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New ways to pay

What is Apple Pay?

By Rob Goodman

Article 2 of 3

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What is Apple Pay?

Find out how contactless technology enables payments through smartphones and other gadgets. 

Contactless payments aren't limited to cards. Some companies have harnessed the same near-field communications technology to enable contactless payments through smartphones and other gadgets.

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay lets users quickly pay for goods worth up to £30 by moving their mobile phone over a contactless reader, removing the need to use a card or enter a Pin. Anyone with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch linked to an iPhone 5 or above can use it.

Apply Pay and Barclaycard bPay 

Barclaycard has launched it own cardless payment system called bPay. Using either a wristband, a sticker for your mobile phone or a fob key, you can add money to each device and use it to pay via a contactless reader.

Video: Apple Pay vs Barclaycard bPay

In our video, Gareth Shaw, Which? money expert, and Robert Leedham, deputy technology editor, review Apple Pay and Barclaycard's bPay, and compare the two systems. 


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Video transcript

Apple Pay launches in the UK today and that means if you've got an iTunes account with the card link to it that you can simply confirm your card and start paying for stuffs with your phone. I went down to our cafe at work this morning and just paid for a Kitkat with my phone. It's easy enough to do, all you do is hold your phone out to a contact reader and as long as your card is registered with your iPhone or Apple watch then you just press the touch ID button here on your phone which is a finger print scanner and that just completes the payment. And that's that essentially. Gareth you've been trying out Barclays bPay scheme which is their alternative to Apple Pay, how have you been finding it?

Yeah, it's been fine. So, Barclays is one of the banks that isn't yet participating in Apple Pay, it's only a handful of banks at the moment. They have launched their own kind of hardwares, its three things is this wristband here or a sticker you can put on the back of your phone or little fob you can kind of carry around in your keys.

Effectively, what you do is you have a little sim card that you register an app on your phone, you insert that into one of these three items and then you upload money to the app. So, it's like a prepaid card basically that's contactless and then you can just swap it on contactless terminals. That seems a little bit more of a faff to me compared to Apple Pay, how have you been finding it?

Well, you're right, you have to upload money actively and especially if you're using it for the tube and the bus which I've been doing a lot. It's effectively replaced my oyster card which I quite like. Quite like the fact I can tap my wrist onto the payment terminal then away we go but then I have to keep topping up and making sure I've always got money on that, it does have an interesting auto top up function. So everytime you sort of reach a certain limit it will just take money off our linked debit card and uploads that to your card again, so you will never run out of cash on there.

You can also upload 200 pounds on it, say for example you're paying for your travel. You can put a hundred pounds there and just swap and go. So it's exactly the same as contactless or Apple Pay for that matter, 20 pounds limit. That's increasing obviously in September later on this year, but yeah it has the same limitations as any contactless. If you're with one of the banks that is not participating in Apple Pay and I'm a Barclay's customer, they have said today that they will do at some point, this is my only option really if I want some form of wearable contacts payment system.

So that's the low down on Apple Pay and Barclaycard bPay and it's probably worth saying now that those two schemes are the first in a wave of similar contactless payment schemes that are going to hit UK over the coming month. You got Samsung pay scheme which is going to work with phones like Samsung Galaxy S6 and the upcoming Note5 and it's also got Google's Android pay scheme which replaces Google wallet from last year, which never really took off.

Whether you're using a contact list call or Apple Pay or Barclaycard bPay you're sure to using a lot more contactless payments in the future.

How does Apple Pay work?

To use Apple Pay, you will need to store the card details you want to use on your iPhone. You can do this by using your phone's camera to capture the details, which are then stored in a pre-installed app called Apple Passbook.

When it comes to paying, you hold your phone or watch to a contactless reader, as you would if you were paying with a contactless card, and a vibration will confirm that a payment has been made.

If you're using an iPhone you'll be required to use Apple's fingerprint-recognition technology, Touch ID, when making a purchase. If the phone doesn't recognise your fingerprint, then the transaction won't go through. Apple Watch doesn't require you to do this, meaning you have to just place your watch next to a reader to make a payment.

Where can I use Apple Pay?

Apple Pay launched in the UK in July 2015 and is said to work at more than 250,000 locations; it has the backing of major banks, too. At time of launch, customers of Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Nationwide or Santander could use the service, while customers of Bank of Scotland, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, TSB and First Direct, are due to be offered it by the end of 2015. Barclays is also expected to support it during 2015.

Customers with a credit card from American Express, MasterCard or Visa can also use Apple Pay.

Major shops already accept Apple Pay payments, including Boots, the Post Office, Starbucks and Waitrose, while Marks & Spencer lets you spend more than the contactless cap.

Find out more: Learn about contactless cards

Is Apple Pay safe?

Apple Pay appears to be as least as secure as contactless payments. When you add a card to the service, its details are encrypted and stored only on your iPhone, not on Apple's servers, and when it comes to transactions it uses something called a  Device Account Number instead, meaning your card details aren't used during purchases at all.

The fingerprint technology adds another layer of security but if you were to lose your phone or it was stolen, you could stop payments by logging in to Apple's iCloud or by putting your device into 'lost mode' via the Find My Phone app.

Which? carried out tests on contactless cards in the summer of 2015. We were able to 'steal' enough card details to order goods online, including a £3,000 television. Find out more about our investigation into contactless cards

  • Last updated: July 2016
  • Updated by: Rob Goodman

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