Trying a new approach to prod consumer interest in contactless payment, U.S. Bancorp is testing a wrist gadget that combines tap-and-pay technology with an emergency medical notification device, the bank announced July 18.

The U.S. Bank Vitaband wristband, developed with MasterCard Worldwide; Oberthur Technologies; Fidelity National Information Services Inc., or FIS; and Vita Products Inc., enables users to leave their wallets at home but still carry critical medical information and have the ability to conduct contactless payments at merchant locations deploying terminals that can read the chip in the wristband.

Employees of the Minneapolis-based bank are testing the product in multiple states, the bank said.

Each U.S. Bank Vitaband contains a contactless-payment chip that can access one of the bank’s payment accounts. The device also contains an eight-digit number linked to a medical profile that includes the wearer’s identity and medical information. In an emergency, responders would call a number printed on the band to access the wearer’s profile.

Users may go online to manage their Vitaband accounts, including updating medical information, according to the release.

Bank executives were not available at press time to provide details about how the institution’s plans to market the product after the pilot or what the product’s cost will be. But the bracelet is ideal for sports enthusiasts and others who want to be unencumbered on outings the bank said in the release.

Vita Products markets the wristband separately through its website, where it is offered minus a connection to any specific bank for $39.90. A one-year subscription to the medical emergency response service costs $19.95 after the first year.

Analysts had mixed reactions regarding the gadget’s prospects.

Contactless-payment technology promises to free consumers “from the shackles” of magnetic stripe cards, which is a plus for consumers and merchants that might benefit from more-versatile payment options, Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group LLC, tells PaymentsSource.

But others were not wowed.

The dual-function wristband is likely to appeal only to a small audience, says Megan Bramlette, director of knowledge management at the payments-consulting firm Auriemma Consulting Group. Standalone contactless-payment devices are best suited for mass-transit access and events, she notes.

“This medical wristband might be a great product for a niche group, such as elderly people or those with chronic conditions, but I don’t see how this is going to get people to make more payments,” Bramlette says. “I don’t think people want to wear their credit card (on their wrist).”

The device “shows some creativity on the part of U.S. Bank,” but the bracelet is unlikely to have any measurable impact on contactless adoption,” Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Princeton Junction, N.J.-based Smart Card Alliance, tells PaymentsSource via an email.

Moreover, most U.S. merchant locations are not equipped to accept contactless payments, analysts note.

Ablowitz estimates there are between 150,000 and 200,000 U.S. locations that accept contactless payments.

But as a percentage of overall payment terminals, total penetration is low, Deborah Baxley, a principal with consulting firm Capgemini U.S. LLC, tells PaymentsSource, noting “we haven’t cracked the 5% barrier yet.”

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