01 May, 2014

paytag wristband

A year or so ago, one of my credit cards sent me a PayTag: a sticker with the contactless payment bits of a regular credit card, but without the other stuff (contact chip, embossed number, etc).

Their stated usecase was for sticking on your phone, as a sort-of low tech upgrade for phones which don't have NFC.

I didn't find that use case particularly compelling, and aside from comedy ideas like putting it inside a fairy-wand, I've been waiting for a use.

A few days ago I made it into a payment wristband. My right-hand wrist has loads of bracelets on it already, and I took one of those, some plastic packaging and some superglue and made a payment wristband.

I was a little wary at deploying this in use at first. My initial test was deliberately in a stationer's shop which had unattended self-checkout terminals. (I've used that same branch for RFID fun as a teenager in the past, where I had a anti-shoplifting coil in my pocket and set the alarms off every weekend). For 75p I ended up with a new card case and a successful initial test.

Next I went to Waitrose to buy my groceries. I was wary here because the daytime staff are angry dinner ladies who have confiscated stuff off me in the past(!). They didn't seem to bat an eyelid at me waving my jacket arm at their payment terminal.

Thirdly I went to buy coffee. This was more awkward. Their payment terminal was stuff under a shelf and looked like it was probably quite awkward to use even with a regular contactless card. The dude was a bit confused at me putting my empty hand towards him and waving.

My final test was in a pub. The contactless user experience is a bit different in most pubs: they use hand-held terminals and usually you hand over your card, they notice it is contactless and then use that. So I had to work around that a bit. I handed over my regular payment card and when he noticed it was contactless and went to swipe I drunkenly shouted "WAIT! LET ME USE MY WRIST!" which he did. At that point the card reader decided it needed to do dialup verification so there was a tense few seconds where I hoped I didn't look like a knob. But it worked.

I'm surprised at how unsurprised staff are at seeing this. I need to figure out the right way to start a contactless payment in a hand-held reader environment. I'm looking forward to being able to use this on the London Underground ticket gates later in the year too...

later: someone sent me this article about a contactless payment suit.


  1. Anonymous1/5/14 18:36

    Sounds like the perfect reason to take a CTA ride.

  2. hmmm... it seems like a wristband might be a bit too easy to lose. For safety sake, you should glue it to your belt buckle.

  3. wrt cta: using contactless internationally (both with my US and UK cards) has been a ballache in the past. I don't know if that's fixed.