London Transport to Apple Pay users: Charge or be charged

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Apple Pay is coming to the U.K. this fall.
Make sure you check your battery before you use Apple Pay on the Tube.
Photo: Apple

Apple Pay dropped in the U.K. this week, and iPhone 6 and Apple Watch users can employ the touchless payment method to travel on a variety of public transports, including subway, London Overground, busses, and trams. But public agency Transport for London has issued an advisory to those who wish to pay for their commute with the power of living in the future:

Make sure your devices have enough juice to get you where you’re going, or it’ll cost you.

The politely worded warning is available on TfL’s website, and it has two reasons you’ll want to avoid a dead phone or Apple Watch on your trip, both of them embarrassing and more expensive than just paying in cash like a caveman.

“[If the device you paid with ] 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,” the advisory says.

“Touching out” refers to holding your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch up to an Apple Pay reader at your destination so that the system can figure your total and proper fare. Not doing that would be similar to losing your ticket to a parking garage. Even if you know the attendant, and waved to them when you went in, and you remembered their birthday, they will still charge you like you parked all day because you have no documentation proving how long you were in the garage.

So thanks a lot, Betty.

Maximum fare in this case could be as much as £8.80 (about $14 U.S., or twice as much as Betty made me pay that one time). Things get really expensive if a plain-clothes officer asks to see your ticket, but you can’t do that because your ticket is on your iPhone and your iPhone is dead. In that case, you could face penalty fares of up to £80 (125 American dollars), but you can cut that in half if you pay it right away.

London Transport customers should make sure that they check their levels before they leave home, however, because grabbing some juice from one of those “Cleaners Only” outlets on the London Overground can either get you into trouble or destroy your phone.

Update 4:25 p.m.: The original post erroneously referred to “London Transit” and not “London Transport.”