Monday August 29th, 2016

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After a successful trial with athletes at the 2017 Rio Olympics, Visa announced it has made its innovative Contactless Payment Ring available to the general public. Immediately available for pre-order, with a scheduled ship date of December 2016, the ring will cost early adopters $53.

In June we covered Visa’s intentions to make Olympic Athletes ambassadors for their newest tech offering. Fifty-nine athletes, sponsored by Team Visa, headed to Rio as the first owners of Visa’s newest contactless payment device. NFC rings targets an athletic consumer who has less pocket and purse space to carry cash and cards. The ring is water resistant to 50 meters and does not need to be recharged.

The Olympic beta testers appeared excited to test drive the new tech, and were receptive to the concept.

“As an Olympian, rings have a special meaning to me,” said 6-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin. “It will be great to go from a competition to a purchase without having to carry a wallet or card.”

While wearing the ring, customers will have the ability to place their hand beside near-field-communication (NFC) payment receivers at equipped retailers to complete transactions. It mimics and aims to simplify technology already available on smartwatches and smartphones.

“Visa’s first payment ring puts smart payment technology right on the hands of our athletes for convenient and easy payments,” Jim McCarthy, executive vice president of innovation and strategic partnerships at Visa, said in a statement.

According to Engadget, Olympians were asked to weigh in during the developmental phases of the new technology as well. American decathlete Ashton Eaton recommended a tech wearable that differentiated itself from competitors by being markedly unobtrusive, able to tolerate numerous uniform changes without a second thought.

Visa payment rings were also designed with security in mind and will be the first payment rings to utilize Visa Token Service. The token service will replace sensitive account information used in transactions with anonymized tokens that identify payer to payee. Were the wearer to lose their ring, a compatible mobile application allows the user to disable their device.

Visa’s NFC ring joins a growing collection of wearable tech payment options that already includes watches and wristbands.

Retailers around the globe have started the transition to accepting NFC payments. Just shy of 20% of UK merchants are already contactless, and 100% will need to be compatible by 2020. In the United States, only 17% of Americans are contactless, while 75% of Canadian merchants are, according to NFCring.

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