One Major HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About

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Neither HSBC, First Direct or Apple are talking about this system breaking issue. An issue that at worst presents a security risk, and at best makes it almost impossible for you to add a Card to Apple Pay UK. Which is why we’re bringing it to your attention. You heard it here first!

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About

Major HSBC and first direct Apple Pay Issue

You were excited. And rightfully so. HSBC / first direct finally jumped on the Apple Pay UK bandwagon and allowed customers with cards to add them to their mobile wallet platform: Passbook. And as UK Card holders, both our Co-Founders were just as elated as you were. So they were quick to test it out. Which is when they stumbled upon this major HSBC / first direct Apple Pay issue.

You see, both our Co-Founders have UK HSBC / first direct accounts. Both have already successfully added other UK cards to Passbook. No problem. But for some reason, these PassKiteers were prevented when it came to HSBC/ first direct. Their phones would simply not let them add their card. You might have also experienced the same problem. Thankfully, they were not easily swayed. Having both worked in the banking sector, and built a successful mobile wallet marketing company, they probed the issue. And what they found out is beyond belief.

You Can’t Add HSBC /first direct Cards If You’re Outside The UK

Whether you’re away for a short business trip, a long holiday, or a new life abroad, HSBC / first direct won’t let you add your UK Bank Card to Apple Pay. And not even Apple knows why. Trust us. We contacted them. After spending a few hours on the phone with HSBC / first direct, talking to supervisor after supervisor, team after team, we were finally told “it’s a problem with the app [Passbook]” and referred to Apple Customer Support. And it’s where that conversation led that’s truly interesting.

You can find out what the issues are at the end of this article, but first you’ll want to know what we did to bypass them. From the beginning, here’s what happened (with images):

We  added the HSBC / first direct Card details to Apple Pay UK

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - Adding Card
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Adding Card

As expected, we were provided with the Apple Pay UK Terms and Conditions page

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - T&C
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – T&C

We accepted them

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - T&C 2
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – T&C 2

Apple began to add the card

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - Adding
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Adding

We were denied. And told to contact the UK Card provider – HSBC / First Direct.

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - Fail
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Fail

And so we contacted HSBC / first direct. Spoke to several supervisors. Several teams. For several hours. Until we finally got an Apple number. Apple said there was nothing wrong on their side that they could see. We eliminated WiFi and 4G trouble and even went as far as to reset the network settings. Beyond that, they had no further suggestions on how to solve the issues. Back to square one. Which is why we decided to play detective.

Being British, we were instantly inspired by Sherlock Holmes, who said “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth”. After a few hours of contemplating the impossible (Apple Pay service issues, HSBC’s lack of customer support, Aliens) we were left with three improbabilities.

  1. Our iTunes account was registered in Hong Kong.
  2. We were not in the UK. Both co-founders were in Hong Kong. The iPhone knew this as it tracked location data.
  3. The phone’s IP address was not of UK origin. Again, we were in Hong Kong.

We instantly ruled out improbability number 1 as we had already added a UK MBNA Card to Apple’s Passbook. So it could only be the other two. And the result of testing (across several iPhones) was astounding. Here’s the two simple steps we completed to get HSBC / first direct Cards into a UK Apple Pay account from outside the UK.

We turned off our Apple location services

The HSBC Apple Pay Issue No One Is Talking About - Location Services
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Location Services
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About - Location Services Off
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Location Services Off

We selected a UK VPN

The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About - UK VPN
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – UK VPN
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About - UK VPN On
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – UK VPN On

It worked.

The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About - Card Verification
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Card Verification
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About - Cards
The HSBC Apple Pay UK Issue No One Is Talking About – Cards

For some unknown reason HSBC / first direct are adding an unnecessary step to Apple Pay UK that prevents anyone outside of the UK from adding cards. Someone high up (or possible very low, by mistake) has decided to add a system breaking step to Apple Pay UK and Passbook card authentication that wont let you add anything unless you are in the UK. Which is unlike every other bank in the UK working with Apple Pay. And you can trust us again on that as we easily added an MBNA Card earlier in the week.

WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS HSBC APPLE PAY UK ISSUE?

We can’t be the only ones unable to do this. There must be others. Has it happened to you? All we do know for sure is that for us, getting a card in while outside of the UK is a pain – but still possible. The issue is both the Banks and Apple blamed each other, claiming the problem was on the other’s side. They were unable to help We found out on our own. And we think you need to know.

Which is why we’re giving you these three steps to follow:

  1. Turn off location services
  2. Set you region to the UK
  3. Get a UK VPN on your Phone and use that

WHY SHOULD ANYONE, ESPECIALLY HSBC / first direct CARE?

 

No. of British living outside of the UK: Australia 1,062,000, USA 829,000, Spain 808,000, Canada 608,000, Ireland 289,000, France 253,000, New Zealand 248,000, South Africa 219,000, Germany 97,000, UAE 65,000. Not to mention that it’s also the peak of the holiday season.

AND FINALLY

 

After that fiasco, we feel like true Holmesians. And so we shall leave you (and hopefully Apple and HSBC / first direct if they are reading this) with one of his most relevant quotes:

“It is better to learn wisdom late, than never at all” – Sherlock Holmes

Let us know below if you have the same or similar issues.

 

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  • Danny Yates

    THIS! So much this! I’m on an extended work/vacation trip to the US. Ironically, I left after the 14th of July, but before the 28th. If they’d launched on time, I wouldn’t have this issue. I’ve made several calls over the last few days, and even the digital team wouldn’t/couldn’t help. Finally, today, somebody told me I can’t add from abroad and tried to blame it on Apple, which I highly doubted. HOWEVER, my first port of call after learning this was to try a UK VPN with Location Services (and even the GSM/3G radio) disabled, but I still can’t get my card added. On a previous call, someone said that if I try too many times I can get temporarily blocked by Visa – so maybe I’ll wait 24 hours before trying again. Annoyingly, this call was the day after somebody said to me “just keep trying”. Really, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. My first action on return to the UK will be to close down as much of my business as I can with First Direct and move to Nationwide (not JUST for this issue!)

  • Joseph McCurdy

    I previously had the same issue, I confirm the steps above work. Have you been able to use Apple Pay at any retailers in HK using your UK cards? Thanks!

  • Richard Rozwadowski

    Yes indeed this works although HSBC has now added (maybe not for all) but a verification code. I did not get it as sent to my old UK cell but in apple pay – go back one screen – and it says ‘input verification code’ and below is ‘choose another verification method’ which is phone or email. Email worked fine.

  • Bruno Soares

    The same problem happened with my cards issued by HSBC US. I’m living abroad and wanted to use the cards through Apple Pay, but couldn’t add them. Turning off location services and using a US based VPN was all I had to do to be able to add the cards. Thank you so much for this article!

  • Burhan Grtnc

    This is the best article on this issue. The problem was still going on eventjough i have talked to HSBC and Apple.

    But location services and VPN trick worked magically

    Thank you

  • gardner

    I’ve been having this problem too but I have tried all the steps you suggested and the card will still not be added. I’ve also tried going into the branch in UK when I was visiting and they couldn’t figure it out. Any other suggestions?