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UK increases contactless payment limit, but little Apple Pay impact

The UK has increased the contactless payment limit from £45 ($63) to £100 ($140). This means that contactless payment cards can now be used for larger purchases. There will, however, be very little impact on Apple Pay purchases …


Contactless payments made with physical cards have no direct security: If a thief grabs your wallet and gets your cards, they can use them to make contactless payments until you discover and report the theft, at which point the cards are cancelled and blocked at payment terminals. (There is indirect security, in that banks look for unusual payment patterns, and if too many contactless payments are made in quick succession, they will force a PIN request for the next purchase.)

For that reason, there is a relatively low limit on contactless purchases. In the UK, that limit last year increased from £30 to £45, and is today being raised to £100. The reason is that contactless payments are safer during the pandemic, as there is no need for a card to come into physical contact with a payment terminal.

Apple Pay contactless payment limit

Apple Pay uses a more sophisticated form of contactless payment reserved for mobile wallet devices that have biometric authentication. With this protocol, banks and retailers can set a much higher payment limit, or even have no limit at all, because the device verifies the identity of the user via Face ID or Touch ID in the case of an iPhone, or the PIN you entered on an Apple Watch when putting it on in the morning.

When I asked at the time of launch, my bank hinted that its own limit was £750 ($1,050), and certainly I have made three-figure purchases using Apple Pay. Some people report successfully using Apple Pay for mid-four-figure purchases.

In the UK, small stores may only support standard contactless payment, but the vast majority of retailers selling higher-priced items have specific Apple Pay support, indicated by stickers on the door or at payment terminals. So it has long been possible to make £100+ purchases with Apple Pay, and nothing will change in that respect.

The only Apple Pay impact, then, will be on larger purchases from smaller stores that only support non-authenticated contactless payments.

Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

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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!

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