Mercator Blog

First Take: Apple Pay User Support
Date: October 24, 2014
Research Team

Customer service isn’t the most exciting part of the payments industry, yet it can be a huge stumbling block for firms entering the business for the first time. With so many entities (merchants, issuers, networks, and possibly many other third parties) touching each transaction, it’s no wonder consumers—many of whom think Visa and MasterCard issue cards—are often bewildered when things go wrong.

It didn’t take long for the earliest Apple Pay adopters to report issues. Notably, Bank of America debit card users experienced “double charging” of their Apply Pay purchases. Then the finger pointing began. This user, called Bank of America only to be transferred to Apple Pay customer service. Apple, however, is incapable of providing much assistance, or even guidance, since it doesn’t actually have access to transaction data (a side effect of enhanced security it seems). Apart from Apple Pay, Passbook isn’t known for its customer support either. An April 2014 Mercator Advisory Group report, Comparing the Customer Support Delivered in Mobile Payment Applications, ranked Passbook as tied for worst customer support with a score of zero! Meanwhile, MasterCard had this to say, “We are the network behind it [Apple Pay], but the issuers are the ones that hold the customer relationship.” In other words, don’t blame us.

Bank of America has identified the problem, which occurred on its systems, and is crediting customers’ accounts. Debit users are likely particularly sensitive to statement issues though, and not knowing who to turn to with disputes only magnifies the problem. Failure to coordinate on service issues could restrict adoption of Apple Pay or any other mobile payment service. At a minimum, Apple and its issuer partners need to clearly explain the range of issues and concerns each is able to address. Additional communicative support from the networks would also be beneficial.

Terms of Service

To determine the extent that issuers are explaining the kind of customer support they are able to provide related to Apple Pay, I scanned a few bank websites. It seems they are taking very different approaches to educating their customers about Apply Pay, which could lead to varying user experiences and possibly underutilization.

Citi and PNC both provide some information related to Apple Pay on their websites, but it is rather limited; and terms and conditions are not easily accessible, certainly nothing definitive on whom to call with service issues.

Bank of America and Chase have even less information about Apple Pay on their own websites, and consumers looking for more info are redirected to pages hosted by Apple. Lamentably, the link on the Bank of America website redirects consumers to a generic landing page for the iPhone 6, with no clear path to information on Apple Pay.

Warning messages typical of Web redirects aren’t always friendly either. Chase warns, for example: “Chase is not responsible for, and does not provide or endorse, this third-party site's products, services or other content.” Not the most reassuring message for sure, and seemingly inconsistent with messaging the bank had sent to its cardholders leading up to the roll-out.

The link provided by Chase though, does redirect consumers to a rather informative (and customized!) page at, and offers a rather succinct (906-word) terms of service document. The actual Terms of Service, however, are still somewhat unclear as to what responsibility, if any, Chase assumes for correcting transaction issues. See excerpts below.

“3. Chase Is Not Responsible for the Wallet. Chase is not the provider of the Wallet, and we are not responsible for providing the Wallet service to you. We are only responsible for supplying information securely to the Wallet provider to allow usage of the Chase Card in the Wallet. We are not responsible for any failure of the Wallet or the inability to use the Wallet for any transaction. We are not responsible for the performance or non-performance of the Wallet provider or any other third parties regarding any agreement you enter into with the Wallet provider or associated third‐party relationships that may impact your use of the Wallet.”

“10. Questions. If you have any questions, disputes, or complaints about the Wallet, contact the Wallet provider using the information given to you by the provider. If your question, dispute, or complaint is about your Chase Card, then contact us at: 1-888-364-7250.”

And lastly, Amex has posted a significant amount of information on its own website, including a much longer (5,492 word) terms of service document. Amex’s terms make it clear that Apple Pay users should contact them if either a device or credentials are compromised, but they offer no guidance as to what should be done to correct statement errors and other—related to Apple Pay transactions. Excerpt below.

“Call us immediately at the Amex telephone number printed on the back of your Amex card if you believe your Supported iOS device or authentication credentials have been lost, stolen or compromised in any way or an unauthorized person has used or may use your credentials without authorization.”

Granted that Apple Pay has only been available for a few days, issuers need to do a better job communicating with potential users about how to resolve service issues. Not doing so will weaken the user experience, which is critically important for the adoption of mobile payment applications.