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Apple Pay Merchant Session Server

At WWDC 2016, Apple announced they are bringing Apple Pay to Safari via the Apple Pay JS "Framework". For an overview, I recommend watching the recorded WWDC talk, which covers the details of the architecture. I expect Apple Pay on the web to be a game changer, because it makes online payment so incredibly frictionless.

Unfortunately, Apple Pay for the Web has launched in what I would consider to be a pre-beta state. Documentation is sparse, and some critical pieces are undocumented completely.

In particular, before processing a payment, Apple requires that you retrieve a "merchant session" using a developer-specific certificate. This ensures that a compromised site can have its certificate revoked by Apple if fraudulent charges start appearing.

As of this writing, the process for retrieving a merchant session is undocumented and you have to reverse engineer your way into a working system. This server tries to encode everything I've learned about how to get a merchant session into a server that you can deploy.


Apple Pay for the Web is still very much a work in progress, and this server could stop working at any time. Additionally, this is just a proof of concept; there is no real error handling or security to speak of. Please use this as a basis for your own work, or submit PRs to improve it, but at this point I would not consider it production-ready.

How It Works

Before beginning, you'll want to watch the WWDC video to familiarize yourself with the high-level architecture.

Towards the middle of the session, they will describe the "Merchant Validation" flow. They show this sample code:

session.onvalidatemerchant = function (event) {
  var promise = performValidation(event.validationURL);
  promise.then(function (merchantSession) {

Unfortunately, the performValidation function is not shown, nor is it really explained in any detail. All you know is that you have a validation URL to get it from.

Obtaining a Certificate

In order to validate yourself as a merchant, you will need a Merchant ID and an Apple Pay Merchant Identity Certificate (note that this is not the same as an Apple Pay Certificate). You can create these at Make sure you also have verified your domain name.

Once completed, you should have a certificate you can download and add to Keychain Access on your Mac. Once added to Keychain Access, it should up under the Certificates category and start with "Merchant ID: <your-merchant-id>". It should also have a disclosure triangle to the left of it, and when clicked, it should show a private key associated with the certificate.

Converting the Certificate to PEM

Next we need to convert the certificate into a format that Node.js understands. Click the certificate, right click, and choose "Export <certificate-name>". Make sure the export format is set to Personal Information Exchange (.p12) and save it into this server's git repo as apple-pay-cert.p12. If it asks you to pick a passphrase, you can just leave it blank since we'll be removing it in a second anyway.

Now we'll convert from a .p12 file into a .pem file. Run this command in your terminal:

openssl pkcs12 -in apple-pay-cert.p12 -out apple-pay-cert.pem -nodes -clcerts

This converts the certificate from .p12 to .pem.

Starting the Server

Start the server by typing npm start. By default it will listen on port 3000, or you can set the PORT environment variable.

The app has one route: GET /merchant-session/new?validationURL=<validationURL>.

When you deploy the server, ensure you have the apple-pay-cert.pem file in the root of the server.

You will also need to set the following environment variables:

APPLE_PAY_DOMAIN_NAME The domain name where the merchant session will be used.
APPLE_PAY_DISPLAY_NAME The display name of your Merchant ID from Apple.

Getting a Merchant Session

To get a merchant session, take the validationURL passed to your onvalidatemerchant event handler, make an XHR request to this server with the validation URL in the query string, and once the request returns, pass it to completeMerchantValidation. The whole thing might look like this:

session.onvalidatemerchant = ({ validationURL }) => {
    .then(res => res.json())
    .then(json => {


A huge thanks to Chris Boulton (@surfichris) who figured all of this out before I did and walked me through it. His crucial insight was that the merchant ID passed to the Apple server is not the human readable form, but a binary value embedded in the certificate, which this server attempts to extract automatically.

This work was extracted from a project I am working on for Monegraph.




Server for obtaining Apple Pay for the Web merchant sessions






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