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RBC and Mastercard testing wearable payments

RBC has partnered with retailers to see how wearable payments can work in-store

RBC and MasterCard have joined forces with a Toronto startup to test wearable payments. The company, Bionym, announced a pilot program for its Nymi Band wristband on Monday that will see it partner with banks and credit card companies to turn the wearable device into a mobile wallet. The announcement was made at Money2020 in Las Vegas, a conference about innovation in payments and financial services. The Nymi is a smart device that uses biometrics as an authenticating tool. It measures a person’s heart rate and links their unique cardiac rhythm to their identity; almost like using a fingerprint. Jeremy Bornstein, head of payments innovation at RBC, said the program is part of the bank’s ongoing efforts to understand how consumers want to pay. He said RBC proactively reached out to Bionym six months ago to discuss potential partnerships. The pilot program will be “multi-bank,” but RBC was the only bank partner announced at launch. Bornstein said RBC has been watching the intersection between wearables and payments closely, citing Disney’s use of wearable devices at its theme parks as a successful use of the technology. At Disney parks, customers can use wearable “MagicBands” to do everything from entering the park to paying for food and unlocking their hotel room doors. Wearable wristbands have also been used as a payment tool at several music festivals, including Ottawa’s Bluesfest, where attendees could link their credit cards to their festival pass and use it to purchase liquor. Bornstein said he expects to see new use cases for wearables as a form of payment in the coming months. RBC is learning about the process early so it can stay ahead of the adoption curve, he said. The Canadian bank is concurrently running its own test program of its own device, the RBC Payband. The wearable isn’t yet available to consumers – RBC is testing it with a group of 45 clients in the Toronto area. RBC has also partnered with several large retailers, including a major chain of gas stations and a major national home improvement retailer, to see how wearable payments function in-store. According to Bornstein, retailers don’t necessarily need to be part of a program for consumers to make payments in-store using a wearable. He said the payments work anywhere that accepts tap payments, which RBC estimates is 30% of the payment terminals in Canada. However, Bornstein said it’s important for the bank to understand the in-store side of the equation in order to deliver a seamless experience to consumers making payments using a wearable. “What we’ve learned from mobile payments is that if you don’t get the merchant experience right, it all falls down,” he said.

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