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Apple Pay goes live in the UK: Here's how to use it

Matt Brian , @m4tt
07.14.15
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It's been a while coming, but Apple Pay is now live in the UK. If you own an iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch connected to an older iPhone, you now have the option of paying for purchases without cards or cash. But how do you set it up, where can you use it, and how much can you spend? These are all questions you might, quite rightfully, need answering before you even think about going on an iPhone-fuelled spending spree. That's where we come in. We've put together a handy cheat sheet that explains all you need to know about Apple Pay in the UK. Read on to learn more.

What does it do?

Apple Pay is a service that allows you to buy things in physical stores, as well as in apps and online. Inside the latest iPhones is an NFC chip that can wirelessly communicate with payment terminals in hundreds of thousands of shops all over the UK. Once you've paired a credit or debit card to your Apple Pay account, you can simply touch your iPhone against a card reader and approve the purchase with your fingerprint. That's it, job done.

Developers and online retailers can also incorporate Apple Pay checkout buttons into their apps and websites. Instead of wading through a complicated payment form, you can hit the Apple Pay button and immediately charge whatever you're buying to a card connected to your account.

How do I set it up?

First, you'll need to update to the latest version of iOS. Once you have that, you're all set.

Next up is adding your cards. The majority of UK banks are on board, including Lloyds, Halifax, Natwest, HSBC, Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland, American Express, Nationwide, First Direct and TSB. However, not all will be available on day one (see graphic below). On your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, open the Passbook app and tap the + icon next to Apple Pay in the top-right corner. If you already have a card bound to your iTunes account, you'll be prompted to input its three-digit CVV code and it'll automatically be added.

For new cards, you'll be asked to snap a photo of the card you want to add with the iPhone's camera. You might need to add a few extra bits of information (including the three-digit security code), which your bank will then verify. What you need to enter manually will depend on which bank you're with, but once you've completed the verification process, you're ready to use Apple Pay.

Note: As Apple Pay rolls out, you may find that the option takes a while to display in Passbook. To force it through, change your iPhone's language to United States in Settings - General - Language & Region and add your debit or credit cards. Once you've added them, simply switch back to the UK and the cards you have added will remain available.

Where can I use it?

While Apple Pay is a proprietary technology, the contactless platform it supports has been widely adopted by retailers up and down the country. By that, we mean you can use your iPhone to make purchases in any high street store that supports contactless payments, just like you would with a contactless card. If you see one of the following icons, you know you can pay with your phone:

Apple Pay Sticker

In June, Apple announced it had partnered with a number of big name brands for Apple Pay. Lidl, M&S, the Post Office, McDonald's, Boots, Costa, Waitrose, Pret, Subway, KFC, Nando's, New Look and Starbucks are among the supporting retailers, with more expected to back it in the coming months. Transport for London is also on board, so you to pay your bus, train and Tube fare by tapping your phone on the readers at the gates, as you would an Oyster card. Companies like Argos, Domino's, British Airways, Just Eat, Ocado and Hailo will also let you use Apple Pay inside their apps.

Apple Pay Retail Partners

How much can I spend?

This is where things get interesting. You see, Apple Pay facilitates payments of any amount, since Touch ID fingerprint authentication is as secure as confirming a transaction by entering a PIN code. However, because it's a contactless technology, it will (at least to begin with) be beholden to the same rules as contactless cards. That means that many retailers will limit your iPhone payments to £20 (rising to £30 in September).

This won't always be the case, though. The contactless limit will only be enforced on older payment terminals. Some outlets may have the necessary hardware installed to handle larger sums from today, but many won't, so don't assume your iPhone will be omnipotent right away.

How do I pay?

Luckily, the iPhone knows when you want to pay for something using Apple Pay. If the terminal supports contactless payments, simply hold your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus about an inch from the contactless reader with your finger resting on the Touch ID (home button). If you use your finger to unlock your phone, you'll know exactly what to do.

What about my Apple Watch?

Apple Pay on your smartwatch is very similar to using it on an iPhone. The Watch must already be paired with an iPhone 5 or newer (you don't need an iPhone with you to pay) and it must also have a passcode set (for security reasons).

Despite their link, Apple won't let you copy the cards your iPhone already has on file. That means you'll have to add them again using the Apple Watch app on your handset and go through the same prompts as we've noted above.

If you're out and you're ready to pay for something using your Apple Watch, double-click the side power button (below the crown) to select which card you'd like to use. Tilt your wrist towards the contactless terminal until you feel the watch vibrate and hear a quiet beep. Get that feedback and you'll know your payment has been successful.

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