Apple Pay launches in Britain as holdout Barclays signs up

Tue Jul 14, 2015 6:43pm EDT
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By Eric Auchard

LONDON (Reuters) - Apple introduced its mobile payments service to Britain on Tuesday as Barclays became the last major UK bank to sign up for the U.S. tech giant's effort to capitalize on the increasing comfort among British consumers with making tap-and-go purchases.

A quarter of a million outlets will offer Apple Pay, from London Underground stations to coffee shops, retailers and travel businesses, making it more widely available than when it first launched in the United States last year.

Tap-and-go payments have surged in recent years, with growing acceptance by banks, retailers, credit card issuers and consumers. The tipping point in Britain came with the London Underground's introduction of "contactless" payment methods.

"We actually think that the UK can be our leading market for Apple Pay, given the unique characteristics (of the market)," said Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay.

Convenience, as ever, is key and Apple says its new service is even quicker than rival contactless payment options. Set-up is via an Apple app on an iPhone 6 or late-model iPad. Customers use the built-in camera to scan an image of their credit or debit cards and then confirm their details by text message, email or a phone call from their bank.

To make payments, customers hold their phone, tablet or Apple Watch near a merchant's existing contactless terminal while touching the mobile device's fingerprint ID button or by double-tapping on the face of their smartwatch.

The beauty of the scheme for Apple is that it offers another way to bind customers more tightly to its phones, tablets and watches, selling more of its products, while also taking a small slice of the bank transaction fees on each payment made.

However, UK banks have negotiated a harder bargain with Apple on the interchange fees the parties split on each transaction than comparable deals with U.S. banks, the Financial Times reported, citing unnamed banking sources.   Continued...

The Apple logo is seen at the flagship Apple retail store in San Francisco, California April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith