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Apple Pay at Hotels? Fuggedaboutit

I had high hopes for Apple Pay. I love the convenience and security of not having to worry about carrying around a load of credit cards and the system – along with Google Wallet – are more secure than the cards we are using today. Last week I talked about my disastrous experience trying to use Apple Pay for travel, including two hotels that had no idea what I was talking about. Well, it looks like it won’t be getting any better anytime soon.

As they do very frequently, SmartBrief asked their readers a polling question: Has your hotel adopted the Apple Pay system? The responses say it all.

Apple Pay

Over three-quarters of the respondents said no. Rounding out the remainder of the 100%, less than one in four respondents said they are even thinking about it. None of them said yes.

I am sure this has nothing to do with the pushback from the competitive Merchants Customer Exchange that I wrote about recently. Nevertheless, it was just reported today that their CurrentC system was hacked, not a promising start to a program that won’t even be available until next year.

No, this is all about having to buy new readers for Near Field Communications (NFC) but the hotel industry may want to think about it sooner rather than later. Hotels claim that online agencies (OTAs) like Expedia are taking profits away from them. If these OTAs adopt Apple Pay before the hotels do – and the system becomes popular – it will only make the OTAs stronger, the worst nightmare for chains that want you to book directly through their own portals. As far as I know, HotelsTonight is the only related business already onboard with Apple Pay.

It is anyone’s guess which hotel chain will adopt Apple Pay first but one thing is known: It won’t happen this year.




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  1. Let’s be clear about what Apple Pay is. It’s a secure wallet that leverages the existing PayPass NFC acceptance footprint that Visa/MasterCard and Amex have built with their Acquiring community over the last 10 years. The technology was broadly meant to move ‘lower value’ payments through the payment acceptance process faster than a ‘swipe.’ This is why the biggest adopters have up until now been Merchants like McDonalds and 7-11 who could see the most value from saving precious seconds in a high volume/lower transaction volume business. To facilitate this the card networks (Visa/MasterCard/Amex) increased the ‘no-signature required’ limit to around $25 to keep the flow of payments moving.

    This is the main ‘point of sale’ infrastructure Apple Pay is using. I doubt you will for a LONG-time, if ever, see a Hotel accept Apple Pay – NFC based payments. This is because 1) speed is not as big of an issue; 2) the no-signature limits are lower than the typical transaction amount 3) technology refreshes at the point of sale are typically 5-7 years.

  2. Thanks for your great comment, Mike, just didn’t want to get too technical here. Agree about the greater benefit to ‘lower value’ merchants but Apple also picked up companies like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Nike, Whole Foods, Foot Locker, and many others, merchants that could have signed on with MCE instead but saw more value with Apple.

    You may be correct about the hotel industry but as I said, if the OTAs adopt Apple Pay and enough travelers prefer this ease of transaction not available from the hotel properties or their websites, this may help the OTAs establish a greater brand loyalty, costly for the chains because of their higher OTA cost. Maybe the hotels have to select what they believe is the lesser of the evils.


  3. ‘This is because 1) speed is not as big of an issue; 2) the no-signature limits are lower than the typical transaction amount’

    Many hotels have adopted the policy of easy check-out so guest don’t even need to go to the front desk anymore. So clearly hotels see value, even if it more for customer ease and no signature needed, to have quick and signature free checkout. Also, look at what Aloft is doing with testing out giving room access via your smartphone so you don’t even need to go to the front desk to check in. So those points for it not being adopted by hotels for a LONG time is sort of moot.

    Also, you are limited Apple Pay to NFC terminals. What about paying via your phone? Your statement sent to you device instead of put under your door? Payment approval for room charges via fingerprint approval? If your device, via Apple Pay, hold your payment details, it can be used for a wide range of things. PayPal does NFC too, but isn’t limited to it.

    So I don’t really think you are too clear on what Apple Pay is if you think you can just pay via NFC stations.

  4. Why should this be surprising. As American travellers to Canada and Europe may have discovered, your antiquated and insecure credit card system is a decade behind the rest of the world’s where the chip and tap technologies have long been in use. Yes, there is convenience in a single smartphone based payment system, but it will take several years for the dust to settle. Meanwhile, American banks are finally getting around to adopting secure chips, but it will also take time before merchants replace their antiquated terminals with chip-reading versions…and now they’re expected to also equip themselves with terminals that are compatible with one or another form of smart phone payment systems. This becomes pretty costly to merchants, who are already smarting under the take that credit card issuers levy on them for those lucrative benefits we get with our uber-premium Visa and MasterCards. And with respect to hotels, it’s not necessarily a local decision when the property is affiliate with a chain. Apple or any other offerer of such a service must convince Hilton, Marriott, Starwood and the others at HQ that there’s sufficient potential in adopting their respective system.

  5. @David

    The chips in cards are easily read by devices so it’s quite easy to steal card details without even having to get the card in your hands. Why do you think they sell card holders and passport holders that block the radio chips from being read? So with the Apple Pay program not actually using your real card number to make the transaction, the phone being able to be remotely wiped if stolen, etc. This seems to be the start of a more secure way to protect your card details.

    So yes, this will take years to only be able to carry around your device and go completely mobile wallet, but to get on a high horse about radio chips in cards that are easily hacked is quite laughable. Apple is going full speed on this and if you think they will let it fail, you are living in dreamland. Billions in cash reserves and the fact that all their competitors have been data breaches will allow Apple to squash the competition.

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