Contactless crusader Transport for London could penalise you for using Apple Pay

What a world we live in. Money can be transferred in an instant thanks to internet banking and mobile apps, meaning the tradition of carrying cash – and cheques, remember those? – is falling to the wayside.

Contactless cards, which use near-field communications (NFC) technology, have helped the use of tangible currency decline as shoppers can now tap their plastic to make purchases.

Indeed, Brits spent a record breaking £600.3bn with their debit and credit cards in 2014, which accounted for a 75 per cent share of all retail spending. Contactless cards accounted for £2.32bn of that sum, a figure that would likely spike considerably if the limit per transaction wasn’t set to £20.

Elsewhere, Visa revealed in July it has smashed the milestone for more than one billion contactless transactions in Europe, a location where it has 131m cards in circulation. The UK, meanwhile, has the largest number of cards doing the rounds with 49.6m, while it accounted for 52.6m transactions in March 2015 alone.

One British organisation to take heed of the way the UK’s payments methods are changing is Transport for London (TfL). In September 2014, the operation embraced contactless in a big way and ended the option to use cash on buses, demanding instead that travellers use contactless cards or prepaid tickets.

Similarly, the ability to use contactless cards on the London Underground was also enabled. It meant that commuters no longer had to rely on topping up their Oyster cards to get around quickly and could instead trust that tapping their NFC-enabled debit card would get them from A to B.

The launch took place on 16 September and was an immediate success to generate 1.6 million contactless journeys by 25 September.

“It is really encouraging to see over one million contactless journeys on transport across London in the first week. We want travelling in London to be as easy and convenient for our customers as possible and contactless is one of the steps we have taken to make that happen,” said Shashi Verma, TfL’s director of customer experience.

Quite a synergy TfL has with Apple Pay then, which would take the transport service to the next level you might think, given the new contactless payment service is a “simpler, faster and more secure way to pay,” according to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services.

Read more on Apple Pay:

However, the Boris Johnson-backed outfit has highlighted a major flaw in the use of Apple Pay on the Underground, which could cost you more than just embarrassment.

Just imagine, you’re out, it’s late, your wallet has been stolen and you’ve realised your Apple Pay account will lead you to victory – until your gadget dies in transit.

“Your iPhone or Apple Watch must be switched on to use it to travel,” TfL explained. “You should also check that you have enough battery on your iPhone or Apple Watch to complete your journey.

“If you don’t and it runs out of battery in the middle of a rail journey, you will not be able to touch out at the end and could be charged a maximum fare.”

Likewise, if an inspector wants to tap your device on a reader and it can’t be communicated with, “you could be liable for a penalty fare,” it warned.

The British public has already voiced concerns, such as “how is this even legal?”, while another said “banning cash in a city that has 15 million tourists each year was stupid enough, now this”.

You might think that a back up device, like switching from your iPhone 6 to Apple Watch, will do the trick – but you’d be mistaken.

Further highlighting the restrictions enforced on the gadgets, TfL also said that alternating between the two, regardless of whether Apple Pay is linked to both devices, could result in incomplete journeys and missing out on daily capping benefits.

But remember, if your device does die and you’re in desperate need of charging it, TfL won’t help you out with a spot of free power.

Attempting to revive his iPhone with a plug socket on the Overground resulted in 45-year-old Camden resident Robin Lee being arrested for “abstracting electricity”.

The criminal mastermind was confronted by a police community support officer. He recalled the event, saying: “She said I’m abstracting electricity. She kept saying it’s a crime. We were just coming into the station, and there happened to be about four police officers on the platform 

“She called to them and said ‘This guy’s been abstracting electricity, he needs to be arrested’.” He was subsequently handcuffed and stuffed into a police van.

Wonder if he was in the middle of a journey using Apple Pay. That will cost him.

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