Please, commuters: activate this time-saving iPhone setting before you travel tomorrow

Express Mode on iPhone
(Image credit: Future / Apple)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a morning person. Waking up at the crack of dawn to commute through Central London is a challenge at the best of times, but it's a particularly unforgiving experience in winter, when the sun ascends more slowly than a geriatric mountaineer and Jack Frost pays regular visits to anything outdoors.

You’ll forgive me, then, for being more irritable than usual before 9am, and I’ve developed a real pet peeve during recent morning commutes: the 'Tube gate holder-upper'. You know the ones – those equally bleary-eyed train travellers who manually activate and approve their contactless payments every morning. And sure, that process only takes a few seconds, but you’d be surprised at how quickly a queue of disgruntled, tut-tutting rat racers can form when headed by someone whose smartphone isn’t playing ball.

Thankfully, Apple has adorned its iPhones with a handy feature to avoid unfortunate circumstances such as this one, and I’m begging you: switch it on before you travel tomorrow.

The feature in question is Express Mode – a shortcut that lets you use certain cards, keys and passes in Apple Wallet without needing to wake or unlock your iPhone with Face ID, Touch ID or a passcode. In truth, I thought this setting was activated by default – and Apple says as much on the Express Mode support page – but I see so many people scrambling to approve their contactless payments each morning that it's worth highlighting here.

So, if you’re someone who knows that their iPhone doesn’t yet have Express Mode enabled, allow me to outline the (extremely easy) steps to activate it. First, open the Wallet app – the actual app, not the double-tap interface – and select the card you want to use for daily travel payments. Tap the More button (that’s the three dots in the top right corner) and hit Card Details. From there, head into Express Travel Settings, and select the same card. Et voilà! You’re good to go.

Now, when you hold your iPhone atop the contactless reader at the Tube or metro gate on a cold and frosty morning, the transaction will complete automatically, and a tick and "Done" will appear on your device. The terminal gate will open, and you'll be free to continue your noble journey towards that 9am meeting without holding up the line.

What’s more, Express Mode works when your iPhone is out of charge, too. For up to five hours after that dreaded black screen descends, you’ll still be able to tap in and out of your chosen travel system with ease. Take that, Tube gate holder-uppers!

For more helpful iPhone features, check out our piece on the hidden iOS 17 setting that makes your iPhone feel twice as fast, as well as the iPhone trick that makes drifting off easier.

You might also like

Axel Metz
Senior Staff Writer

Axel is a London-based Senior Staff Writer at TechRadar, reporting on everything from the latest Apple developments to newest movies as part of the site's daily news output. Having previously written for publications including Esquire and FourFourTwo, Axel is well-versed in the applications of technology beyond the desktop, and his coverage extends from general reporting and analysis to in-depth interviews and opinion. 

Axel studied for a degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick before joining TechRadar in 2020, where he then earned an NCTJ qualification as part of the company’s inaugural digital training scheme.