​Apple Pay launches in the UK

After its US launch last year, Apple Pay has arrived in the UK with support from retailers, card schemes, and local banks.

Following the launch of Apple Pay in the US last year, the service has today arrived in the UK, allowing iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch owners to make contactless payments with their devices at over 250,000 locations.

Besides Apple itself, retailers that will support Apple Pay at launch include Boots, BP, Costa Coffee, KFC, Liberty, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, McDonalds, Nandos, Pret, Spar, Starbucks, Subway, Wagamama, and Waitrose. Transport for London and the Post Office will also be accepting Apple Pay payments, and more retailers will be added soon, Apple said.

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Banks issuing MasterCard, Visa, and American Express debit and credit cards that are supporting Apple Pay at launch include mbna, Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, and Ulster Bank. There are a number of large banks not onboard at launch, though First direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, M&S Bank, and TSB are set to join the scheme in future.

Like other contactless systems, purchases using Apple Pay will be largely limited to a maximum of £20, a ceiling that will be raised by £10 in September, according to the BBC. However, some retailers may support larger transactions, depending on whether their payment terminal supports the latest network specification, according to Apple.

Setting up a device to work with Apple Pay is done via the Apple Passbook app, where a user can add a credit or debit card to their iPhone. They then enter the card details manually or simply take a photo of their card to populate the fields.

Unlike Android owners, iPhone users don't need to toggle on the NFC on their phone to make contactless payments since it's always on the iPhone. When it comes time to make a purchase, the user simply holds their phone near the contactless reader with their finger on Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint reader. If Touch ID hasn't already been setup, the device will prompt the user to activate Touch ID.

Apple says Apple Pay is a more secure payment system due to the unique Device Account Number that stands in as a substitute for the actual credit card number. The number is stored in encrypted format on a chip in the iPhone, which Apple calls the Secure Element.

If a person loses their iPhone, they can use the Find My iPhone feature to suspend Apple Pay by remotely putting the device into Lost Mode. Alternatively, they could just wipe the device entirely.

Apple says it doesn't track transaction information in a way that can be tied back to the user, though Passbook does store the most recent purchases.

Visa Europe said today that Apple Pay can be used wherever Visa contactless payment is accepted - over 410,000 terminals in 250,000 locations.

"Consumer demand for mobile contactless payments combined with the fact that 70 percent of people in the UK own a smartphone means that the pieces of the puzzle are coming together for a seismic shift from plastic to digital. With today's launch of Apple Pay, it is clear that mobile solutions will fast become a preferred way to store and use a credit or debit card," Jeremy Nicholds, executive director of mobile at Visa Europe, said.

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