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How to use Apple Pay on the London Underground

Key Takeaways

  • Using Apple Pay on the London Underground is different than using it at other stores, but it’s now much quicker with Express Mode.
  • Enable Express Mode on your iPhone or use your Apple Watch to quickly tap and go through the turnstiles.
  • Wear your Apple Watch on your right arm for an even quicker gate experience, and remember to always use the same device when tapping in and out.


Apple Pay has been around in the UK for ages now. You might have noticed that the average queue at your local Pret or pub features iPhone and Apple Watch owners thrusting their devices at store staff and payment machines. What you might not realise, however, is that using Apple Pay with a London Underground terminal is actually quite different – once a faff, it’s now much, much quicker.

Fumbling and fiddling with a device might be acceptable in a sandwich shop, but you need to be nimble to avoid other commuters getting angry at you using your Apple tech to get through the gate. Thankfully, there’s an Express Mode to make it easy to pay for your travel via your Watch or your iPhone.


How to use Apple Pay on the London Underground

Using Apple Pay on public transport in London is actually extremely easy – and it’s important to know that it’ll also work the exact same way on buses and the Overground network, too!

London’s public transport revolves around a contactless system now, with entry points all featuring big yellow readers – this is the key to using Apple Pay.

On the Tube, you tap both in and out of your journey, while on a bus you only tap as you get on.

That means all you have to do is get your Apple Pay reader to go through the reader as you start your journey or end it on the Underground, and use the same card both times.

As you’ll see below, though, there are some amazing ways to speed this up, with the biggest being Express Mode.

Apple Pay on the London Underground: Tips and tricks

If you’re all set with the above steps and have Apple Pay ready to go on the Tube, you might want to check out our list of extra tips below, which could help you speed things up a good chunk.

1. Enable Express Travel Card Apple Pay on your iPhone

This trick is vital for whizzing through the turnstile quickly. Rather than wait until the turnstile prompts you to give Touch ID or Face ID authentication, you can enable Express Mode on a certain card in your Apple Wallet to work automatically without having to require authentication. Just tap and go.

Open Settings on your iPhone > Tap on Wallet & Apple Pay > Tap on Express Travel Card > Select the card you want to use as your Express Travel Card. If you’ve got an iPhone XS or later it will even work for 5 hours after the battery has run out.

2. Use your Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch you’ll find it much quicker and easier to go through the turnstiles. If you’ve set up Express Mode, or Express Transit Mode as it’s also known, simply place the watch face down on the yellow circle and you’re through.

If you’ve got an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, it will work even when the battery has run out. Handy if you’re out late.

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3. Wear your Watch on your right arm

For an even quicker through-the-gate experience, wear your Apple Watch on your right wrist as almost all Tube system gate readers are on that side.

If your Watch is on your left arm, you could always do the tap and spin like we do. That way you end up facing the gates backwards as you spin through them as if you were a pro dancer.

4. Check your progress

Once you’ve tapped through with either your iPhone or your Watch, check your journey “tap in” status by going to the card you’ve used and viewing your logged journey data.

As Apple Pay logs the transaction as you go, it will let you see your journey history right then and there. Oyster card members only get to see that if they go to the TfL website and sign in. What a faff.

Open Settings on your iPhone > Tap on Wallet & Apple Pay > Tap on the card you are using for tapping in and out at the top > Select the Transactions tab.

5. Save money with a weekly travel card

It’s not available to Oyster card users, but contactless and Apple Pay users can benefit from weekly travel card fares if they “tap in” across the week. TfL automatically works out the best cost according to your usage, and then charges you the best rate possible.

6. Always use the same device in and out

Because of the way Apple Pay works, if you tap into the system with your iPhone you have to tap out with the iPhone as well, otherwise you’ll be charged the maximum fare.

If you change payment methods (like using your Watch on the way out), even if it’s the same card via Apple Pay, it thinks you are a different user and will charge you accordingly.

7. They will let you out if your battery is dead

TfL isn’t evil and that means that if your battery dies mid-journey you will be let out of the gates at the other end. Expect to have to grovel though.

You might have to prove it to the guard too. Of course, if you’ve got an iPhone XS or later, and or an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, then you’ll be fine for around 5 hours after the phone dies.

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8. Tourists can use it too but with caveats

Visitors from the US to London are able to use Apple Pay on the Underground and buses too, but TfL can’t 100 per cent guarantee that it will work the first time.

Make sure you tell your bank you are travelling first so they don’t decline the card when you tap in for the first time.

9. Change the card you use

If you’ve got multiple cards loaded into Apple Pay, simply swipe between them before you pay to make sure you’ve got the right one. Just remember to use the same one at the other end too.

10. Use it on buses and trams too

Apple Pay works on all of the Transport for London (TfL) network including the London Overground, DLR, River, TfL-Rail, Buses, Trams, and of course the Underground.

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