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Article: Contactless-less

by on October 16, 2018

Over the past four years, it’s been fun and exciting to see Apple Pay go from a niche, geeky service to something…just a bit less niche and geeky. However, there’s a few retailers that don’t support Apple Pay, or any contactless form of payment, despite either having the hardware or the resources to make it happen. It’s mostly political, either as an attempt to circumvent credit cards or pushing their own service, but still worth examining.

In light of CVS turning their NFC readers back on, I’d like to point out the other places where I’d like to use Apple Pay, but can’t. I’d also like to qualify the rest of this article that blocking NFC capabilities does not necessarily save merchants on a per-transaction basis, as there is some misinformation circulating around that that would increase fees to pay Apple the 0.15% with each transaction. Instead, Apple’s cut comes from what the banks issuing the cards make and they seem glad to pay it for the extra layer of security.

I’m having a hard time determining if I think Apple Pay in-person or within apps/on the Web is more beneficial. In-person adds a layer of extra security over even EMV cards, bit also provides the convenience of not having to carry all of your cards in your wallet (I like to travel light). Now that NFC readers have been appearing on gas pumps and ATMs, arguably top two skimming locations of choice, it’s become a good option in those cases. Within apps and on the Web, Apple Pay feels like what PayPal wanted to be all those years ago—push a button and a merchant or person is paid and only gets the relevant information to your purchase. Because of that, I’ve included examples of both on my list.


This one is probably my biggest gripe, as they have the exact same credit card terminals as many of the merchants that do take Apple Pay, the Verifone mx915/925. These have an NFC radio built-in, but it just needs to be enabled. It seems Target is dragging their heels in hopes that you’ll instead get a REDcard. You can link the REDcard to a barcode in their app, feeling a lot like the ill-fated CurrentC nonsense. With my current spend at Target, I can’t really justify their REDcard, and I’d avoid the debit one even if I did—even though the data breach was years ago, the idea of giving Target direct access to my bank account gives me pause. The obvious solution is to offer the REDcard for Apple Pay (especially the Mastercard version that can be used outside of Target) and give customers the choice. Target addicts will probably use the app and barcode combo in most cases, but for those who may not be all-in, it’ll at least be faster than the EMV chip read we currently see.

Bonus points would be to include a link to the Wallet app from the Target app if you wanted to scan their Cartwheel discount code program or use coupons and then move to a card via Apple Pay. Extra bonus points would be to generate the Cartwheel barcode as a NFC pass, much like Walgreens and Panera do. Finally, Target does offer Apple Pay as a payment option in their app and has since the earliest days of Apple Pay.


Kroger (and its siblings like Fred Meyer, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Fry’s, etc.) have the same terminals as Target and have been resisting this capability. I typically go to Meijer or Aldi for groceries anyway, but they’ve even offered their Plus Card loyalty program as a pass in the Wallet app, so it makes sense to combine these capabilities in the same app. According to one Reddit post (take with a grain of salt):

“We have beta tested Apple Pay in a few stores that have payment terminals that support contactless technology. Due to little interest by customers, we have discontinued the test and as of right now do not plan to implement this in any of our stores. We greatly appreciate your thoughts on this service. I will share your feedback with our Regional Office.“

At this point, many regional grocery chains that aren’t owned by Kroger are either enabling it or are planning to flip the switch soon. As Kroger is fighting with Visa at the moment, that may also be a factor.

Walmart/Sam’s Club

I don’t go to Walmart often, but I do visit Sam’s Club from time to time and they have the Ingenico iSC250 in many locations with NFC disabled. I get that it’s probably a lost cause for now as Walmart is especially trying to circumvent the credit card companies and push Walmart Pay and Sam’s Club is following suit. It feels like a natural extension, especially since Sam’s Club also offers their membership card as a pass for the Wallet app. Curiously, Costco does not, but does support Apple Pay.

Home Depot/Lowe’s

Like Target, Kroger, and Walmart, most of these that I’ve visited use some of the NFC-capable terminals, but have it disabled. Home Depot disabled NFC capabilities soon after Apple Pay’s launch due to problems with some Mastercards.


I’ve avoided PayPal as much as I could after a few frustrating experiences and poor customer service, and it looks like the divorce from eBay is finally allowing for some changes. It looks like support is actually coming soon, so I don’t mind waiting a bit longer.


I could’ve sworn that they supported it in the past, but it’s nowhere to be found in the app’s current incarnation.


This falls under a long shot and the benefit of limiting customer data transmitted is negated by the nature of having an Amazon account, but it would be nice to remove all cards from on file and simply select which one to use at any given time. That being said, Amazon’s little ecosystem seems secure enough and you typically add a card and forget about it (or only change it once a year when it’s a 5% quarter). Since it’s not an in-person transaction, somehow this feels much less of an issue.

Interestingly enough, Amazon has been pretty friendly to Apple Pay otherwise—they’ve left NFC turned on at Whole Foods, allow their Chase-backed Visa card for Apple Pay, and encourage you to add an Amazon Cash pass to the Wallet app. About the only gripe is that I wish the Whole Foods Prime Code worked with the Wallet app.

Significantly Better

Looking at this a bit more critically, I think that if I can only name about a handful of places I regularly shop, that’s pretty remarkable. There’s plenty of people who will complain that Apple’s count of 60% of retailers supporting Apple Pay by the end of the year is optimistic or not counting real stores, but in my experience in the tech-phobic Midwest things are looking pretty good. I can buy gas at a handful of stations (a few haven’t enabled their on-pump readers yet), buy groceries at the stores I prefer anyway, and do some damage at most other retail stores. Even if I don’t happen to have my wallet on me, I could even find a number of restaurants or places to enjoy a cup of coffee. I’m curious to see how this grows in the next year.

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