Using X-Pay vs physical card on TfL

[MOD EDIT - thread split from Curve Metal on TFL readers]

On TfL, why not use Apple Pay or Google pay instead of a physical card? It’s so much easier. For example, I just put my wrist close to the yellow card reader and my Apple Watch works through my sleaves. After TfL started supporting Express Travel (known as Express Transit in US English) on 1st December 2019, I don’t even have to authenticate the transaction.

That’s a potential workaround, but as I don’t have (or want) an apple watch, and tend to have NFC on my phone turned off, so I’d just be adding layers of inconvenience to paying, and for the sake of the 1% cashback I might as well just use AMEX instead as that’s a plastic card that reliably works.

I’m not looking for solutions to the problem, although I appreciate people trying to help. I’m trying to find out if this is a wider issue for the metal cards.

Apple Pay and Google Pay are far more convenient than a physical card.

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For you perhaps, for me, no.


I don’t understand how anyone could find a physical card on TfL more convenient than using a smartphone. Now that TfL has enabled Express Travel, all you need to do is hold your phone or watch near the yellow card reader without any fingerprints or pressing buttons. With a physical card, you need to get your wallet or purse out, get the card out of the wallet or purse, touch the card, put it back in your wallet or purse and put away your wallet or purse. Apple Pay needs one hand (or no hands with an Apple Watch), whereas a physical card needs two hands and is a much more convoluted process.

I don’t like using contactless on TFL as often end of night, I run out of battery and would have no way to pay for travel if I was relying on the phone. GPay only stores a limited numbers of tokens for offline payments, once they run out you cannot make a payment unless you have a working internet connection. This is a problem if you have no internet access for extended periods of times or have some issue with your phone preventing internet access.

A physical card does not suffer from any of these hence is much more reliable than an electronic device. I don’t know how may people use two hands but I use one hand to take wallet out of my pocket and touch it against the reader without taking my card out. It takes the same amount of time as using the phone.


I have never experienced any of these problems with an iPhone or Apple Watch. It sounds like a deficiency of Android and the phone manufacturers.

This works only if you have no other contactless cards in your wallet. Most people have multiple contactless cards, even if they don’t use them contactlessly. This causes card clash and TfL’s error 71.

Any chance of taking the physical card vs phone/watch payment debate elsewhere please? I’m sure it’s a worthwhile dicussion, but also very much not the purpose of the thread


OK have done my best to split the thread (original was Curve Metal on TFL readers) - it won’t make total sense but hopefully will be sufficient!