Myths on Apple Pay Limits


When it was announced that Apple Pay would finally launch in the UK, every media article discussing the launch has contained a misconception about the limit to which Apple Pay can be used. I’d like to clear this up.

Apple Pay itself has no limit!

There is currently a £20 limit on contactless card transactons in the UK. The UK Cards Association has announced that this is rising to £30 from September 2015.

The main reason for the limit is that the widely used contactless credit and debit cards do not require any authorisation when being used. The payment is instant, and no cardholder verification method (CVM) is employed. This is what most retailer card terminals in the UK supporting contactless payments are equipped to deal with at the moment.

Apple Pay uses a new type of CVM, using your iPhone or Apple Watch - a consumer device. Consumer Device Cardholder Verification Method (CDCVM) ensures that the person making the transaction is the cardholder. This extra verification means that the £20 limit can be lifted.

I can understand why many (mostly US-based) media outlets reported that limits for Apple Pay would be the same as those for contactless. The US, until Apple Pay, didn’t really have a contactless rollout. Hell, they barely had Chip & PIN which has been in the UK for years! So when Apple Pay launched in the US there was no widely known contactless limit, and no legacy infrustructure. New tech was brought in for Apple Pay, so it all supports CDCVM.

In order for UK merchants to be able to accept limitless Apple Pay transactions, their card system needs to support this new CDCVM form of verification. Some merchants support this now. Apple supported it from launch. Retailers using the iZettle Pro Contactless reader can currently accept Visa and Mastercard transactions over £20. Pret a Manger announced via Twitter that they now support this too!

How to tell if retailers support limitless Apple Pay

I am maintaining a crowd-sourced list of retailers’ contactless and Apple Pay acceptance.

Mostly, you will find that contactless terminals which have not been updated will not show the contactless logo on screen for transactions over £20. If you visit a store, spend over £20, and see the contactless logo on the screen it’s a sign that the retailer probably supports CDCVM and limitless Apple Pay - try it and see!

If you have an American Express card in Apple Pay you may have less luck, and I’ll be writing another blog post in the future about the differences between Amex and Visa/MasterCard when it comes to Apple Pay and contactless generally.

As a retailer, this support guide on Apple’s website shows the things you need to accept limitless Apple Pay. I wont recount this here as it will be of very little interest to most readers, but follow the link if you want to know more. You are best to discuss this with your card payment provider.

A list of payment providers supporting Apple Pay is available on this support guide on Apple’s website.