Apple Pay makes UK debut but HSBC misses launch

Apple Pay UK

Apple Pay has launched in the UK with customers of seven banks and more than 250,000 retailers now able to use selected iPhone models and the Apple Watch to make contactless payment purchases, but surprisingly HSBC wasn’t among them

The bank, which was expected to be among the first wave offering the service, told disappointed customers on Twitter that it was expecting to launch “later in July“. On Sunday evening, HSBC appeared to confirm today’s heavily rumoured launch date when it tweeted its excitement of Tuesday’s launch. The tweet was quickly deleted but not before being widely circulated on social media. Today, the bank was omitted from the list of participating banks on the Apple Pay page of Apple’s website but images of HSBC bank cards are clearly shown.

Apple Pay allows customers to pay for purchases using their device’s in-built Touch ID fingerprint and near-field communication (NFC) technology. Users of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus hover their mobile over a contactless payment terminal. Payment is made by holding their thumb or finger on the home button. As with existing contactless card payments there is no need for customers to enter a PIN. Purchases by Apple Watch involve double tapping the side buttons to select the correct card and holding it to the con tactless payment reader.

Apple Pay works with Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards issued by participating UK banks: Nationwide, NatWest, Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, American Express and MBNA. In addition to HSBC, they will be joined later this year by Lloyds, TSB, First Direct, M&S Bank and Halifax. Barclays, which already has a payment wristband and fobs, initially looked unlikely to be partnering with Apple Pay. The bank has since confirmed that it will launch the service “imminently”.

The Apple Pay UK website shows HSBC cards, despite customers of the bank not being able to use Apple Pay from launch

Major retailers accepting Apple Pay from day one include Waitrose, Boots, BP, Costa and Pret a Manger. Transport for London, which has accepted contactless card payments on the capital’s buses since December 2012 and on the Tube, trams, DLR and Overground rail services since September 2014, has become the first public transport operator to accept Apple Pay.

At present Apple Pay purchases are limited to £20 per transaction. This will rise to £30 when the contactless card payment limit rises in September. Customers can add multiple cards to Apple’s Passbook app and select a default account. Apple customers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air or iPad mini 3 will also be able to make in-app purchases using the system.

Apple has launched a dedicated page for merchants wanting to introduce Apple Pay. It doesn’t charge merchants for using Apple Pay and states that if a merchant’s point of sale terminal is contactless then the retailer is “likely to accept Apple Pay without any changes”. The page also deals with questions on administering refunds and questions on fraud liability – in shops, Apple Pay transactions are treated in the same way as a retailer’s current credit and debit transactions.


News Apple Pay July 2015 in app purchases

Apple customers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air or iPad mini 3 can make in-app purchases using Apple Pay

The UK is the second market to launch Apple Pay, following the US debut nine months ago. Analysts believe the widespread use of contactless payments by British consumers (transactions more than tripled, from payments worth £653m in 2013, to £2.32bn last year) will help drive use of Apple Pay here.

“In America we’re not as advanced in using contactless as the UK, we’re only transitioning to chip and pin now,” said vice president of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey. “Today there’s virtually no contactless from a card perspective – Apple Pay is the first contactless for the most part.”

Bailey has also addressed questions on security.

“We don’t store the credit card number on your phone, a new device account number generated by the banks is stored on the phone in our secure element. There is also a unique dynamic security code that is set with every payment, so if the device account number is compromised in any way, it won’t work.

“We’ve designed it so the transactions are just between you, the bank and the merchant, not seen by Apple. That transaction information never passes through Apple servers. It’s unlike some other folks in this industry who want to take that data and use it for other revenue or advertising purposes – we’re very much focused on strong customer privacy.”

Shortly after 7am a member of the Director team had installed a (non-contactless) bank card to the Passbook app on his iPhone and made a £3.20 purchase at Pret a Manger soon after.

The hashtag #ApplePay was trending on Twitter by 10am on the day of the UK launch.


More on Apple Pay from the Apple website

Watch a video demonstration of how to use Apple Pay

Advice for merchants

About author

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett

Richard Dunnett is an associate editor who writes about entrepreneurs, SMEs, FTSE 100 corporations, technology, manufacturing, media and sustainability.

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