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Apple Pay in the UK: How to use Apple Pay with iPhone and Apple Watch

Thomas McMullan Expert Reviews Staff
5 Sep 2016
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We explain how Apple Pay works in the UK, including transaction limits, supported devices and supported cards

Apple Pay has been available in the UK for over a year now, and take up is still spreading. If you’ve got an Apple handset that’s iPhone 6 or later, or if you’ve treated yourself to an Apple Watch, you have the ability to pay in-store for items using contactless Apple Pay. Sounds great, right? But how do you use it? And how do you pay for a coffee with you watch and not look like a showoff? 

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We can’t help you with the last question, but here’s everything you need to know about Apple Pay, including how to get it and how to use it.

Apple Pay: At a glance

  • Works with select iPhones, iPads and the Apple Watch.
  • Doesn’t have a strict transaction limit, although a lot of shops have a £30 cap.
  • Can be used for transport such as buses and tubes with TfL.

Apple Pay: How does it work?

Apple Pay lets you use your iPhone to pay for goods and services. It can be used in-store, provided there are NFC contactless card readers, and for in-app purchases. To fund your purchases, you have to store your existing credit and debit cards in Wallet, and money is taken out of these accounts.

That’s similar to how PayPal works: you can pay for goods using PayPal, but the money is debited from your linked accounts. However, Apple Pay is much more convenient and flexible, as it works in the real world in a larger number of shops.

Which devices support Apple Pay?

You can use a variety of different devices with Apple Pay although some of them are limited to in-app purchases rather than being used in a physical shop. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus support in-app and in-store purchases, while the Apple Watch only supports on-store purchases. 

Is Apple Pay safe?

It’s arguably safer than using your real credit card. Rather than storing your credit card details, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and saved in the Secure Element chip in the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. When you make a purchase, your Device Account Number is used in conjunction with a transaction-specific code, so you never reveal your credit card’s full details. This means that your card can’t be cloned or the details noted down by a dodgy shop.

Transactions are also protected by Touch ID, which is a big improvement on normal contactless – where's there's no security at all: anyone with your credit card can make a payment. Using the Apple Watch doesn't require your fingerprint, but the Watch has to be paired to your phone. In other words, if somebody wanted to use your Apple Pay account, they'd have to steal your phone and your Watch and keep them in pairing distance.

In addition, if your phone is lost or stolen, you can use Find My iPhone to turn off Apple Pay, so your phone definitely can’t be used to pay for anything. Even better, you don’t have to cancel your cards, as they can’t be used via Apple Pay.

Do I need a data connection? 

As Apple Pay stores a secure transaction token on your phone or Watch, you don't need a data connection to use them. This means that you can use them when you don't have service, such as when you're on the Tube, or when you're abroad without running up a huge roaming bill. It also means that you can take the Apple Watch out on its own and still pay for goods without having to have your phone.

Is there a transaction limit?

There isn’t a set transaction limit with Apple Pay, but this largely depends on the limits set by individual retailers. Apple says on its own support page that customers may not be able to use Apple Pay for purchases over £30, but there isn’t a standard cut-off amount. 

Where can I use Apple Pay?

As we said, it will work with any shop that has a contactless card reader, even those that don’t directly support it. This is because Apple Pay uses the normal contactless system. Higher limits, as we said above, will need to be supported in-store. Companies that have signed up to Apple Pay include Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, BP, Dune, Boots and Wagamama. You can also use it for contactless payments on the Tube. Apple said on launch that 250,000 locations in the UK were set to support Apple Pay, but this has likely grown significantly since last year.

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