What does ‘Express Cards and Keys Mean?

We explain the meaning of "Express Cards and Keys Available" message that you may see when your iPhone has run out of charge.

By Kevin Shaw - Editor
2 Min Read

When your iPhone runs out of battery, it will power off automatically. Your phone will be dead and functionless until you charge it again. When you press the side button, youll see a battery icon showing that power is low. You may also see text at the bottom of the screen saying “Express cards and Keys Available.” In this article, I explain why you are seeing this message and what it means.

What does it mean when an iPhone says express cards and keys are available?

“Express cards and keys available” means that you can use your card, pass, or key on your iPhone when you need them. If iOS isn’t running because iPhone needs to be charged, it will look dead. But it was not fully powered off. iOS reserves a small amount of battery to facilitate Express Card transactions. This message will not appear if you shut down the device yourself. In fact, this is a handy feature called Express Cards with power reserve.

Even completely dead, NFC continues to work on drained iPhones. NFC controller performs Express Card transactions under the same conditions as when iOS is running, except that transactions are indicated only with haptic notifications (no visible notification is shown).to appear on screen.

To be able to use Express Cards with power reserve, you need the following:

  • A supported iPhone model; see below a list of iPhone models compatible with low power Express Mode.
  • Compatible cards, passes or keys.
  • You will also need to have Express Mode enabled. Express mode allows you to make payments without having to wake or unlock your ‌iPhone‌, or open the Wallet app. The mode also bypasses the need to authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode.

The following iPhone models support using Express Mode when your device needs to be charged:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max
  • iPhone 15
  • iPhone 15 Plus
  • iPhone 15 Pro
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2nd generation)
  • iPhone SE (3rd generation)

When you add an eligible transit card or other compatible card, pass, or key to Apple Wallet, Express Mode is turned on by default. You can also change which card, pass, or key is set to Express Mode.

To select Express Mode for a transit or payment card, pass, or key on your iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Wallet app on your iPhone.
  2. Select a card, pass, or key.
  3. Tap the More button.
  4. Tap Card Details.
  5. Tap Express Transit Settings or Express Mode.
  6. Select your preferred transit card, debit or credit card, or other compatible pass or key.

To see the cards, passes, and keys available for use with power reserve, press the side button or the Home button when your iPhone needs to be charged. Keep in mind that you will be able to use your express cards and keys for up to five hours if your iPhone is out of charge. If you are in a situation like this, I recommend not to keep pressing the side button or Home button often as this might significantly reduce the power reserve.

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By Kevin Shaw Editor
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Kevin Shaw is a seasoned tech journalist based in Los Angeles with a penchant for all things Apple. He started writing about Apple products in 2007 and it's been a love affair ever since. He has spent over a decade testing and writing about iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other Apple products. In his spare time, he likes nothing more than catching up with the latest news and sports podcasts on the beach.
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