Apple Pay to accept Discover cards this fall

The agreement means that Apple's mobile payments system will work with all four major credit cards in the US.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Apple Pay will work with all four major credit cards in the US, as of this fall. James Martin/CNET

Discover credit card holders will be able to tap into Apple Pay later this year.

Starting this fall, Apple Pay users in the US will be able to add their Discover cards to Apple's mobile payments system to buy items at supported stores and other sellers, Discover announced Monday. Apple Pay already accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express, so Apple will have a lock on all four major credit cards in the US.

A spokesman for Discover told CNET that he couldn't be any more specific on timing beyond this fall but added that the company is starting the task of integrating Apple Pay now.

Unveiled in October, Apple Pay enables owners of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch to pay for items on the go via a wireless technology known as NFC (near-field communication). Owners of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 can also tap into Apple Pay but only to pay for apps. Apple has been striving to expand support for Apple Pay in the US among merchants and credit card issuers. Discover has around 61 million cardholders, so the new deal opens up access to a large number of potential Apple Pay users.

Apple Pay is one of several bids to change the way that people purchase goods and services. Wallet-less purchasing has yet to catch on, but the power of the Apple brand gives Apple Pay the potential to succeed.

The more challenging task for Apple is drumming up support among retailers. Apple Pay is currently accepted at 67 US retail chains with 14 more coming. But those are just a fraction of all the retailers in the country. And not every individual store at a supported retailer can handle Apple Pay. In order to accept an Apple Pay payment, a store's point-of-sale system must be equipped with the necessary NFC technology.

At the same time, Apple Pay faces potential competition from similar services offered by other companies. Samsung's new Samsung Pay feature is available on the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. Google has unveiled a mobile payments service called Android Pay. PayPal plans to buy Paydiant, a startup firm that helps companies build mobile payments options. And a group of retailers known as the Merchant Customer Exchange is trying to challenge Apple Pay with its own service known as CurrentC.

Apple is also trying to expand Apple Pay internationally to such countries as Canada and China. But cutting such deals is proving a challenge as local banks are balking at the transaction fees that Apple wants to charge.

Adding your Discover card to your supported iPhone or iPad will work the same way as it does with other credit cards. You enter your credit card number and related information by either scanning the card or typing in the data manually. But the actual card number and security code are not stored on your phone or tablet. Instead, a unqiue Device Account Number is generated with a one-time code to secure your transaction.

"As the mobile payments landscape matures, Discover remains committed to giving card members secure options for using their cards and mobile devices," Diane Offereins, Discover's president of payment services, said in a statement.

Discover card holders who use Apple Pay can still take advantage of their current benefits, according to Discover. Those include the 5 percent cash-back bonus and a tool that lets you put a halt to new purchases and other transactions yourself if you ever lose your card.

Apple Pay will also accept Discover debit cards. Such cards are linked with checking accounts held at banks that partner with Discover just as Visa and MasterCard work with certain banks to offer debit cards.