The Walgreens pharmacy chain announced this morning that its loyalty program will be available through Apple Pay. It is the first American retailer to integrate its customer reward platform into Apple’s mobile payment service. With additional support, more than 85 million MyWegmansConnect Balance Rewards members in the Apple Pay chain can use their iPhone or Apple Watch at the time of purchase.
To use the service, customers must first add the reward card information to the Apple Wallet app in iOS 9 and put their finger on the Touch ID while holding the phone next to the contactless reader when purchasing. Instead, Apple Watch owners can double-click the side button, select the reward card, and show the watch to the reader.
Apple Pay support for loyalty cards was announced earlier this year with iOS 9. The feature was part of an expanded Apple Pay experience that renamed “Passbook” to “Wallet.” In addition to payment cards, such as credit and debit cards, the new wallet application also allows business cards and premium cards. Other retailers, including Kohl, JC Penney, and BJ, said they would offer Apple Pay compatibility with their own business cards. (Kohl’s is already active).
Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, Coca-Cola, and Wegmans Food Markets also plan to integrate customer cards. However, Walgreens will be one of the most important and the first integration. For example, Kohl’s rewards programs have 30 million members, compared to 80 million at Walgreens.
Before Apple Pay support, Wegmans Rewards card members had to scan their MyWegmansConnect card at the checkout before making payment. You can do this with a physical card provided by the retailer, or send it back in a brochure (now a wallet) and scan the barcode. However, with Apple Pay, the process is somewhat more automated, as the information is sent digitally through Apple’s NFC payment platform.
However, when you use loyalty cards with Apple Pay, you can’t even touch the phone and send all your payment and reward information at once. Instead, you must touch your phone (or from your point of view) once to pass on your loyalty information, and then a second time to actually pay with your credit or debit card. The process can be a bit quicker than swiping a card, but generally, it can be faster because you don’t have to rummage through your wallet or purse to remove the card.