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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. 

In this article
What is Apple Pay? Is Apple Pay safe? How do I use Apple Pay?
Which shops accept Apple Pay? Which banks support Apple Pay in the UK? Video: Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay

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.

Find out more: Latest Apple iPhones reviewed by Which?

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 in the UK?

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. 

Monese and N26 are the latest mobile bank account providers to launch Apply Pay to UK customers. Read about both in our challenger and mobile banks guide. 

The following banks, building societies and credit card companies support Apple Pay in the UK:

  • AIB
  • American Express
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclaycard
  • Barclays
  • boon. by Wirecard
  • Cash Passport (Raphael's)
  • Clydesdale Bank
  • Cornèrcard UK
  • Cumberland Building Society
  • Danske Bank
  • First Direct
  • First Trust Bank
  • Halifax
  • HSBC
  • John Lewis Finance
  • Lloyds
  • N26
  • M&S Bank
  • MBNA
  • Metro Bank
  • Monzo
  • Nationwide Building Society
  • NatWest
  • Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Santander
  • Sodexo
  • Starling Bank
  • Tesco Bank
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • Thomas Cook Cash Passport (Raphael's)
  • TSB
  • Ulster Bank
  • Yorkshire Bank

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.