Is Apple Pay Faster Than Swiping?

Jeff Zimmerman


My last Apple Pay blog post summarized my first day with Apple Pay, which fell short of using Apple Pay to make a purchase. Six weeks later, I'm happy to report that I have used Apple Pay several times at places like McDonalds and Walgreens, and I even used it to pay for a taxi ride.

When experts in the world of payment processing evaluate new mobile payment solutions, they always ask these questions:

1. Is it faster or easier than swiping my credit card?

2. Does it provide a new benefit that I can't get from swiping my credit card?

In many cases, the answer is a clear ”no” to both questions. So, how does Apple Pay measure up?

In my opinion, Apple Pay is arguably faster and easier than swiping a credit or debit card. At checkout, you simply tap your iPhone 6 on the credit card terminal with your thumb on the button. The iPhone automatically launches Apple Pay (with your default card) and makes the payment. It's that simple!

Is that literally faster than swiping a card? Perhaps not. I suppose one could conduct a test with a stopwatch to see which is faster. I think it would be a tight race. However, Apple Pay has a key advantage over the swipe.

What do you do while you're waiting in the checkout line? Most of us kill time by doing something on our phones - checking email, sending a text, monitoring our Twitter feed, etc. So, when you get to the cashier, chances are that your phone is already in your hand, while your credit card is still in your wallet, which is in your pocket or purse.

So, using Apple Pay eliminates the step of pulling out your card. Advantage Apple Pay.

Now let's look at the second question I mentioned earlier: Does Apple Pay provide an extra benefit that swiping cannot? On that front, I would argue that it does not. Apple Pay is a convenient way to make payments, but it does not facilitate coupon redemption or reward programs.

When it comes to mobile payment solutions, the leader of the pack is the Starbucks mobile app. I use it frequently myself. How does Apple Pay compare to the Starbucks app?

Apple Pay is faster than the Starbucks app for making a payment. The key advantage with Apple Pay is that you don't need to open a particular app or even wake up your phone. It does all that automatically.

With Starbucks, you have to open the Starbucks app and get to the screen with the QR code. The process requires at least four clicks, four more clicks than Apple Pay.

However, Starbucks has the advantage with respect to additional benefits. The Starbucks app tracks purchases over time, and customers get a free coffee after 12 purchases. The Starbucks app can also be used to redeem the free coffee. For me, the rewards are the main reason I use the Starbucks mobile app.

Will Apple enhance Apple Pay to handle rewards and coupons in the future? I don't know, but I suspect they will. Doing so would add a big consumer benefit in addition to fast checkouts.