Amex & Apple Putting Payments on Your Wrist

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Apple and American Express are looking to users of wearable technology like smart watches and fitness bands for their next payment app. Users of wearable technology are not only younger and wealthier than owners of smart phones and tablets, they’re also more likely to use the devices for digital banking and payments, according to a new study on wearable’s released by Javelin Strategy & Research.

It is estimated that Apple will ship over 15 million watches in the next 12 months which is pushing major companies to gear up and leverage wearable devices for payments. Citigroup Inc.’s Citi Mobile Lite App is the first major bank to create an app that will work with the new Apple Watch. The app will list balances and notifications of recent transactions with out having to login.

American Express is planning to work with Jawbone to allow Amex cardholders to pay with their new UP4 fitness, expected to be ready by this summer. The Jawbone UP4 has an NFC chip embedded into the strap for frictionless transactions across any wireless-capable cash register where a regular American Express card could be used. According to Jawbone’s Travis Bogard, branching out into a wallet replacement was the next logical step for the company as it expands its remit beyond fitness, sleep, and meal tracking.

One big reason that major banks are gravitating towards users of wearable technology is the demographic profile, according to research done by Javelin, while 6% of all consumers own a smart watch and 12% use a fitness band, those percentages increase to 10% and 24% among persons earning $150,000 or more per year. The early adopters of wearable technology are younger, wealthier and are more active in digital banking.

Apple has included Apple Pay Support with the Apple Watch but Google is falling short and has not done so with Google Wallet and the company’s Android Wear technology could be a potential liability for Google, Javelin warns. “Google, Samsung, and other mobile wallet providers should move quickly to capitalize on wearables owners’ increased mobile-wallet usage,” advises the report.

Javelin’s advice to all payments providers looking at supporting smart watches and other wearables is to keep things fast and simple. “Forcing users to enter login credentials is out of the question,” says the report. Similarly, providers must also support pre-login balance viewing and target owners with in-store, location-based offers. With respect to security, wearables should authenticate users with biometrics such as a fingerprint Javelin advises.

Javelin’s final piece of advice to banks and wallet providers is to keep in mind the primary purpose of a wearable gadget—which isn’t to make payments. “It is important to note that what attracts wearables owners most to their devices is the ability to track their steps, sleep, and heart rate,” says the report. “Mobile payments and banking capabilities will be a secondary function for wearables owners in the near term.”

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