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Apple Pay and the Apple Watch, happy playmates


I’ve been fretting about not having a credit or debit card enabled for Apple Pay. Last week there was a flurry of activity and I found that I had two likely suspects in my wallet so I decided to have a go.

Setting up on the iPhone is straightforward: Go to the Passbook application in Settings and tap to add a card. The camera springs into life and it’s then a simple task to scan the card. The system reliably reads the card number and identifies the issuer but is less precise on expiry date. I had to enter this manually, as I did the secure code from the back of the card. Once this is done, the card issuer sends a verification code by SMS and this is entered into Passbook to complete the installation. 

Watch hitch

I had less success initially with the Watch. I dutifully ticked the “Mirror Phone” option in the Apple Watch app on the phone but was surprised to see that neither credit card was visible on the watch. After a lot of reading of help papers and forums on the Apple site I realised that the two devices are independent for the purposes of Apple Pay. It is necessary to set up the card again on the Watch, but through the Apple Watch app on the phone. Confused? You will be.

 Paying for a MacBook with Apple Pay and Watch
Paying for a MacBook with Apple Pay and Watch

This is only an initial problem. Once you’ve understood and done it and successfully added a card, you are in business. In use, Apple Pay is even more simple. With the phone it’s a matter of using Touch ID on the home button and waving the device across the swipe reader. Transactions (which are limited to £20 in the UK, just like swipe purchases) appear on the phone as a list. 

Transaction check

With the Watch things are slightly different. When you are ready to pay you simply double press the side button and the screen tells you to place the phone near to the card reader. An encouraging buzz on the wrist tells you the transaction is complete. There is, however, one big difference. There seems to be no way to check transactions from the Watch or the phone and you have to wait for the items to appear on the credit card bill. This is a problem for me since I am in the habit of entering all transactions immediately into my favourite accounts system, Moneydance. I’ll have to remember to keep hold of the receipts.

Initially, I had assumed that Apple Pay on the Watch and the iPhone would be completely integrated but I now understand that they are separate systems, almost certainly for security reasons. it’s something we can live with. But it would certainly be nice to see a list of transactions either on the Watch or in the iPhone app. 

Yesterday I used the Watch to buy groceries at Marks & Spencer, much to the delight of the staff who hadn’t seen this magic trick before. Then, later, a coffee at Caffe Nero was the occasion for more interested discussion. I was the first Watch payer in that particular branch. I love being a pioneer and that was what frustrated me about the delay in implementation by many card issuers. Today I did a big purchase, a MacBook at £1,299. A couple of presses of the button and the transaction was approved in a couple of seconds. As far as I know, though, only Apple accepts Apple Pay for sums over £20.

Apple Pay is likely to become one of the most-used features of the Watch—or the iPhone for that matter—because it is just so convenient and easy. It is the future, as we move inexorably to a cashless society. I used to get very annoyed when the person in front at Starbucks insisted on using a credit card for a £2.25 coffee; all that palaver and delay with entering PIN numbers was an sure-fire irritant. Then came swipe cards and I realised I was less affronted. Now it’s watch and phone swiping and I feel quite relaxed about it. I realise that within a year or two NFC payments will be the norm.


  1. There are several reports that Pret a Manger and Bill’s accept limitless transactions, as well as Apple, and also that Boots will go limitless in November. I would have difficulty spending more than £20 in Pret though, so I haven’t been able to confirm that.

    • Interesting. I wonder how the credit card companies view this, given that they seem to have a policy of refunding fraudulent NFC transactions up to £20/£30. I imagine the Watch is much more secure, so they could be happy. If so, it will be a big USP for the Watch and, I suspect, will encourage sales on this one feature alone.

      • The Visa Europe Q&A indicates that they fully support limitless transactions, as they are at least as secure as Chip and Pin. It is left up to the retailer to implement it in their systems

    • Thanks for the link, Keith, very useful. I see that the limit goes up to £30 in September so that should make things easier. It’s also interesting that Apple seems to be the only retailer prepared to accept payment without limited (as far as I know; but I did spend £1,300 with Apple via the watch earlier this month).

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