bPay’s contactless payment wristband takes on Apple Pay in the UK

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Barclays Bank will be one of the few major banks in the UK that won’t adopt Apple Pay when it launches in July. However, it doesn’t want to be left out of the contactless payment fun, and in an effort to keep all the transaction profits for itself, it has announced the bPay contactless payment system with Barclaycard.

It’s an odd mix of PayPal, mobile payments, and wearable tech. Using bPay’s digital wallet, to which you add funds from your regular bank account, one of the three payment options can be used instead of cash or a card in stores — a wristband, a sticker, or a key fob. Say you’re wearing the wristband. All it takes is a gentle wave in the general direction of a contactless payment terminal, and you can walk out with your purchase, no cash or card needed.

The sticker can be attached to your phone to replicate that Apple Pay (or Android Pay, eventually) experience. Like Apple Pay, and other contactless payments using a card in the UK, purchases will have a limit of £20, and the first retail outlets selling the bPay products will be those aimed at sporty types. A wristband or key fob is much easier to carry around than loose change when out running.

Yes, we said sell the products. You’ll need to hand over £15 for the sticker, £20 for the key fob, and £25 for the wristband. Once you’ve paid up for your gadget of choice, it’s free to top-up the bPay account, and there are no service fees. An app can be used to manage accounts on the move. Contactless payment terminals for use with debit cards are already widespread in the UK — including on London’s transport system, and in stores such as Starbucks, Boots, and WH Smith — and each should operate with the bPay system too, making it instantly usable by those who adopt it.

The bPay devices will be available from July 1, and the service is available to anyone with a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card, regardless of whether they bank with Barclays.

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