Though Apple Pay is advertised primarily as a high-tech way to make payments in stores, the Apple wallet's in-app purchase volume is a significant key to its growth.

A survey of 833 Apple Pay users in 2015 indicates that 67% have made an in-app transaction, resulting in 38% of overall transactions being in-app credit card purchases, according to research from Phoenix Marketing International.

Most Apple Pay users, at 91%, say they have made an in-store purchase, amounting to 62% of overall Apple Pay credit card transactions.

"The push toward enabling in-app mobile wallet transactions is critical to building volume in a nascent market where the number of acceptance locations is relatively small, but growing, and the incidence of reported friction at the point-of-sale is high," said Greg Weed, director of card research at Phoenix.

Phoenix listed 26 major retailers currently accepting Apple Pay.

The survey also named some of the more popular Apple Pay retailer brands. McDonald's and Apple stores both saw more than 40% of Apple Pay credit card users making at least one Apple Pay credit card transaction over the last five months. Other leading in-store retailers include Macy's at 36% of users and Subway 32%.

Apple also topped the list of retailers accepting at least one in-app Apple Pay credit card transaction at 43% followed by Target at 36% and Nike 29%.

But Apple Pay has been challenged to keep consumers using it on a regular basis, and this challenge affects both in-store and in-app purchases, said Leon Majors, senior vice president of payments system practices at Phoenix.

While the Phoenix research focuses on credit card users, other sources have reported struggles for Apple Pay among debit card users.

For any given retailer, a minority of their Apple Pay credit card users reported making at least one purchase a month during the five-month period, Majors said. McDonald's had the highest usage frequency percentage, with 38% of its Apple Pay credit card-using customers making an Apple Pay credit card purchase at least once a month.

"Only four other retailers have relatively high percentages on this measure – Walgreen's, Subway, Whole Foods and Target (for in-app purchases)," Majors said.

The latter stages of the survey took place at the time Android Pay and Samsung Pay debuted and Discover became an Apple Pay partner. Phoenix plans to include the new mobile wallets in future research.

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