bPay: Using Barclaycard's vision of a cashless future

Barclaycard recently announced bPay, a wristband designed to give you quick and convenient contactless payments on the go.

Making appearances at a couple of festivals prior to general launch, we went down to British Summer Time in Hyde Park to put bPay through its paces, and sample Barclaycard's vision of a cashless future.

British Summer Time is sponsored by Barclaycard, making it an ideal place to trial bPay. It might sound like quite a departure - leaving your cash and cards behind in favour of a wristband - but bPay is actually very simple.

The wristband is just a rubber cover that houses a contactless payment chip. That chip is linked to your bPay account, just like any other bank card you might have.

Barclays and Barclaycard have been offering contactless payment for some time, and bPay is really just an extension of that system: it uses the same vendor hardware, and the bPay chip you activate is just seen as another payment card. It is in fact a MasterCard account.

The aim is to let you just tap the wristband to pay, freeing you from scrabbling in your pockets, exposing your pin or running out of cash, making it a great solution for things like festivals.

Prior to using bPay you'll have to activate it through the website. It's here that the real money finds its way to your wrist, as you top-up your bPay account.

You simply enter your payment card details (like an existing Visa or MasterCard for your current account) to put credit in bPay and it's as simple as that. There's also an option to automatically top it up. This will continue to credit bPay as you spend, so the wristband doesn't run out of buying power.

The advantage this offers is that if you want to just spend freely, the auto top-up keeps you in the money. Alternatively, if you want to credit bPay and give it to your kids, you can. Rather than just allowing limitless cash, you can stay in control.

We also like the fact that you can return the credit on bPay to the original card. That means it doesn't get stuck in bPay, you can just move it out again.

At the festival itself, we had no problem paying using bPay. Simply presenting the wristband at the regular card payment device was quick and easy, with no fiddling in the pockets necessary. Some venues also had a balance checker, so you could see how much you had left to spend.

Our auto top-up also worked perfectly - yes, we managed to get through the modest amount we'd budgeted ourselves - with email reminders and text messages to inform you of top-ups as they happen.

bPay - like other contactless payment systems - operates PIN free. You can spend up to £20 via this method, making it perfect for burgers and beers.

Contactless payments have come a long way in the past year, now being accepted widely for ad hoc purchases at places like Starbucks and Pret. Moving it to the wrist makes it even more practical, especially for those events where you don't want to be scrabbling in a pocket or purse.

Is this the cashless future we've been dreaming of? Almost. The wristband itself, at the moment, is a little on the chunky side, but there's nothing to stop more fashionable or discrete solutions appearing in the future. Otherwise, we're sold on the concept, as long as every venue accepts contactless payment.



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