Nick's Notes

An Apple a day…

My first thought having used Apple Pay on the day it became active in the UK was “cool”. I love new technology and I have been known to make pro-Apple comments in these blogs. My second thought was “that took longer than using a card”.

There were 250,000 outlets for Apple Pay in the UK on launch day, and more to come. Not all of the launch banks were actually ready (HSBC), and customer pressure on those who were competing with their own contactless kit or keeping a watching brief led to statements that they will support Apple Pay shortly (Barclays).

I have been using contactless cards in London for the last 6 months or more. They have really taken off and the terminals are very widespread, reliable and quick. I decided I could do without cash and managed quite effectively for a week (even though I did have cash in my wallet just in case) although the very busy bartender in the pub wished I had not tried. The rest of the country is not yet so accepting of contactless nor of paying for low value items with a debit card.

The banks impose a £20 limit on a contactless transaction, although this will rise to £30 in the autumn. This is because if you find a contactless card in the street it will work for you just as well as for its owner – at least until it is reported missing. Apple Pay is subject to the same limits, although it need not be as there is a verification process – through a fingerprint on your iPhone, which is a great deal more secure than a 4 digit pin number needed to use a card normally and for larger transactions. Near field communication it may have in common, but my one digit, as long as it remains firmly on my hand, is tied to my phone alone – hence my card – and no one else’s fingerprint will work on my phone. Apple Pay is likely to extend to full value credit and debit card usage in the near future in the UK. It is much more secure, as the merchant never gets the card details, just a one time code which the bank will honour. One day no one will trust anything less.

But it is a slower process than touching a card, which is why TfL who accept Apple Pay have been warning users to be careful. Firstly, it doesn’t work well if you get a call while it is verifying – that may be something later versions of the software irons out. Secondly, it isn’t quite so obvious which card you are using as having it in your hand, so you may find you use one to touch in and a different one to touch out – which can cause a problem and a larger fare than needed. The same problems appear to occur if you switch between phone and Apple Watch. Travelers are recognising that it is sub-optimal to use Apple Pay as the queue builds up at busy times, and your battery could die before you get to the end of your journey. Sweaty fingers apparently don’t register on the sensor too well either, but I think we should draw a veil over that.

I will continue to use a card for the Tube, and probably for my sandwiches too, but there is one expected benefit. My registered card is American Express, and that is now available for me to use in many more places than previously because of Apple Pay. The merchant effectively becomes card agnostic if they accept Apple Pay.

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