Gadgets

Everything you need to know about Apple Pay

And you thought having a contactless payment card was 21st century.

Heralded by a fanfare of metallic slaps and plastic thwacks, Apple Pay has arrived in the UK.

Here's everything you need to know about the latest way to hand over your earnings without touching any grubby currency: from which banks support it, to the risks involved. 

How does it work?

Like most other contactless payment systems, Apple Pay utilises a technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).

A small antenna in the back of the handset recognises other NFC devices, allowing handsets like the iPhone 6 or the Apple Watch to communicate and transfer data without having to call up a Bluetooth connection or plug anything in.

Once you've set up Apple Pay with card details from one of the participating banks (see below), you'll be able to pay for transactions up to £20 in value (set to rise to £30 later this year, and higher for some individual merchants that have requested a higher cap) by holding your iPhone 6 or Watch over an NFC payment point with your finger on handset's finger print scanner.

The fingerprint scanner will thus determine if it's really you looking to make the payment (so no one else will be able to use the service if they pinch your phone), confirming the transaction has gone through with a small vibration.

The app will also work with a variety of online services and other apps, allowing you to pay from your phone without needing to retrieve your card details. Services like Transport for London are also accepting payments. If you see an NFC payment point, ask the cashier if they accept Apple Pay and proceed to slap your handset/watch about like a big spender.

Does my bank accept Apple Pay?

As of launch, these are the current UK banks that will allow you to add your card details to the Apple Pay app:

NatWest

Nationwide

Royal Bank of Scotland

Ulster Bank

Santander

HSBC had previously been listed as being a participating bank by Apple (their images even still appear on the relevant UK Apple pages), but as the service goes to launch it appears that HSBC wasn't intending to employ the service at launch, telling the BBC: "We are now working hard to bring this to our customers by the end of July."

Other banks set to employ the service include Halifax, Llyods, TSB and M&S.

Are there any risks associated with Apple Pay?

Yes and no. 

Apple Pay has been running in the US for nine months, so you can rest assured that many major bank branches and Apple themselves are fully aware of any potential faults in the payment system.

The use of the finger print scanner helps offer peace of mind should you lose your iPhone: no one is going to be able to use your phone to pay for their coffee run, unless they've taken your finger as well.

One known issue with the service only puts you at risk should your credit or debit card get pinched: rather than "breaking" Apple Pay, some US fraudsters have managed to successfully add stolen card details to the app along with stolen IDs. The problem doesn't strictly lie with Apple Pay, but rather with the banks' system of confirming the identity of the card user: if someone has stolen your credit card details and has certain information about the individual associated with that card, Apple Pay presents an easy way for them to get at your money. 

So, continue to be careful with your band and card details, and should you ever fear that someone might have access to your payment information, be sure to inform your bank. It's thought that those UK banks currently not participating with Apple Pay are attempting to beef up their own security checks in order to prevent this being a widespread problem for UK users.

You can find out more over on the Apple page.