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New ways to pay

What is Apple Pay?

By Chiara Cavaglieri

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What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay lets you make speedy payments with a swipe of your mobile, but is it safe to use? Here's what you need to know. 

What is Apple Pay?

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

Apple Pay lets you pay for goods by moving your iPhone over a contactless reader, removing the need to use a physical 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.

Is Apple Pay safe?

Apple Pay appears to be at least as secure as contactless payments:

  • When you add a card, its details are encrypted and stored only on your iPhone, not on Apple's servers. 
  • Apple replaces your card's details with something called a device account number (also called a token) which means the real information is never shared during purchases.  
  • A passcode and Apple's fingerprint-recognition technology Touch ID adds another layer of security. On Apple Watch, wrist detection must be enabled.
  • If you lost 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.

How do I use Apple Pay?

To use Apple Pay, open the pre-installed Wallet app and add the payment cards you want to use on your device. You can use the iPhone's camera to capture the card details quickly, adding up to eight cards on any Apple device. 

Cards already linked to your Apple ID can be verified by entering the security code, but new cards will need to be verified by your bank. 

Your phone doesn't need to be connected to the internet to make a payment in-store. Since your card details are stored securely on your iPhone or Apple Watch, you only need to hold it close to the contactless reader, just as you would if you were paying with a contactless card. A vibration will confirm that a payment has been made.

If you're using an iPhone you'll be required to use 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.

In the UK, you can pay for goods worth up to £30 using Apple Pay, although retailers can set their own limits so some will let you spend more than this. 

If you need a receipt, ask for one, just as would when paying via credit or debit card. Shops will be able to refund any purchase made with Apple Pay under the same terms as paying with a physical card (cashiers may ask for the last few digits of your Device Account Number to process returns). 

Find out more: Learn about contactless card security

Which shops accept Apple Pay?

It should work on the Transport for London (TfL) network, and at any shop that accepts contactless payments, including major retailers such as Boots, M&S, the Post Office, Starbucks and Waitrose. 

Apple Pay also works within selected apps and at participating retailers on the web using Safari – by tapping the Apple Pay button, or choosing Apple Pay at the checkout. 

The app stores your billing, shipping, and contact information so that you only need to enter this information once. 

Which banks support Apple Pay?

When Apple Pay launched in the UK in July 2015 it already had the backing of  most of the major banks, although Barclays only started supporting  it in April 2016. 

Barclays has its 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 Barclays 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. 

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.
  • Last updated: May 2017
  • Updated by: Chiara Cavaglieri
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