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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 to set up Apple Pay Using Apple Pay in stores and online Using Apple Pay on gov.uk
How much can I spend using 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 is a digital wallet that 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. See the full list of compatible devices here

Google Pay (formerly known as ‘Android Pay’), is a similar mobile payments system that works on Android devices and some Android-based smartwatches.

 

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 (Touch ID) or facial-recognition (Face ID) technology 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: Read about digital payment security 

How to set up 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 'default' card is the one you plan to use most often but swtiching to a different one is very simple:

  • on iPhone X or later, double-click the side button and then tap to choose another card,
  • on iPhone 8 or earlier, hold your device near the reader without resting your finger on Touch ID, then tap to choose another card,
  • on Apple Watch, double-click the side button and swipe left or right to choose another card. 

Find out more: Latest Apple iPhones reviewed by Which?

Using Apple Pay in stores and online

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.

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). 

If you need a receipt, ask for one, just as would when paying via credit or debit card. You'll be able to view your most recent transactions for each card in the Wallet app. 

You can also pay for goods on the web in Safari using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. For Macs without Touch ID, make sure you've turned Bluetooth on. 

Apple Pay will store your billing, shipping, and contact information so you won't need to enter it again.

A growing number of smartphone apps also accept Apple Pay. Look for the logo at the checkout to see if Apple Pay is one of the payment options.

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Using Apple Pay on gov.uk

The Government website gov.uk has begun accepting Apple Pay and Google Pay.

As of May 2019, you can pay for the following four services:

  • the Global Entry Service - which enables UK citizens to get expedited entry to the United States
  • online basic DBS checks - these are carried out before people are allowed to work in certain sectors
  • the Registered Traveller Service - which makes it easier for frequent visitors from non-EU countries to enter the UK using modern E-Gates at the border
  • the Electronic Visa Waiver Service - which allows people from four countries in the Middle East to travel more easily to the UK

Mobile payments will be rolled out more widely and to local government, police and the NHS later in 2019. 

How much can I spend using Apple Pay?

In the UK, you can 'tap and pay' for goods worth up to £30 using a contactless credit or debit card but Apple Pay (and other digital wallet) users can exceed this limit, if the retailer allows it.

Some retailers will let you spend any amount using Apple Pay while others will impose the £30 contactless card limit and ask for Pin authentication above this. 

Read more about which high-street retailers have higher limits in our news story. Which shops accept Apple Pay?

Apple Pay transactions made in-app and using a Safari browser have no limit. 

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 Apple Pay to UK customers. Read about both in our challenger and mobile banks guide. 

On some devices (Apple Watch Series 3, iPhone 8 and later) you can add up to 12 cards but otherwise the maximum is eight cards per device.

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

  Apple Pay Google Pay Samsung Pay
AIB GB Yes Yes No
American Express Yes Yes Yes
Bank of Scotland Yes Yes No
Barclaycard Yes No No
Barclays Yes No No
boon. by Wirecard Yes No No
Cash Passport (Raphaels Bank) Yes No No
Clydesdale Bank (including B Bank) Yes Yes No
Cornèrcard UK Yes No Yes
Cumberland Building Society Yes Yes No
Danske Bank Yes  No Yes
Engage (credit union) No No Yes
First Direct Yes Yes Yes
First Trust Bank Yes Yes No
Halifax Yes Yes No
HSBC Yes Yes Yes
Isle of Man Bank No Yes No
John Lewis Finance Yes Yes Yes
Lloyds Yes Yes No
N26 Yes No No
M&S Bank Yes Yes Yes
MBNA Yes Yes No
Metro Bank Yes No No
Monzo Yes Yes No
Nationwide Building Society Yes Yes Yes
NatWest Yes Yes No
Revolut No Yes No
Royal Bank of Scotland Yes Yes No
Prepaid Financial Services No No Yes
Santander Yes Yes Yes
Sodexo Yes No No
Starling Bank Yes Yes Yes
Tesco Bank Yes No No
The Co-operative Bank (including Smile) Yes Yes Yes
Thomas Cook Cash Passport (Raphaels Bank) Yes No No
TSB Yes Yes No
Ulster Bank Yes Yes No
Yorkshire Bank (including B Bank) Yes Yes No

 

Correct at May 2019

 

Video: Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay

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.

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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