Is Canada Ready for Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Mobile Payments?

Jam Michael McDonald
by Jam Michael McDonald August 6, 2015 / No Comments

The average person checks their phone 150 times per day. If you sleep eight hours a night, that means you’re tapping your device every 6.4 minutes.

I’ll admit I check my phone a lot for various tasks—everything from replying to messages to becoming un-lost using Google Maps. (That may happen more often than I’d like to admit.) So now that our mobile devices do everything, is it time we use our phones to pay for everything?

Google Wallet has been around for four years in the US, allowing consumers to quickly pay for goods and services through MasterCard PayPass and Visa payWave. Apple Pay has been in the US for nearly a year, pairing with large retailers to allow a similar service for iPhone users. Neither company made the transition to Canada, leaving us in the technological dust.

Royal Bank released RBC Wallet earlier this year and offers clients access to both their RBC debit and credit cards. Although the RBC app is the first to make noise in Canada, it has its restrictions. Only Android and BlackBerry users can use RBC Wallet, and then only Bell and Virgin Mobile customers at that.

The other major Canadian banks all have payment apps as well, with similar limitations. None have managed to jump to Google or Apple status as a more universal payment system.

Why are we in a hurry to pay for stuff with our phones?

I’ll admit that I use my Starbucks card on my phone to pay for lattes, (and don’t guilt me about buying lattes; I already know about the Latte Factor). It’s quick and painless and gets me little stars in my app. So the idea of paying with my credit card simply by swiping my phone is a nice thought—no fuss, no muss, and I still get my credit card rewards.

It seems like a clear, this-is-the-way-of-the-future moment, but there are obvious downsides to relying so heavily on our phones for access to our finances.


Apple Pay is expected to expand to Canada later this year, making us the first non-Americans with access. As exciting as that sounds, our major banks have already listed some concerns, witnessing what has happened in the US.

Because you load your own cards onto Apple Pay, stolen cards can technically be loaded onto the app. Apple has bestowed the responsibility of card verification onto the banks—so nice of them!—and the banks can miss things, especially with new technology and new procedures. With our large banks having to take on that burden, as well as pay additional fees to Apple—higher than those to financial institutions south of the border—there is bound to be something of a mess, at least at first.

Apple Pay fraud, according to industry consultant Cherian Abraham, is at 6% of all transactions, which is 60 times the average credit card fraud rate. Not a number to calm any concerns.

Ease of use

Google Wallet—soon to become Android Pay, for whatever reason—is available at any MasterCard PayPass location across the US. Apple Pay has most major chains on board, including McDonald’s, Nike, and Staples.

But, if you can read between the lines, there are clear gaps in where you can use your phone to pay: small stores, non-participating chains, locations that don’t have Interac Flash or MasterCard PayPass like restaurants, etc. And, as Jimmy Kimmel points out, store clerks are going to be lost, so until this is common, it could be faster to just use your card.

This is also ignoring the fact that we’d be relying on our phones to be in tip-top condition. I don’t know about your phone, but my battery dies at weird times; phones are susceptible to being dropped, fussy when wet, and temperamental when they want to be. Cards, on the other hand, are incredibly durable. (Let’s see your phone go through the laundry cycle and come out able to pay for your burrito, hot stuff.)

I’m reluctant to believe—and this is my skeptical self speaking here—that the apps offered by each individual bank in Canada will actually take off. It seems to me that they’re rather limiting. Most people I know have credit cards from a few institutions, so are we actually going to switch between RBC Wallet and TD Mobile Payment just to claim different rewards?

If Canadian banks manage to have some cross-over, the mobile payment apps may see more success—similar to being able to email money to a client at another financial institution.


Despite a seemingly crowded market of Apple, Google, and all our major banks, there are third party developers trying to make their way onto the market.

CurrentC, for example, is launching in the US this month, using QR code technology rather than simple scanning. While that sounds overcomplicated (at least to me), the app’s main focus is to avoid charging retailers credit card fees. Walmart—the leader of the app’s creative group, the Merchant Customer Exchange—has an annual loss of one billion dollars in credit card fees. A system like CurrentC could help retailers while giving us convenience, if done correctly. It’s also available on both Android and Apple, meaning cross-platform levels of success are available.

In any case, keep your eyes open for the Apple Pay Canadian launch, and try out your bank’s app if you have the chance. (But don’t leave your wallet at home just yet.)

If you’re using your bank’s mobile payment app, tell me about your experience in the comments!

Update: Apple Pay is now available for the following big credit card providers: American Express, BMO, CIBC, RBC, Scotiabank and TD.

SimplyCash Card from American Express


Apply Now Button-small

  • Earn 5% cash back on gas, groceries and restaurants for the first 6 months (up to $250 cash back total)
  • Earn 1.25% cash back after, and on all other purchases throughout the introductory period
  • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, after the introductory period is over
  • No annual fee


Scotia Momentum VISA Infinite


Apply Now Button-small

  • Earn 4% cash back on gas and groceries, 2% cash back on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • $99 annual fee waived for the first year when you open an account before October 31, 2016
  • Receive VISA Infinite benefits

Flickr: TheTruthAbout