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Mastercard Pumps up Payments with Fitbit’s First Smartwatch

Updated Aug. 29, 2017

Mastercard is bringing Mastercard contactless payments to Fitbit’s first smartwatch, Fitbit Ionic.

With Fitbit Ionic, health and fitness enthusiasts who use the device will be able to add their eligible cards to their fitness smartwatch and pay by simply tapping their device near a contactless terminal at more than 6.6 million merchant locations globally.

Starting Aug. 28, users can pre-order the Fitbit device on Fitbit.com, for general availability in October. The payment functionality initially will be supported in the U.S. with participating issuer banks and will expand to other markets across the globe soon after, Mastercard said.

“Consumers today are expecting technology to help them accomplish life’s daily tasks with as few steps or clicks as possible,” said Kiki Del Valle, senior vice president, commerce for every device, Mastercard. “By adding payment capabilities to a Fitbit device, Mastercard cardholders who are already on-the-go can easily buy what they need without having to bring their wallet with them.”

A key to securing wearable payments is the network’s tokenization service, through which Mastercard generates a unique alternate number or token for the 16-digit card number. The token number is not only different from the card number but is also, on its own, useless when trying to perform a transaction via a different device.

The More the Merrier

Fitbit Pay is not exclusive to Mastercard cardholders. Fitbit announced that it also will support eligible American Express cards and Visa credit and debit cards from “top issuing banks” in more than 10 markets across the globe, including ANZ, Banco Santander, Bank of America, Capital One, HSBC, KBC Bank Ireland, OCBC Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, UOB and U.S. Bank, with more countries and banks planned soon.

This is not Mastercard’s first foray into wearables. In addition to integration with Apple Pay (and the iWatch) through its issuing partners, Mastercard is working with FitPay Inc., a 2017 Pay Awards Startup of the Year. The two recently announced the launch of a virtual prepaid Mastercard option for any original equipment manufacturers that integrate their products with the FitPay platform.

A Visa “How Will We Pay?” survey of approximately 2,600 adult users ages 18 and older conducted by PYMNTS earlier this year found that consumers who own wearables buy more. Wearables owners buy more things than the average consumer in all product categories, ranging from apparel and food to personal care products and more. What’s more, wearable and non-wearable owners prefer to go cashless: More than 60 percent of all respondents preferred cards and digital payments over cash.

With Fitbit Ionic’s promise of long battery life—more than four days on a single charge (10 hours with GPS or playing music)—it could usher in a new definition of “top of wallet.”

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