Apple has launched Apple Pay in the UK, meaning you can start using specific Apple devices as digital wallets of sorts in order to pay for goods at stores with contactless payment readers and within apps.

The idea is that you'll never need to tote around your bank cards again, because most people have their iPhone or Apple Watch on them at all times, and the latest versions of all those devices can now use Apple Pay to securely store your sensitive payment data and transmit it to select retailers during checkout.

You can also use Apple Pay to simplify the checkout process on hundreds of online retail sites, which also works through the Apple iPads with TouchID fingerprint sensors: iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

If you're wondering how it all works, we've detailed everything you need to know below. But if you want to learn even more, we've got a summarisation on the service here and a specific feature about how to add bank cards.

Apple Pay, which first launched in the US last year, is a contactless payment technology from Apple. It basically pulls your credit cards, debit cards, and other sensitive data from Apple's Passbook app and primarily enables your iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch to double as a wallet at physical store checkouts.

It also allows you to easily pay for goods within mobile apps, but more on that later.

There are a few things you need to have before you can begin using Apple Pay.

Compatible device

First up, you need one of the following compatible devices to use Apple Pay in shops and apps.

AppleScreen Shot 2015-07-13 at 3.23.24 PM

Check the chart above to see which devices currently support Apple Pay.

Bank card

Next, you need a bank card to actually use Apple Pay when paying for goods at stores or within apps, obviously. Apple Pay works with most of the major credit and debit cards from the top UK banks.

It currently works with Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards from American Express, First Direct, HSBC, Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, and Ulster Bank. It'll soon also work with cards from Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA, and TSB.

Apple said it doesn’t save your transaction information or card numbers on its servers. It has a tokenised backend infrastructure that basically creates a number or token that replaces your card details. More specifically, it creates a Device Account Number for each one of your cards.

This number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone and Apple Watch, and when a payment is initiated, the token is passed to the retailer or merchant. The retailer or merchant therefore never has direct access to your card details.

Passbook app

If you've never used the Passbook app that Apple launched a while back, now is your chance. The app also stores your boarding passes, tickets, coupons and more. Now it can store your credit and debit cards too.

iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus

If you want to use Apple Pay to purchase goods in physical stores or even within mobile apps, you'll need an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8.1 or later. You must also hold either device near a register's contactless reader (look for one of these contactless reader symbols at checkout) - with your finger on Touch ID.

Apple Watch

You can also use an Apple Watch paired with an iPhone 5 or later (though it must be running iOS 8.2 or later). To pay with Apple Watch, just double‑click the side button and hold the display of Apple Watch up to a register's contactless reader. A tap and beep will confirm that you've paid for the goods.

iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3/mobile apps

If you only want to use Apple Pay to purchase goods within mobile apps on your device, you can use an iPad Air 2 or iPad Mini 3 running iOS 8.1 or later. Mobile apps with support for Apple Pay will always prompt you during checkout to place your finger on Touch ID, and doing so will let you quickly pay. Simples.

Apple has a running list of all the places and apps that currently accept Apple Pay payments in the UK - its preferred launch partners, so to speak. However, you can use your phone or watch to pay for items in any store that has a contactless payment machine.

The few stores and restaurants that carry the official Apple Pay logo include Boots, Costa, Waitrose, Starbucks, Wagamama, while some apps that support the system include Argos, British Airways, Dominos, Zara, Topshop. You can even use it with the Transport for London on buses and in Tube stations.

VeriFone is also rolling out Apple Pay-adorned contactless payment machines to new stores, so expect more imminently.

Both Pret a Manger and Bill's will be accepting limitless payments at launch, meaning you aren't restricted by the current contactless limit of £20.

Stores in the UK include: 

  • Bill's
  • Boots
  • BP
  • Costa
  • KFC
  • Le Pain Quotidien
  • Liberty
  • Lidl
  • M&S
  • McDonalds
  • Nando's
  • Post Office
  • Pret a Manger
  • Subway
  • Spar
  • Starbucks
  • Wagamama
  • Waitrose

Apple has a page with more details about Apple Pay in the UK, including what you have to do should you ever need to stop the ability to make payments from credit and debit cards on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch.