.

3. Meet software and operating system requirements

Software requirements for Apply Pay start with a payment processor that supports Apple Pay, or your organization won't be able to process Apple Pay transactions. Your POS system software must run the most recent software to support Apple Pay.

Don't ignore customers during your Apple Pay rollout either. Use your social media and other marketing channels to notify consumers of your impending support of Apple Pay. Remind them that they need to be running the latest iOS or watchOS to pay for purchases with their Apple device. Customers must also have a valid credit or debit card added to their iOS Wallet app from which Apple Pay pulls payment information.

While Apple Pay doesn't charge a transaction fee, the POS terminal vendor does.

4. Plan for POS security

Implementing Apple Pay for business brings with it several security considerations. On the enterprise side, Apple Pay uses tokenization to secure card information. This process replaces the card number with a unique device account number, preventing any exposure of the customer's card number during the transaction process.

To protect customer data, accepting customer payments electronically means following stringent security frameworks and compliance programs, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, PCI DSS. The GDPR and other global privacy laws come into play to secure payment data and protect customers' personal information. While large retailers have the expertise and staffing to properly manage such a security challenge, smaller organizations might find it more difficult.

Educating customers about the role of setting biometric or password security on their Apple devices is also essential to transaction security. This can be part of your social media and other channels you use to get the message out that you now support Apple Pay.

5. Deliver Apple Pay training for front-line employees

Initial training should accompany the rollout of new POS terminals that support Apple Pay. Of course, Apple Pay training should become part of your new cashier onboarding process, but you also must roll out training as part of your new POS deployment. Show employees how to introduce Apple Pay to consumers and talk a new user through their first transaction. Training should also equip staff to answer simple Apple Pay security questions that a customer might ask in passing.

Apple Pay implementation in SMBs and enterprise organizations

Rolling out Apple Pay in different-sized enterprises follows the same process, for the most part.

If you work for a small business -- such as a local restaurant chain -- your in-house team can probably install Apple Pay by choosing Square or another mobile device-based POS system that's easy to set up and use. However, there is a learning curve for small organizations to handle the fees and security and compliance requirements that come with collecting contactless payments. Security in smaller organizations often depends on a keen employee diving into the POS security settings. User support might simply involve employees asking their peers questions.

A medium to large organization such as a regional retailer might lack the staffing, tools, frameworks and cybersecurity capabilities to implement Apple Pay at scale. In that case, you might outsource your POS and Apple Pay rollout to a third-party firm that specializes in POS and retail back-office systems. Post-implementation support might fall on the corporate help desk and more knowledgeable employees, such as managers.

A large organization such as a national retailer or grocery chain has economies of scale on its side for Apple Pay deployment. These organizations already have business relationships with prominent POS vendors. Like any technology vendor, they will want a product roadmap for their customers, with Tap to Pay being an essential offering. These vendors also have the deployment and customer success teams to ensure a positive user experience. A large organization also has the advantage of a centralized IT help desk to support post-implementation adoption.

Will Kelly is a technology writer, content strategist and marketer. He has written extensively about the cloud, DevOps and enterprise mobility for industry publications and corporate clients and worked on teams introducing DevOps and cloud computing into commercial and public sector enterprises.

Dig Deeper on Mobile management

Unified Communications