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Amex members getting power to use fitness wearable as payment card

American Express card holders in the United States will be able to make purchases using a wearable fitness tracker with an embedded NFC chip starting this summer, pointing to the potential for wearables to transform commerce.

Jawbone’s UP4 tracker can be used as an Amex card at hundreds of thousands of NFC-enabled merchants throughout the nation. The service points to wearables’ ability to blend in with consumers’ lives, through offering convenience that saves users from having to pull out smartphones – or actual plastic cards.

“This is truly a first-of-its-kind payments experience in a fitness wearable, so we’re really excited to see how it’s received by our card members,” said Amy Marino, director of digital partnerships and development for American Express, New York.

“What we know is that our card members love slick and seamless experiences that give them choice and flexibility with how use their Amex card to pay. And on the merchant side, when a card member taps to pay with UP4, it looks and works the same as when they use their plastic card,” she said.

Entry point
Forty percent of online consumers in the United States say they are tired of pulling phones from their pockets and purses, Forrester Research recently reported.

Thus, wearables such as smartwatches can become the main entry point for digital experiences. 

Showing the possibilities for NFC-enabled fitness trackers.

The seamless payments option offered by the NFC-enabled UP4 tracker means  Amex card members can go for a run outdoors and buy a water or a snack on the way home without having to carry cash, or quickly tap to pay in taxis when they have their hands full.

To connect an Amex card via the latest UP app for iOS or Android, first the card member with a UP4 tracker opens the UP app and selects “Payments” in the Settings menu.

He or she then logs in with the same user ID and password used to manage an account online. The consumer then selects a card to connect to UP4 for payments.

Once a card is connected to the UP4 system, the tracker can be used as an Amex card wherever American Express contactless payments are accepted.

Users should look for the contactless symbol on the in-store checkout terminal.

When they tap the contactless target on the UP4 tracker to the terminal, a confirmation on the terminal will signal a successful payment.

Paying via UP4 entitles the user to normal Amex card membership services and rewards.

The partnership comes as merchants are expected to upgrade their technology to accept new cards with a computer chip and new types of mobile payments.

Heating up
Mobile payments are heating up following Apple Pay’s launch, renewing enthusiasm for near-field communications technology.

Blending in with consumers’ lives.

In November, Pebble smartwatch wearers gained the ability to make payments and receive payment notifications through PayPal and its mobile application.

“A lot of our merchants are excited by NFC and rushing to put contactless terminals in their stores,” Ms. Marino said. “So while card members can already use UP4 to pay at hundreds of thousands of merchants, that number is rapidly growing.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York