Apple is bringing its payment service to the UK in July, the company announced at its Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this week, alongside updates to Apple Pay in the US and a renaming of its Passbook app to Wallet, both in the forthcoming iOS9.

There has been speculation for some time about the first market outside the US to deliver Apple Pay. Australia, Canada, China and Japan were among the supposed frontrunners, but it was the UK who got the nod.

Among the criteria for selection were thought to have been rate of adoption of contactless payments, technology used by Apple Pay.

At launch over 250,000 locations in the UK will accept the service, with support from credit and debit cards from Visa Europe, MasterCard and American Express issued by leading financial institutions: first direct, HSBC, NatWest, Nationwide Building Society, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Ulster Bank. Other banks will follow in the autumn.

In terms of retailers, users of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch users will be able to make purchases across a range of outlets. In addition to its own stores, Boots UK, Costa Coffee, Marks & Spencer, Nando’s, Post Office, Pret A Manger, Starbucks and Waitrose are among those signed up. In addition, Transport for London is on board so iPhone and Apple Watch users can use their devices for travel in London.

Apple Pay is also available on apps in the UK. Apps that will accept the payment service include Airbnb, Argos, British Airways, easyJet, Hailo, Miss Selfridge, Ocado, Topshop and Zara. When paying for goods and services within apps, Apple Pay is compatible with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

Passbook on way out, welcome to Wallet
Existing Apple Pay users in the US will see changes with the forthcoming iOS9, including the addition of store-issued debit and credit cards, and loyalty cards. Supporting loyalty and reward cards is seen as key to making a success of payment services.

Apple said loyalty cards from leading US retailers Walgreens and Kohl’s department stores will now be available in the payment service from this autumn, with Coca-Cola and Dunkin’ Donuts to follow. And retail-branded credit cards from BJ’s, Kohl’s and JC Penney are signed up too.

All such cards will be held in a new app called Wallet that will replace Passbook, a wallet of sorts but lacking the functionality for payments and loyalty cards.

The addition of Kohl’s is significant since it is also part of the MCX consortium that backs a rival to Apple Pay called ConnectC, due to launch on a limited basis this summer. Best Buy is another MCX member who is working with Apple Pay.

And Apple announced the addition of Discover to its roster of credit cards from this autumn, which means that 98 per cent of the US credit card purchase volume will be supported by Apple Pay. Actually the card firm had already announced it would be joining the payment service, so Apple’s comment was a confirmation.

Apple will also expand merchant acceptance to over one million locations in July, four times the number at launch, back in autumn 2014.

And Square announced the company’s next card reader will enable any business with a smartphone or tablet to accept Apple Pay, as well as contactless payments and EMV cards. The reader will begin shipping in the autumn.