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4 Ways to Wear Payments

20 Jul 2016

Whether you think contactless payments are just a fad or the future, it’s now undeniable that they’ve branched into the fashion world.

No longer content with the humble smartphone, tech companies have been moving towards wearable gadgets almost by the launch and it only seems like a natural progression to incorporate a payment platform, whether it’s exclusive to their own device (Apple Pay) or in conjunction with a third party.

There’s definitely been some fashion faux pas over the years with wearable integrated technology, with the likes of Hat FM (analogue radio and headphones sewn into a baseball cap) and also the Casio Watch Calculator (used by students to cheat in exams) but thankfully, the world has moved on. A watch must now make phone calls, send emails, play videos and yes, make in-store mobile payments.

It’s all made possible by an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip. This is the same microchip you’ll find planted in a contactless debit card or smartphone. When it's brought into physical contact (around 4 cm) with another NFC-enabled device like a contactless card terminal, a set of protocols are followed. In this case taking payments. But if going to the trouble of taking your phone out of your handbag or back pocket to pay for your coffee is still too much work for your liking, why not explore 4 wearable payment accessories that can be on your person at all times:

1. The Watch

When synced with an iPhone, which manages your card and verifies your identity, the Apple Watch can be used as the contact point on card machines to initiate payments from Apple Pay. The payment platform is now live in the UK and is the only payment service available for apple devices.

Apple iWatch
A less restrictive (and cheaper) option is the bPay Loop from Barclaycard in partnership with Garmin and Mondaine; a small silicone band containing a contactless chip. Depending on their size, it  slides onto the strap of a range of popular tech wearables. Including fitness trackers and smartwatches.

This could be useful if you’ve already invested in wearable tech accessory without payment capability. The Loop works alongside the bPay app or web portal where your transactions are managed and most impressively, can hook up to any bank card, not just Barclays.

2. The Ring

There are a few dedicated NFC rings that have the potential to be used as payment devices and it’s easy to see why they would be a good fit. Function led design allows you to keep the ring on at all times, it never needs charging and is completely waterproof.

The second generation NFC ring claims to be the first smart ring capable of making contactless payments. It has 2 NFC pieces embedded into the ring. One for distributing public information like your email address and name; this sits on the top of the ring facing out from the back of your hand. The second tag, used for sensitive information like unlocking your door or making a payment is on the same side as your palm. This forces a conscious physical decision to make payments, something you wouldn't want to do by accident.

Kerv NFC payment ring
Although still only available on pre-order, the Kerv ring also claims to be the world’s first contactless payment ring. It boasts no required syncing to a smartphone to operate and is made from aerospace-grade zirconia ceramic . You can simply tap to pay, ride the London Underground and again, open NFC locked doors. It comes in a range of colours and sizes.

Paying with Kerv ring

3. The Jacket

Yes, if you want to access contactless payments but you’ve already got your watch and phone sorted, you can have a contactless payment jacket.

Lyle & Scott Payment Jacket
Lyle & Scott and Barclays launched the jacket last year, which uses the cuff of the right sleeve to make payments. Arguably perfect for a British climate, unless you leave it on the bus during 1 of 3 sunny days we have per year.

4. The Band & Bracelet

With the Jawbone UP4, providing you’re in the US, you can make American Express payments at participating retailers. That's along with everything else a fitness tracker should do like recording your activity and heart rate. You just need to tap your wrist to pay and your Amex card is authenticated through the Jawbone app.

Jawbone UP4
Fitbit has recently bought a payments start-up to assist them with NFC payment integration, so look out for a Fitbit device with this feature in the near future.

What next?

Some wearable devices packed with features and processing firepower are capable of contactless payments, but you may need to jump through a few hoops or make a large financial commitment to make it happen.

On the other hand, there’s dedicated NFC accessories where contactless is the main or sometimes only USP. It may be the technology market will simply expect this feature on all devices going forwards, rather than it being a standalone product. You would expect all smartphones to have a camera, regardless of their price bracket. So the inclusion of a payment feature may start appearing in more of what we wear.