Skip to main content

Australian banks accused of anti-competitive behavior by refusing to allow customers to use Apple Pay


If you’re wondering why Apple Pay is as yet only available for Amex cards in Australia, it’s not because Apple isn’t working hard enough to introduce it there: it’s because Australian banks are refusing to sign up for it. The opposition Labor Party spokesman on digital innovation is now suggesting that this refusal may constitute anti-competitive behavior, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Reserve Bank has been urged to examine potential anti-competitive behaviour in the emerging card-free payments market amid claims the banks have frozen out newcomer Apple Pay […]

“Australian consumers should not be denied the ability to make payment choices that are openly available to consumers globally,” Ed Husic wrote. “No doubt some will argue this move by the banks is anti-competitive – I am certainly concerned that it denies consumer access to a secure, efficient payment platform.”

As we reported back in August, one big sticking point is fees … 

U.S. banks typically take a 1% commission on card purchases, so they make $1 on a $100 transaction. Of this $1, Apple takes 15c. Australian banks, in contrast, would make only 50c on the same transaction, but Apple still wants 15c of it.

A second issue is that Australia is a very advanced market for mobile payment, and banks there already have their own mobile payment apps. They argue that consumers are therefore not losing out.

A third is that while MasterCard is keen to sign up for Apple Pay, Visa is reportedly happy with its existing mobile payment arrangements with the banks.

The Herald reports that the Reserve Bank declined to comment.

Apple is working to continue the international rollout of Apple Pay, with China the big prize. It was reported earlier this week that Apple had reached its first crucial agreement there in readiness for a planned February launch.

Via CoM

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. virtualstorm - 7 years ago

    I can’t prove it, but I am sure the Canadian banks can be guilty as well.

  2. sword 2 pen (@sword2pen) - 7 years ago

    I’ve been hanging out for Apple Pay in Aus, and this is the reason why!

  3. gargravarr - 7 years ago

    Yeah, it sucks. I don’t own a mobile phone at the moment, but I would get an iPhone to replace my home phone if the damn banks (in my case, CBA) would get on board. However, as they are only making about $7 BILLION a year in profit, they will claim they can’t afford it.

  4. capdorf - 7 years ago

    I can’t see the advantage of Apple Pay, when we already have tap to pay on our cards. It would be different if we didn’t have it, but we do and have had for some time.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Same in the UK, but I have to say the Apple Watch is more convenient than having to reach into my pocket for my wallet.

    • tincan2012 - 7 years ago

      “I can’t see the advantage of Apple Pay, when we already have tap to pay on our cards.”
      Tap to pay still transmits card numbers in contrast to tokens used in Apple Pay. Tap to pay is mechanism for quickly paying but not for enhanced transaction security. However having tap to pay makes it straightforward to add Apple Pay.

    • virtualstorm - 7 years ago

      A good point. I can’t say I miss it very much in Canada. It would be good to have the option for customers though.

    • John Smith - 7 years ago

      I prefer the apple-pay even so – tend to have my phone as I move about campus at work & can always make small purchases (may not have my wallet), prefer the security of apple-pay over the total absence of security on contactless cards.

    • Rocwurst (@Rocwurst) - 7 years ago

      Apple Pay is significantly faster and more secure than tap to pay cards.

      Just tapping your Apple Watch on an NFC terminal to pay means no reaching into your pocket to get out your wallet – no having to use two hands fishing around for the card while trying to hold your shopping – no more fiddling to get the card back in your wallet and pocket as you juggle your purchases.

      Heck, for paying at stores that have Apple Pay, as long as you have your Apple Watch on your wrist you can leave your bulky wallet at home and not have that worry.

      In terms of security, anyone could steal your PayPass tap and go card and make dozens of purchases before you realise it is missing. That is why the TouchID Fingerprint reader on the iPhone is a vastly more secure option. Since you only have to hold the iPhone with your thumb on the Reader/Home button, it is also faster than having to fish your credit card out of your wallet after getting your wallet out of your pocket.

      And the Apple Watch is also far more secure as it senses when it is removed from your wrist and immediately locks the device, requiring a PIN the first time you strap it back onto your wrist.

      • Smigit - 7 years ago

        Great summary.

        The one thing that does prevent Apple Pay currently being any quicker which sounds like it’ll be on it’s way to being solved next year is if you shop somewhere with loyalty cards, you’ll inevitably reach into the wallet to grab those. I believe we’ll see a large uptake of loyalty card support through Apple Wallet next year however and that it is a priority for Apple. Also, at least unlike the banks most retailers will probably have no financial incentive to not be on board with Apple for their loyalty schemes and the easier and more transparent they can make it for a customer to swipe their card, the better.

        As it stands here in Aus, I tend to swipe my loyalty card and then pay with my phone still.

    • Derek (@dawsin) - 7 years ago

      how about not needing to fumble through your wallet to find the right card? How about leaving you wallet at home?

      • JBDragon - 7 years ago

        How about a Digital Drivers Licence! No Wallet after all.

    • Ali Ghaleh - 7 years ago

      Existing PayWave / PayPass payment system is only up to $99 or you have to still type your pin in. ApplePay is the next level contact-less payment which allows any amount of transaction by authorising your fingerprint on iPhone, or, Apple Watch on your wrist.

  5. prius3 - 7 years ago

    In Germany (and EU), contactless payments are impossible, and Apple pay….what is that?????
    We live in the stone age here. It is already good enough if I can use my Credit card in shops… (IKEA in Germany does not accept Credit cards for example).

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      Yes, I’ve never understood the German love-affair with cash. Seems at odds with the famed German efficiency!

      • olivertwist78 - 7 years ago

        Fortunately, it is changing as more and more Germans are using the EC cards (successor to European Cheques) as well as credit cards, which allow them to enter PIN for additional level of security. In addition, more and more stores have integrated the card readers with their cash registers, allowing quicker and more effective transactions.

        The card readers used to be very slow in the past as I have experienced many times. I also have experienced the exasperated hemming and hawing from the cashiers often when I wanted to use the credit or debit cards. Today, they are more than often nonplussed and proceed with it. On a personal note, I hate it when Germans spend maddeningly long time fishing out for exact changes at the cash register.

        The strange love affair with cash had to do with long memory of economic upheaval in the 1920s and economic desperation and uncertainty following the end of Second World War. The careful management of money has been deeply entrenched in German mentality. They want to be able to see how much cash they have on hand and spend accordingly. I suppose it is changing since many of them have instant access to the online banking and monitor their spending.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

        Makes sense, thanks!

    • olivertwist78 - 7 years ago


      I must laugh so hard at your comment because I live in Germany for many years. More and more stores in Germany have installed the new card readers with NFC function in the past year. Surprisingly, many of them accept Pay even though they officially haven’t supported the Pay. That includes the Starbucks coffeehouses in Germany. Many of baristas were surprised and awestruck at how quick and convenient the Pay is as compared to using Starbucks app. Ditto for McDonalds restaurants in Germany.

      Don’t believe me? Check out the YouTube video of Pay transaction at REWE store in January 2015.

      Rischart, a famous bakery in Munich, has recently installed those new card readers with NFC function, which I use Pay to pay for breads, pastries, and sandwiches. A short list of stores that I use Pay: Kaiser/Tengelmann, Edeka, Basic Bio, Denn’s, Galerie Kaufhof, several apothecaries in Berlin and Munich, MyMuesli, and so forth. Several have promised to enable the NFC function once the field testing and staff training are done.

      I have no problem paying with Pay at more and more German stores since Pay was launched in November 2014. The iOS 9 update halved the transaction time to three seconds or so. I do like Pay because it’s so damn quick, convenient, and secure.

      IKEA Germany is more of an anomaly in the digital age. I have written to IKEA Germany about it because IKEA stores in the neighbouring countries accept the MasterCard and Visa cards. The reply from IKEA Germany is the desire to pass the saving to the customers (which is quite lame) and the plan to investigate whether to include MasterCard and Visa.

      In addition, you are totally wrong about EU being in the Stone Age. Have you forgotten about the United Kingdom being the first European country to launch the Pay? What about the Scandinavian countries that are close to cashless society as possible? I visit Austria very often (because it’s close to my home), and I hardly use the cash since virtually all of stores and restaurants I visited already have card readers with NFC function. And all of them accept Pay!

  6. John Smith - 7 years ago

    Is there a fee for amex cards in Australia?

    If not, just sign up and use for apple-pay.

    By all means move spending from your bank’s card to the amex one and repeatedly tell the bank why you are doing it.

    That’s effectively what I did in response to Barclaycard not supporting apple-pay.

    • Rocwurst (@Rocwurst) - 7 years ago

      Unfortunately AMEX charges retailers a significantly higher surcharge than VISA or MasterCard or savings card EFTPOS so many many retailers here in Oz don’t support it or pass on the additional couple of percent fee to the customer. Not ideal.

      Until our Aussie banks have mobile payment apps that work as seamlessly on the Apple Watch or the iPhone with TouchID, then customers ARE losing out.

  7. Neil Anderson - 7 years ago

    Just applied for an Amex card. Problem solved.

  8. DamoTheBrave - 7 years ago

    I will switch to the first bank to break ranks.

  9. Jonathan - 7 years ago

    I signed up for an Amex last week and have been enjoying using my Apple Watch to pay for the past few days. My Commonwealth card now sits dormant. The issue in Australia is many stores don’t accept Amex, but for petrol and groceries (basically larger stores) it’s been fine so far.

  10. yojimbo007 - 7 years ago

    Idiots !
    Applepay on Applewatch is an absolute JOY to use… And every store i use it at it makes people go ” WOW, thats sweet… Is that Apple ?”

    Yup its Apple ;)

  11. lkernan - 7 years ago

    I’d be happy if Apple just opened up the NFC functionality so the banks could add it to their apps, just like they did on Android.
    But I guess people would rather complain the banks are being anti-competitive rather than Apple.

    • JBDragon - 7 years ago

      Why? So now you want to load up a bank app, and enter a password and then Pay? Now that just seems like a huge hassle then just holding the phone over the terminal and having your finger on the button and that’s it. You don’t even need to turn the phone on first. Apple Pay already works with the Banks, which is why the Banks have to sign up. All transactions go directly to the bank, Not Apple!!! I just don’t see what the problem is. When you sign up for Apple Pay, you’re signing up with your Bank.

      It’s not Anti-competitive as you can pay by other means like that Bank Card you already have. You can just use that.

  12. stevelawrence - 7 years ago

    I guess the same will go for New Zealand then, given that practically all of our banks are Aussie-owned. Hopefully one of the few local ones bucks the trend.

    • JBDragon - 7 years ago

      I was pretty sure it was something like this, which is why it’s been taking so long for Apple Pay to happen in other country’s. The simple fact of Apple pay coming to country’s, but only with American Express, really just confirms it. American Express is it’s own Bank, unlike Visa and MasterCard. AE doesn’t need to play these games. They just want to be used, and being first out of the gate means more people will sign up with them and they’ll be in the #1 spot for Apple Pay. That’s a win for them.

  13. AbsarokaSheriff - 7 years ago

    Appreciate the reporting. Did the UK banks take the .0015 , .15% fee or did they negotiate something else. I have heard less but not seen how much.

    I am a huge user and supporter of Apple Pay but the fee Apple charges should be proportional to what the bank is charging. Thus if its 50c then the fee should be .075% or Apple is trying to gouge the banks. Or alternatively, the Australian and Canadian banks should get the same deal as the UK banks.

    Besides the security of Apple Pay, the big win with Apple Pay that I haven’t seen mentioned is the in-app usage. The payment process is incredibly frictionless using Apple Pay in App. There is no need to have the merchant store your credit card, a huge security headache and hacker target, no need to remember who has your credit card when it needs replacement due to expiration or being compromised or lost and no chance of transaction getting intercepted yielding anything because of tokenization. For takeout food, gift cards, entertainment and shopping, Apple Pay in app is a huge win and in Australia, certainly the retail presence would be even greater than the US.

    There is definitely some cost to Apple for Apple Pay but they do need to be reasonable on the cost. Perhaps keeping some of the fee in escrow so if the security pans out as they expect and there are minimal costs they can refund. If there is some sort of financial security situation that requires apple intervention they use the fee in escrow.

    It takes two to tango and I hope Australia and Canadian banks (and Barclays UK) can see the customer demand and benefit.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 7 years ago

      I know there was a lot of discussion of fees in the UK, but I don’t know what was eventually agreed. I’m sure NDAs prevent anyone disclosing the terms.

  14. Anti-competitive!! Absolutely!! Should be illegal. I hope parliament get on top of this ASAP!! The arguments as to it’s usage is unimportant, but the ability for a consumer to make a choice is. End of story.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear