Apple Pay and Barclays bPay are two rival contactless payment systems: with them you just need to hold a device near a shop's contactless reader to make a payment. In this article we will compare the two types of contactless payment: Apple Pay, devised by Apple, and bPay, promoted by Barclays.
Contactless payment schemes are catching on in the UK. Brands such as Apple, Samsung and Google are setting up their own touch-to-pay services.
Following its launch in the US, Apple launched Apple Pay, its own contactless payment system, in the UK on 14 July 2014. It's now available here on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. (Plus, in a more limited form, on Touch ID-equipped iPads.) However, one bank isn't giving up the fight that easily.
Barclays was the only major UK bank not to sign up for the scheme when Apple Pay's UK launch was officially announced; it's since said that it will support the service, but we don't know when. This delay may be related to the fact that Barclays has its own mobile payment service: bPay. bPay is used on stickers, fobs and wristbands, but is otherwise similar to Apple Pay. Can Barclays beat Apple's contactless technology?
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Security
Barclays is offering a digital payment scheme built into three wearable devices: waterproof wristbands, stickers for movable devices, and fobs, which can be attached to your key or bag. They are small and handy to be carried around, but what about security?
The bPay fob, given its small dimensions, can easily be lost; the bPay sticker may be improperly attached to your phone and fall off; the wristband seems more reliable, being tied around your wrist, but it can still be lost or stolen. In all these unlucky events, anyone who finds bPay devices can use them. No security check prevents thieves from using bPay tools once found, unless the owner shuts them down.
Apple Pay security works differently. When holding your iPhone near the shop reader, you need to have your finger on the Touch ID fingerprint sensor of your device. If the fingerprint doesn't match, the payment won’t occur.
If the iPhone is lost or stolen, payments can be suspended without need to cancel the credit card. Its data isn't stored on the device or Apple server. When registering a card, you are assigned a Device Account Number, which is stored in the Secure Element, a chip inside your Apple device. Hackers cannot access it.
Read next: How to use Apple Pay in the UK
In terms of convenience, Apple Pay seems to offer greater freedom to the user. Once you've set up Apple Pay on your Apple device, you can store as many cards as you want. Among them, you can easily choose the one selected as the default.
bPay users have to load a prepaid account, either manually or automatically. This makes the process of changing the default card on bPay more complicated than on Apple Pay.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Can I access them?
With Apple Pay, you're likely to be able to access it with almost any of your cards. Pretty much every UK bank has joined or is planning to join the payment scheme. Even Barclays says it will support Apple Pay in the near future.
On the other hand, only owners of UK-registered Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards can use bPay; Barclays' payment scheme excludes many credit and debit card companies, such as AmericanExpress, that support Apple Pay.
Here is a full list of Apple Pay participating issuers.
Apple Pay is limited in that it can be accessed only by those who own an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch. However, owners of the current and future generation of Apple devices will be able to access Apple Pay.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Which shops accept them?
With Apple Pay you can use your iPhone to shop in some of the outlets most beloved by English families, such as Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Boots and others. Payments on the London Tube and buses will be increasingly easy with Apple Pay, with TfL having signed up to the Apple Payment scheme.
Here is a full list of UK shops and apps that support Apple Pay
Similarly to Apple Pay, bPay can be used in all the shops and public transport that already accept contactless payments, such as Aldi, Boots, Waitrose, TfL and others.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Can I use them online?
Apple Pay can be used to pay online and you will need to enter less data than in normal online payments. With Apple Pay you can pay in all Apple and non-Apple apps that support Apple Pay, such as Groupon, Starbacks, Disney and many more.
bPay users won't have this privilege. They will just be able to pay physically in shops.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Cost
Apple doesn't charge users or merchants to use Apple Pay. Barclays, too, doesn't charge a fee for transactions and top-ups, but you do have to pay for the wearable devices.
It's been pointed out in the comments below that Apple Pay too requires paid-for hardware - and Apple's phones and smartwatches are known for their premum pride tags. You'll need an iPhone 6, an iPhone 6 Plus, an Apple Watch or a Touch ID-equipped iPad, which means an initial outlay of at least £319 for online and app-based Apple Pay (that's the 16GB, Wi-Fi-only iPad mini 3) or £539 (for the 16GB iPhone 6) to use the full version of Apple Pay. You can get an Apple Watch for less than that, but you also need an iPhone to pair it with.
We classify these Apple devices as requirements of use rather than direct costs, since they are pieces of hardware that will in almost every case have been purchased beforehand for other reasons. (And nobody, surely, is going to use an iPhone 6 as a glorified contactless debit card?) But it is worth pointing out that Apple Pay's barrier for entry is not truly zero.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: How can I get them?
Getting Apple Pay is extremely easy; you just need to register your cards on your personal iTunes account to Passbook.
To get bPay you have to buy at least one of the wearable devices, set up your bPay account and load it with a minimum of £25 the first time.
Apple Pay vs Barclays bPay: Verdict
Contactless payments are set to become increasingly popular over the next few years, making life easier for million of people. Heavy wallets full of cards and long queues at the checkout will be less of a problem.
This will induce companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google to improve their services or create their own version of contactless payment. See: What you need to know about Google Wallet
With the touch-to-pay scheme seeing increasing popularity, companies will be likely to increase the amount of money you will be able to use in each transaction.
For now Apple Pay seems to win the contest, with a more secure, cheaper and convenient service compared to bPay. Obviously, non-Apple users will be cut off from the Apple scheme, but surely many more companies will soon launch their own service, making contactless payment available to everyone.