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Saturday Money: To complete your purchase, wriggle a wrist: Payments A new wristband works like a contactless card, with open access to your bank account. Miles Brignall reports

July 5, 2014

Miles Brignall



Shoppers in Spain will soon be paying for goods simply by waving a wristband over the shop's terminal - with the money coming straight out of their bank account. If the technology proves a hit, it will be coming to the UK soon.

This week, the country's CaixaBank launched Europe's first wristband that allows users to make low-value payments at more than 300,000 businesses across Spain and abroad.

The waterproof wristband is, in effect, a clone of the a contactless bank card, and can be used in the same way as any contactless-enabled card. Purchases of less than euros 20 (pounds 15.90) can be made waving the band across the merchant's sales terminal. Transactions of euros 20 or more require the customer to enter their pin to validate the transaction.

CaixaBank says it is about to start sending out 15,000 contactless wristbands to customers who have made the greatest use of contactless cards, in the hope that they might decide to leave their wallets at home when, for example, they go to the beach. You can swim while wearing it, then use it to purchase a drink, the bank says.

Until now, most payment wristbands have had to be preloaded with cash - Barclaycard has just started offering one in Britain. CaixaBank's wristband differs in that payments come straight out of a user's account, just as it would had they used their bank card.

But are the new devices safe? Could someone slip it off your wrist and head off on a spending spree?

The bank says customers have exactly the same protection in the event of theft as with the cards the bands replicate. All non-authorised contactless payments made by any thief will be refunded.

If several purchases are made in quick succession, the system asks for a pin to be input - stopping a thief racking up a big bill.

Inside the wristband is a micro-tag with the customer's encrypted card details. The contactless chip connects the wristband to the sales terminal as if the user had paid using a standard contactless card.

The wristband has been developed by Visa and the Spanish trial will be closely monitored by the big UK banks. After several years in the doldrums, contactless payments have finally taken off in the UK. McDonald's, Boots, Pret a Manger and, increasingly, the supermarkets accept them. Purchases up to pounds 20 can be made without the need to input a pin.

Lack of contactless cards from some UK banks (with the exception of Barclays) has also held back take-up, although, again, that is being addressed.

A spokeswoman for Visa Europe says around 20m Visa contactless purchases are taking place each month in UK. "Wearables are also capturing imaginations and this launch is a really exciting opportunity. Across Europe, we're working with various banks and partners to bring services like this to other countries and we'll have more to announce in due course," she says.

Last month, Barclaycard launched its bPay wristband, which is open to all - irrespective of who you bank with. Users pre-load their card, which is held within a rubbery wristband.

It can be used to make purchases up to pounds 20 at any contactless payment terminal in Britain and abroad - although not currently London buses - access for which the bank is seeking. Barclaycard says users can elect to auto-top up, which means the balance is replenished automatically.

Captions:

Pre-loaded money wristbands are popular at music festivals (above), but now a Spanish bank has taken the technology further Photograph: Getty

Waterproof: the CaixaBank wristband can go from swimming pool to bar



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Source: Guardian (UK)


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