Walgreens becomes first retailer to accept reward cards using Apple Pay

Apple Pay Walgreens Balance Rewards card

Walgreens announced this morning that support for accepting its rewards card in stores through Apple Pay is now live. Loyalty cards have long been supported using QR cards with scannable barcodes, but iOS 9 enabled the ability to use loyalty cards with NFC just like Apple Pay payments. Walgreens notes that it’s the first retailer to make use of this feature. Other chains including Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread are expected to follow.

Walgreens Balance® Rewards members can now seamlessly use their account through Apple Pay – without separately scanning a Balance Rewards card or barcode. More than 85 million active Balance Rewards members will have the ability to earn and redeem loyalty points via Apple Pay, the easy, secure and private way to pay.

“We’re excited to be the first to provide our customers with increased ease of access to their Balance Rewards account and information when using Apple Pay,” said Sona Chawla, president of digital and chief marketing officer for Walgreens. “This offering supports our commitment to removing friction and enabling a simple and convenient customer experience.”

Walgreens’ reward card can be used with Apple Pay through the Wallet app in iOS 9 and watchOS 2 on the iPhone and Apple Watch after downloading the Walgreens app from the App Store and signing in with log in credentials. Notably, Walgreens was also among the first retailers to accept Apple Pay for payments last year.

Balance Rewards members can simply place their iPhone or Apple Watch near the checkout terminal to collect points rather than swiping a physical card, scanning a QR card, or supplying a phone number. The loyalty program allows frequent shoppers to collect points from certain purchases to redeem as credit toward future purchases.

Users with existing Balance Rewards cards in Wallet should automatically see the new card update as it recently changed on both iPhone and Apple Watch ahead of Walgreens move to turn on support for accepting it through Apple Pay.

In addition to Walgreens turning on support for its Balance Rewards card through Apple Pay, Kohl’s recently became the first retailer to enable its store credit card for use with Apple Pay. Apple also added more than 50 banks to work with Apple Pay this week.

New locations including Starbucks, KFC, and Chili’s will start accepting the mobile payment over the next few months. Canada and Australia will also gain Apple Pay this year through a deal with American Express in either country with Spain, Singapore and Hong Kong planned for 2016.

Apple Pay for reward cards works with iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus as well any Apple Watch which requires iPhone 5 or later.

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  1. AJ Meadows - 7 years ago

    Now if only they would stop requiring signatures when you use Apple Pay.

  2. PMZanetti - 7 years ago

    Well that is a plus. Walgreens is about the only place I ever use Apple Pay since its the only place where it works reliably. I’ve had my balance rewards card (whatever the hell that does for you) since the Passbook days and have always had them scan the barcode on the display which is a miserable experience.

    How will this work at the checkout counter? I have to perform two Touch ID/Apple Pay actions to pay and use the rewards the card? Or just one?

  3. Jermaine Lewis - 7 years ago

    Will this also work at Duane Reade stores as well, since they’re owned by walgreens and accepts the same loyalty rewards card?

  4. taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

    Express has supported it Next rewards card since October 10th and EXpress Next credit cards since Seotember 14th. So it was by far the first store to feature loyalty rewards and store card

    • taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

      I commented at Marimors when they posted Kohls was the first supported store card in the comments and they never updated it. I missed the story here last week.

      I have posted many times in the comments here that Express was supporting Store cards all the way back in September.

      • taoprophet420 - 7 years ago

        Both the rewards card and store credit card have been supported by Apple Watch in the Express app since it added support on the iPhone App.

  5. snoman4096 - 7 years ago

    So would you first hold your device to the NFC reader for the Balance Rewards, then when it’s accepted, select your card and and hold the device to the NFC reader again to process your payment via Apple Pay?… This isn’t totally clear and no where has this been explained. I would think the primary objective of this article would be to explain how to do this.

    • Zac Hall - 7 years ago

      Sorry, I’ve used Apple Pay a lot and Balance Rewards through the pass but haven’t tested the latest way yet. Consensus seems to be two taps but again I haven’t tested yet.

      • kbrinker - 7 years ago

        There wouldn’t really be a benefit for this versus the current “scan then tap”.

        My assumption was you’d just do the pay and your rewards card would be integrated.

      • AbsarokaSheriff - 7 years ago

        I just used it and it is slightly more efficient and welcome. Yes it is two taps but instead of having the customer and the clerk interact for scanning, the customer can automatically enter their Rewards card data at the start of the transaction.

        Previous flow was a) Clerk scans goods, b) Clerk Scan rewards card while customer holds phone, often hard to get right because of glare, angle, geometry c) pay with Apple Pay.

        New flow is a) Clerk Scans Goods a2) Customer puts phone up to NFC while a is happening b) pay. So it eliminates a step and there is no card dance with the optical scanner.

        The Clerk asked me if I had a Balance Rewards card and then said “Oh it’s already been entered”, That was through the NFC.

        As others have said, unless it’s a Kohl’s like rewards payment card. There is no way that Walgreens would know which credit card to use. But being able to independently add the Rewards info without interacting with the clerk is an efficiency win.

      • AbsarokaSheriff - 7 years ago

        One more thing, you have to enable Automatic Selection in the Wallet/Passbook app for the Walgreens card. You do this by tapping on the i surrounded by a circle in the lower right. I only tried it this one way.

        I did not try it for the watch.

  6. David Kexel - 7 years ago

    My Balance Rewards card is loaded in the Wallet but not showing up on the watch. Not sure why.

  7. Terrence Newton - 7 years ago

    Got the updated pass loaded on my phone. Went to Duane Reade. They asked me if I had a rewards card. I said yes, opened the pass on my phone from the lock screen, applied my fingerprint, and held it up to the terminal. Nothing happened. I told the cashier that I should be able to use my balance rewards wallet pass at the payment terminal, and of course she had no idea what I was talking about. My level of surprise at all this? Zero. I feel like for something new like this, there should at least be an instructional video for the customers, and definitely training for the cashiers.

  8. keanc - 7 years ago


    Sent from my Samsung device


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.