The date stems from “sources familiar with the developments on the banking market,” and has allegedly been confirmed by Apple itself.
A spokesman for Česká spořitelna, said only that Apple Pay is currently in testing and that his firm wants to be in the first wave. iPhone owners are already using the feature in some cases, a common occurrence when a country or retailer is on the verge of getting an official announcement. Other first-wave card issuers will allegedly include Air Bank, Komercni bank, Moneta, mBank, and Twisto.
Businesses like Fio, Equa, Creditas, and CSOB are expected to deploy support later in 2019.
This would be in keeping with a previous rumour suggesting that Apple Pay would launch in the Czech Republic and Slovakia sometime in late February or early March. It’s not clear whether the Slovakia launch will also take place on Feb 19.
Apple Pay first launched in the U.S. in October 2014. Its international spread was initially slow, but it has since come to many of the world’s biggest markets, such as China, the U.K., and Germany. Much of Europe is now covered, though other gaps include the likes of Austria, Greece, Hungary, and Romania.
The main obstacle towards expansion is negotiation with banks. Apple claims a fractional fee from each Apple Pay transaction, which can amount to millions of dollars over time. Banks are often loathed to lose that revenue, but also want to be seen as meeting demand for mobile payment options.