Apple Pay launches in the UK – is this the end of cash?

Apple has launched its latest assault on your wallet with its contactless payment system Apple Pay. Natalie Stanton looks at how it works.


No need to reach for your wallet use your iPhone

Apple has been working hard to make the contents of your briefcase redundant, one at a time. And today it has launched its latest assault this time, on your wallet. Apple Pay allows you to pay for items costing up to £20 with a simple tap of your iPhone.

But how does this work, and what are the chances you'll be switching cash for contactless technology in the near future?

What is Apple Pay?

The technology has been available in the US since last October, but has yet to build much momentum. However, hopes are high that the technology will take off in the UK. According to a recent report by Visa Europe, the British are by far Europe's biggest users of contactless payment technology. In March 2014, British shoppers spent £243m using contactless payments a total of 52.6 million transactions.

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How does it work?

While this all sounds like revolutionary stuff, bear in mind that for now it's only available to those who own an iPhone 6, 6 Plus or an Apple Watch. However, it's also possible to make in-app purchases on the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3.

Where can you use it?

Apple has managed to get a strong cohort of retailers on board for the launch date, with participating brands including Lidl, McDonald's, Pret a Manger, Boots, Waitrose and Nando's. A bunch of others including New Look, Eat, JD Sports and Dune will begin offering the service later this year.

Transport for London has also been named as an official launch partner, which means that users are now able to use Apple Pay to touch in and out of the Underground, Overground and on London buses.

Which banks are on board?

Barclays was the only major UK bank not to partner with Apple on the initiative largely because of its own venture into contactless payment, known as bPay. However, following criticism from some account holders, the bank has today backtracked and agreed to support the service in the near future.

What are the alternatives?

Barclaycard's equivalent service bPay is set to roll out in July. It comprises a wristband, key fob and a sticker that goes on your phone, meaning that you essentially have three different contactless ways to make a payment. And you don't need to be a Barclaycard customer to use the service, which is expected to deliver sizeable market share.

Natalie joined MoneyWeek in March 2015. Prior to that she worked as a reporter for The Lawyer, and a researcher/writer for legal careers publication the Chambers Student Guide. 

She has an undergraduate degree in Politics with Media from the University of East Anglia, and a Master’s degree in International Conflict Studies from King’s College, London.