Barclays Accessorizes Payments with bPay Wristband Test

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Barclays' April Fool's Day joke last year was a video about PayWag, a contactless payment system built into dog collars. In hindsight, maybe this wasn't a prank but an early prototype for bPay, the company's new payment-capable wristband for humans.

Starting July 3 at the British Summer Time music festival, Barclays customers will be able to purchase and load a festival ticket and funds onto the bPay band. The bPay wristband is built with a computer chip and Near Field Communication antenna for payments and other functions.

The bank plans to make free bPay bands available to all U.K. consumers through a nationwide launch in 2015.

In combining festival admission with payments, the bPay initiative resembles Walt Disney Co.'s ongoing push with MagicBand, a system used for payments, hotel room access and admission at its theme parks.

The bPay band works just like a Barclays contactless payment card and is accepted at more than 300,000 U.K. point of sale terminals. Barclays launched the U.K.'s first contactless card in 2007.

As they do with Barclays contactless cards, bPay band users can make purchases of up to £20 (U.S. $33.50) without entering PIN codes or signing their names, Barclays says.

The new bPay band follows two years of trials in which Barclaycard made payments available for limited times only within music festivals and other events. At the Barclays Wireless Festival in 2012, Barclays for the first time promoted the ability to attend a fully contactless enabled event, calling its payment wristband at that time the PayBand.

The payment wristbands are linked to the customer's credit or debit card account. Users can link any major credit card except American Express, Barclays says. Users can add funds on the Barclays website and establish an automatic reload when the account reaches a certain limit, or onsite at events accepting the technology.

The new band evolves from Barclay's PayTag sticker launched in 2012. More than 1 million PayTags have been issued to customers, Barclays says.

In the past year, Barclays U.S. has also been developing various mobile pay projects through the bPay platform.

Barclays joins a number of companies experimenting with wearable payments. Though companies like Barclays and Disney are pushing ahead with payment-capable wristbands, Hersheypark attempted a similar deployment in 2012 but quickly scrapped the product due to low adoption.

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