A few weeks back I spotted the bPay band from Barclaycard which supports contactless NFC payments via a wristband. Using the bPay website you load money from a debit or credit card and then make payments up to £20 by touching the band on the usual contactless card readers in store. As a payments geek I had no alternative but to get one! After a couple of weeks my bPay band duly arrived; I topped up and headed out to buy some stuff. Waitrose, Boots, Caffe Nero, Marks & Spencer – the world was my Oyster (no contactless pun intended) …
However, once I started using the bPay band I began to question the convenience and practicality of wearable payments devices. The band is poorly designed – it’s very uncomfortable because it’s bulky and much too wide. It also looks horrible on my wrist. I wear a Fitbit on my other wrist and the contrast is huge. The Fitbit is comfortable, slim and discreet – I don’t even notice I’m wearing it. And is paying with a bPay band more convenient than using a contactless card? Not to me. Once the novelty value of paying with the band had worn off I decided that using a card to touch a contactless reader was no less convenient, plus I could use the card of my choice. So yesterday I logged into my bPay account and transferred the balance back to my credit card.
My bPay band experience has got me thinking about the forthcoming Apple Watch. How practical will it feel for paying? How will I feel about smacking my £300 plus watch on a contactless reader? Will the benefits, like more secure payments, outweigh my concerns? The one big advantage that contactless cards have over phones and watches is that they are cheap and you don’t care about bashing or dropping them. I will be watching the launch of Apple Pay in the US to see what the feedback is on the usability of paying with the iPhone 6 and later the Apple Watch.
Anyway, whatever the Apple Watch payments experience, I’ll probably end up with one because of the other features!
You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @sevendotzero
The HSBC JLP card is a pain. Poor online self-serve, paper statements only, fill out a paper form to pay by direct debit, no contactless. Must be the most primitive credit card out there. Don’t understand why HSBC don’t sort it out.
I have just received my bPay band. I’m using it because I would like contactless payments (on the Tube in London and at coffeeshops, etc.) but my credit card provider (John Lewis Partnership card) don’t do contactless. So this is the bridge. I get the John Lewis points, and I can go contactless.
On the matter of the size, I totally agree. I’ve got a watch on the left wrist and a fitbit on the right. There is no room for that massive bPay band. So I’ve taken the chip out of the band and popped it in the back of the Apple case on my iPhone 6. It seems to fit, with only a tiny bump in the back of the silicone case. I have yet to try it out (as it only just arrived) and the only issue I can imagine will be interference from the built-in NFC on the phone, although I have no idea whether it is active here in UK. Let’s see…