Details Emerge Why Apple Pay Skipped Canadian Banks

Yesterday Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed via the company’s Q4 2015 earnings conference call Apple Pay would be expanding to Canada, for select American Express cardholders.

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The launch puzzled many non-American Express members, as numbers in Canada are pegged at about four million, compared to over 70 million combined cards from Visa and MasterCard, according to The Globe and Mail, which had sources familiar with discussions detail why Apple bypassed Canadian banks.

Apple reportedly skipped Canadian banks and popular credit card networks “because negotiations were dragging,” sources tell The Globe. 

The Apple Pay launch in Canada, claims a source, was related to a global effort to “negotiate by credit-card network rather than bank-by-bank,” as other sources also noted the “most pointed standoff” was between the iPhone maker and credit card companies.

MasterCard was said to agree to Apple’s terms, say sources. Visa has its own Visa Digital Enablement Program for mobile payments and recently signed Google as its first partner. Google’s mobile platform, Android, has its own competitor to Apple, known as Android Pay.

The Globe postulates American Express may have been ripe for an Apple partnership, as its sales and profit have been declining; the recent exit from retail warehouse giant Costco (they moved onto MasterCard) impacted 10 per cent of American Express’ existing cards.

One source from a Canadian bank said “AmEx is a very small player, especially when you overlay the number of merchants that accept the card,” adding “You can’t really call it an entry strategy, but it’s an interesting deal with AmEx.”

Also, no Canadian bank has an American Express card that is Apple Pay compatible (Scotiabank offers an AmEx card).

Canadian banks are said to have formed a consortium to negotiate with Apple for lower credit card transactions fees, plus address potential security concerns with Apple Pay, as previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Earlier this month, TD Canada Trust’s website inadvertently leaked Apple Pay would be “coming soon,” the most compelling evidence to date to suggest a ‘Big 6’ Canadian bank is ready to support the mobile wallet. Other sources claim BMO is ready to launch Apple Pay as well.

Our own little birdies are claiming the last week of November is when Apple Pay will launch here–with support for cards beyond American Express. But don’t hold your breath until we see it.

Currently, only the U.S. and Britain support Apple Pay, which will also expand to Australia later this year, and add support in Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong in 2016.

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  • MGSayah

    I simply can’t wait Gary!! It’s such a tease…

  • andrez1

    I have this card in my wallet that is quicker and lighter than a phone, reliable, and doesn’t need a battery. It’s less than 1mm thick, and easily fits in my wallet, or any pocket.

    This miracle card can tap or be swiped to pay for my stuff. No fumbling with buttons, finger prints, etc.

    It’s very cool.

  • Where can we pre-order this magical card! 😉

  • winnertakesteve


  • It will be nice once it’s here. Can’t wait to use Apple Watch and Apple Pay.

  • Cornfed710

    My Amex is ready ????

  • Chrome262

    yes but its only one card, and you have to carry it along with your phone. Actually waiting for the time its all just read off my eyes or my DNA

  • andrez1

    I have news for you… Amex is only one card too 🙂

  • CMfly

    Can you make purchases over $100 without fumbling with buttons? I’d much rather use a fingerprint and enter a pin.. That said I don’t have a new enough phone to use this anyway so I guess I’ll be sticking with the magical card… 🙁

  • What is wrong with our country? We live next door to the USA and we may as well be in Timbuktu. Seriously. Between the unavailability of great Apps like Hulu and now Apple Pay, I feel like taking a hike and setting up a tent in the USA. It is frustrating beyond belief. Where I live I cannot even enjoy CNN on my iPad. It is ridiculous.

  • Dany Quirion

    the thing is that, they have apple pay and they barely have contactless payment terminal and we do hehe

  • Can’t win. I understand that negotiations are a necessity, but I feel that Canada as a general rule over analyzes everything to death. You have to be prudent – for sure – especially when it comes to money but, if you can’t trust Apple, who values privacy above all else, then you may as throw in the towel and go back to the dark ages.

  • sully54

    i feel like we’re all reading too much into this mention of amex in yesterday’s call. if you look closely at the context at which it was mentioned, all it reveals is that amex is supported at launch in these new markets. thats it. tim cook didn’t say anything about exclusivity at launch or what.

    we should probably just wait a few more weeks before we get exasperated for nothing

  • Tim

    As in it works or you just got an AMEX for this service?

  • Sadly, I suspect that Apple Pay with Canadian cards and providers will be capped at the same limits as the physical cards – at least for the first few months after launch. This is similar to what happened in the U.K. pending the installation of newer terminals in many merchants that can understand the difference between a secured Apple Pay transaction and an unsecured physical card.

  • runner

    To be fair, I think it is hard to enjoy CNN anywhere. 🙂

  • Cornfed710

    I’ve had an Amex for years, but no not working yet

  • Dean D. Lubaki

    This is interesting, because the banks have partnered with carriers for Android payment systems. I think the banks are using it as a leverage. “Well, if you don’t agree, people are going to prefer Android for that.”
    I wonder however if Apple can bypass them by dealing directly with Visa/MasterCard.

  • carol argo

    Apple should have called ORANGE (a bank)

  • Gary Bowen

    Is it pretty straightforward to sign up for an American Express card in Canada? Do most places except American Express in Canada?

    Thanks for responding; I know very little about American Express.

  • Shane

    Dammit….do something Trudeau!!

  • Joe Peplowski

    Which is owned by Scotiabank, which is in cahoots with the other major Canadian banks who collectively are having trouble reaching an agreement with Apple right now.

  • carol argo

    Probably , knowing them ; it would not surprise me.

  • Rio

    It is just like every other Credit Card, and I would say 90% of stores in major cities take it, much less as you move away from major cities.

  • Rio

    But soon I will have 1 phones to replace 10 cards 😉

    Credit, Debit & Loyalty cards.

  • Yes it’s straightforward and can easily be done online. Most major retailers and chains take Amex, less mom and pop stores.

  • Chrome262

    yeah i know, its why i am not interested anymore.

  • erth

    it is obvious what the banks are doing. they don’t want to give up revenue, so they all joined hands and handed off the negotiation to a third party, which has it’s marching rules. apple is stuck now, they need so much money for this to work for them, and the banks in canada don’t want to give it to them. a stand off. i suggest that we can help in this manner, all of us should get a amex card as soon as it is allowed on apple pay and then, use it as much as you can. this will swing the banks into realizing that we will forgo their cards, and their revenue, to a card company that is willing to work with apple.

    now go forth and multiply… or something like that….

  • It’s Me

    Except that miracle card requires that you retrieve your wallet or purse and then fumble with both hands to get the right card out. Then after you have paid, put the card card and then put back the wallet. It’s a two handed process, so leave your coffee in the car and let go of your kid’s hand.

    Also, the very thing that makes it convenient, the RF transmission, also makes it as insecure (more in some ways) than the old, broken magstripe because anyone can read it by bumping you or even brushing by you and it transmits your card number, name and expiry in plain text.

    It is very cool. It also has a problems.

  • It’s Me

    Probably not, since almost all Visa/MC are issued by banks. Amex could do this deal because they aren’t as tied to banks.

    Right now, people using Android instead isn’t really a threat. That system is currently a mess for a number of reasons. First you need the right phone with the right carrier and the right bank, though that is being somewhat mitigated by a few banks, like RBC with their carrier-independent HCE based system. But then that requires HCE which, being cloud based, is just waiting for an exploit and requires always on network. It also means using a 3rd party app, which means unlocking your phone, opening an app and possibly entering a PIN for each payment. Even system like UGO are horribly implemented and still require carrier SIM support.

    So, no, that’s not a legitimate threat. Paying with Android is not bringing anyone over to Android. Google Pay gets around some of those problems (not all) but it isn’t in Canada yet either. That would be the real threat that the banks can make to Apple, that if Apple wants to end run them by signing Amex, they will end run Apple by signing Google Pay.

  • It’s Me

    What’s there to read into it? We know:
    A) Apple announced they are moving forward with Amex in Canada and around the world, bypassing banks for that at least.
    B) Canadian banks for a cartel with the express purpose of controlling negotiations with Apple through a unified front instead of letting Apple deal with them all separately.
    C) There has been no formal announcement about Apple Pay with banks in Canada, even though it is now officially on its way.
    D) Canadian banks are continuing to give non-answers in regard to when they will sign with Apple Pay.

    There isn’t anything to read into that. Apple Pay is coming to Canada with Amex. At this moment, Apple Pay is not coming and/or has not been announced as coming to Canada through the banks.

  • Salinger

    Just go to Americanexpress dot ca. They have some great cards there including some that are no-annual-fee.

    Amex issues two types of cards. Whereas most banks issue only credit cards, Amex issues both credit and charge cards. I’m sure you know how credit cards work so I won’t go over that. Charge cards require the balance owing to be paid in full each month. (which, in reality, is how you should deal with all cards; charge or credit).

    If you are intending to apply for one, just note the type it is so you don’t end up with a card that doesn’t work for you.

  • Sure, but I think a lot of people are reading too much into the lack of an announcement regarding the other banks. Just because Apple only mentioned Amex doesn’t mean that we should throw up our hands in exasperation and start jumping to sweeping conclusions like, “Great, now Apple Pay is never coming.”

    It will get here when it gets here. Apple already plays things very closely to the vest at the best of times, and they’re not about to announce something before the necessary deals are in place, whether that be a music service, TV service, or payment system. Most reports suggested that Apple was quite literally in eleventh-hour negotiations with some of the music labels right up until the night before – possibly even the morning of – the Apple Music unveil in June.

    So just because Apple hasn’t worked things out with the Canadian banks yet doesn’t mean they’re not on the cusp of doing so (and of course, conversely, it also doesn’t mean that they are either).

    In other words, the mention of Amex means only one thing: Apple Pay will be available on Amex cards in Canada by the end of the year. That’s it. Everything else is extrapolation. The rest of the banks could be days away or months away.

  • Rio

    If you are thinking of singing up, make sure you find a friend to refer you and ask for it to be split between the 2 of you. The extra is usually between 50-150 on their Gold/Platinum Membership rewards.

  • Tony The Tiger

    After being bought by Scotiabank they’re really slipping.
    They still don’t have their own credit card, their debit cards are not PayWave or Visa Debit enabled… I guess you get what you pay for.

  • Rio

    They do have their own credit card now! 2% Cash Back MasterCard

  • It’s Me

    I don’t think anyone took these events to mean it is never coming to Canada. No one said that. But whose fault is it that it isn’t yet here through our banks?

    It is not extrapolation to say that the Canadian banks formed a cartel to negotiate as a unified front against Apple. That is fact that they have admitted. It is not extrapolation to say that Apple Pay has not yet been announced for Canada with the big banks. That is a fact. It’s not extrapolation to say that Apple Pay is coming to Canada now, but only through Amex and not yet through the Canadian banks. Again, that’s a fact.

    Is Apple Pay ever coming to Canada through our banks? Probably. But not yet.

    The only thing that is a guess is whose fault is it that Apple Pay is not yet in Canada. And given the known facts, it really isn’t hard to make an educated guess there.

  • Ed Cicci

    Here here I agree and hope all iPhone owners do the same. I was reading can article from The Sydney Herald and the big banks in Australia have pulled the same stunt. Whats the matter with these people. Hundreds of US and UK banks can’t be wrong.

  • “Never” is obviously too strong of a word. I was being hyperbolic. However, this very discussion thread and other related ones show numerous people basically throwing their hands up in exasperation in the belief that the Amex announcement automatically means Apple Pay is not coming for other cards any time soon.

    I think in that sense, people are reading far too much into it. Apple announces things when they’re ready to be announced, and remains extremely tight-lipped about them until then, even down to a matter of days or hours.

    So yes, you’re technically correct that it’s not here “yet” but the Amex announcement doesn’t automatically indicate it can’t be coming soon. Apple is clearly still in negotiations, and I don’t doubt for a nanosecond that it’s the banks that are being difficult (I remember Apple’s negotiations with the Canadian TV networks back in 2008-2009, and it wasn’t Apple being intransigent back then either, and compared to our Big 6 Banks, the TV networks are the most agreeable folks on the planet 🙂 ).

    Again, though, the Amex announcement says nothing about when Apple Pay is coming to Canada for other card providers beyond “not yet.” It could be here next week, it could be here next month, it could be here in 2016. We just don’t really know until Apple is ready to make an official announcement, and the fact that they’ve announced Amex support (as a global deal, no less – not even anything specific to Canada) says nothing about what is happening in Canada beyond that it’s not available yet, which is nothing we didn’t know before the announcement either.

  • It’s Me

    Again, indeed it could be here tomorrow, we don’t know. We do have a pretty good idea why it isn’t here yet. That’s the point and that’s what has people upset with our banks.

  • Sure, and I don’t disagree with any of your key points in that regard, but this thread started with somebody suggesting that people are reading too much into this, and in some cases, many people are. The only things to read into it are those that you outlined in your first post. Everything else is speculation.

    We all know that our banks are the very definition of intransigence. Call me cynical, but I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve even gotten this far – when Apple Pay was announced last year, I think we were all pretty skeptical that it would ever come to Canada, since the Big 6 are pathologically obsessed with controlling all of the pieces – that’s the very reason Interac exists up here in the first place while the rest of the world simply uses VISA and MasterCard Debit solutions.

  • Nick Cameron Greene

    It really feels like we’re over analyzing here. The lack of any official announcement is definitely the problem. We’ve seen TD leak some info and BMO is apparently ready for Apple Pay as well. There’s clearly something more going on than just AMEX. At the very least, only AMEX is going to be supported at launch. What we don’t know is if the major banks are supporting Apple Pay. Until APPLE says anything, this is all speculation. So everyone can stop freaking out until we hear some concrete information from a reliable source.

    Also, “Details Emerge Why Apple Pay Skipped Canadian Banks” is a pretty matter of fact title for something that is clearly speculation.

  • Tim

    Functionality with AMEX alone will make this useless. For one, nobody has AMEX. Secondly nobody accepts it. Apple Pay is supposed to help you eliminate the need to carry your cards around. The novelty of being able to pay through your phone is just that if you still have a wallet full of cards with you.

  • Dean D. Lubaki

    I know how inconvenient and insecure it is. I never said it was a threat, I said they may be trying to use it as leverage :P.

  • It’s Me

    Yeah, I know. But without being a threat, it isn’t much good as leverage. Android Pay could be, but it isn’t here yet either.

  • Exactly, and we’ve already seen plenty of evidence that Apple announces nothing until the deals are closed. Honestly, that’s probably true of most companies that are signing major deals – we just don’t pay as much attention to the others. The banks are likely taking the exact same approach.

    However, as with Apple Music, a deal could literally be hammered out at any point, but unlike Apple Music, there are no hard deadlines of a major Apple event looming on the horizon. I’m sure Tim Cook wasn’t losing sleep over whether the Apple Pay deals would be signed for Canada in time for Tuesday’s earnings call 🙂

  • Eastvanfan

    Having dealt with the credit card payment processors which are generally owned by a consortium of the banks the reason why a lot of businesses don’t take Amex is the high cost of fees associated with taking them, in many cases 4 to 5.5% of the transaction value. Which is by far the highest by almost double compared to Vista and MC. Even in the USA the rates are similarly much higher but not quite as high lots of businesses don’t like taking Amex plus there are many more credit card companies like Discover, which I don’t know if they are part of the Apple pay announcement?, anyone?

    Until Amex comes up with lower rates it’ll be hard to convince business owners to accept having to give up up to 5% of their gross revenue to Amex in exchange for contact less payment terminals. We’re talking about first world problems here. It’s fine for the big retailers because they can negotiate down the rate but not for the majority of Canadian businesses.

  • Eastvanfan

    Few businesses take Amex in Canada.

  • Yup, that’s exactly the reason why a large number of smaller businesses don’t take Amex, and it’s been that way for years. How do you think Amex affords to give its members all these perks? 🙂

    Consider that even Costco dropped Amex in favour of MasterCard. There was more to that than the rates mind you, considering how Costco operates, but I’m sure that factored into it somewhere as well.

    Discover support was added to Apple Pay back in April, and I don’t think there’s any specific Canadian version of the Discover card. Places that take Discover in Canada are basically just accepting the standard American version, in much the same way as using a U.S. VISA or MasterCard credit/debit card.

  • CMfly

    Ugh that does make me sad…

  • Yup, and ironically, even though my U.S. VISA Debit card has a $5K limit for Apple Pay transactions, there are places up here that still don’t want to play nice because they’re not used to anything over $100 CAD. The LCBO is a classic example — the terminal just refuses to offer the swipe option if the total comes to over $100. I can see it saving confusion from customers who try to tap, get declined, and then have to restart the transaction, but it’s definitely annoying.

    Other places like Shoppers Drug Mart seem to accept it without any technical issues, but the slip prints out as a “Signature Required” transaction, which always confuses the cashier. Most shrug it off, but one cashier actually asked to see my card to compare signatures. I had the physical card with me, but when I produced it, she was even more confused as it didn’t have the same number on it (Apple Pay uses a device-specific number, not the actual card number). In the end I showed them my Drivers License and they shrugged and decided that was okay.

  • kEiThZ

    I’d say there’s a possibility that some non-major banks in Canada might get onboard with Apple Pay.

  • kEiThZ

    This is not about privacy. This is about profit. The banks aren’t interested in handing over a chunk of change to Apple. Simple as that.

  • kEiThZ

    Please feel free to leave. Seriously. People love to moan and complain about all the things they feel they are missing out on. Sure, they have mobile payments in the US. But they don’t have nation-wide public health care or a properly regulated financial sector or high standards for food safety (FDA isn’t anywhere close to as strict as Health Canada), or proper firearms safety regulations. So if you think the grass is greener on the other side, by all means…..

  • kEiThZ

    LOL. You’re funny. This is like those “boycott xyz gas chain on Tuesday!” emails. Not going to work. 70 million Mastercard/Visa. 8 million Amex in Canada. How many iPhone 6 and IPhone 6S users in Canada? If every single one of them got an Amex card, the ratio wouldn’t really move all that much. The banks aren’t going to flinch over an extra million Amex cards. And that’s assuming that would actually happen. Most users just don’t care that much, when tap and pay is already so convenient.

  • kEiThZ

    Costco dropped Amex because Amex wasn’t willing to pay them enough. Simple as that.

  • kEiThZ

    There’s nothing wrong with “these people”. They are doing what their shareholders voted them in for: to make money. Apple isn’t offering them a deal that makes them more money. Why would they take it?

  • Ed Cicci

    I don’t want to sound nor am I naive , but whatever happened to service to your customers. Besides, we are all aware of the huge profits that all the big banks make.

  • Yes, it was entirely about money, but my point is that it was more than just the transaction fees. There were issues around the co-branded card as well, and how much Amex would pay Costco to keep that around.

  • karinatwork

    I have an Amex card. And I love using it, especially online. No problems with it for the most part. And the customer service Amex offers is bar none the best I have ever experienced. Yes, that means higher fees for merchants, and if that will translate in higher purchase pricing for me, I can accept that. The same way I accept higher prices from Apple.

  • ticky13

    I’ve had an AMEX card for about six months now and the number of stores I’ve found that don’t accept it is only about 5%. This isn’t 1999 anymore.

  • ticky13

    This is incorrect. A majority accept Amex.