Using Apple Pay on the Tube? Make Sure Your iPhone is Charged or Risk a Fine

By Gerald Lynch on at

Considering it's just a way to part with your hard-earned cash, Apple Pay launched in the UK today with a surprising air of excitement. Buy the bread with your iPhone! Toilet cleaner with your Apple Watch! The consumerist capitalist dream, finally realised.

The convenience extends to public transport journeys for Londoners too, who can use Apple's contactless payment system to pay for TfL tube and bus rides. But you'd better make sure your Apple Pay device of choice, be it Apple Watch or iPhone, is fully charged, or you could run the risk of being hit with a fine.

Using Apple Pay on the Tube

Watching commuters tap in on the tube with their iPhone 6 handsets this morning, I wondered what would happen should their smartphone batteries die mid-journey. After all, you'll likely need to tap out of barriers to complete the end of most tube journeys, and with it easy to spend upwards of an hour on the tube, there's plenty of time to run that battery dry. TfL's response was a simple one – it's a passenger's responsibility to keep their devices juiced up till the end of the journey, and penalties could follow if your device dies before you've tapped out.

"Customers must make sure their iPhone or Apple Watch has enough battery to complete their journey," a TFL spokesperson told Gizmodo UK.

"If the battery runs out in the middle of a Tube or rail journey they will not be able to touch out and could be charged a maximum fare. Similarly a ticket inspector would not be able to read the device so the customer could be liable for a penalty fare.

"Where possible we will try to complete the journey automatically for the customer in the same way we do with contactless and Oyster. If the journey can’t be automatically completed customers can obtain a refund by logging into their online account or contacting customer services on 0343 222 1234 but we would always advise that the device should be charged before travel."

Using Apple Pay on the Tube

Considering the hardline stance that TfL's staff exhibits when it comes to people cheekily using available sockets on trains to recharge their phones, carrying a portable charger with you when using Apple Pay on the tube is probably a sensible option going forward.

But there's another potential issue for hardcore Apple fans to consider too – if you've both an iPhone and an Apple Watch, and use them both for Apple Pay journeys, you could end up costing yourself a few quid. For starters, a single device must be used to start and end a journey to avoid the transport system registering an incomplete journey (so no tapping in with an iPhone, tapping out with an Apple Watch). Secondly, you'll only benefit from daily and weekly fare capping if you use one device during that period – the fare cap is linked to a device, not your Apple account. Likewise, the dreaded "card clash" can occur if you keep your Oyster card in a case alongside your iPhone.

A few things to consider then before jumping headfirst into your new commuting routine. Don't ditch that Oyster card just yet. You can find out more on Apple Pay and the TfL network on the Transport for London website.