Mastercard is bringing its contactless payments capability to Fitbit’s first smartwatch, which will allow wearers to pay for items by tapping the watch near a contactless payment terminal, according to a Mastercard press release.
The Fitbit Ionic, which was announced this week and will be available in October, will reportedly support payments through Visa, American Express and other networks, according to The Verge and other published reports.
The contactless payments capability also leverages Mastercard’s tokenization technology, under which a unique alternate number or "token" for the 16-digit card number can be found on the front or back of a payment card. Likewise, users of the Fitbit Ionic will get Mastercard payment tokens that can’t be used for transactions on any other devices.
The new smartwatch's payment options will be offered through a Fitbit Pay capability, based on technology FitBit gained from its acquisition of payment company Coin a few months ago.
Contactless payment seems like a natural capability for a smartwatch and should make the buying process even easier — unlike a smartphone, watches do not need to be pulled out of a pocket or a purse, or juggled around with the items you're buying. Still, in the early days of smartwatches, contactless payment was not a widely desired capability, according to at least one survey from 2014.
Things have changed, however, and with Apple Pay readily available on the Apple smartwatch, other smartwatch makers need to follow suit. In the last couple of years, we have seen Swatch align with Visa for contactless smartwatch payments and Jawbone team up with American Express, among other announcements.
Fitbit has now followed suit, finding itself a few massive partners in the payments space to help it do the same. Those big names will give Fitbit broad exposure at the point of payment in retail stores and other locations, and the fitness wearables brand is about to find out if those associations and Fitbit Pay can help it carve out a niche for itself in an increasingly crowded smartwatch market.