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Erste Group Banks on RFID

The Austrian financial services provider has introduced a smart wristband and sticker for mobile payments.
By Samuel Greengard
Jan 29, 2017

During the past few years, mobile payments have moved into the mainstream. Services such as Apple Pay and Android Pay—along with various dedicated mobile wallets and apps, including PayPal and Square—have become the transaction method of choice for many consumers. In fact, Future Market Insights reports that mobile payment transaction volume will grow by 23.2 percent through 2020.

Yet, despite ongoing advances in mobile pay and electronic transactions, virtually all transactions are chained to phones. People who lack a smartphone—or those in a place or situation where they cannot use their phone—must resort to pulling out their wallet and using a plastic swipe or chip card.

Erste Group Bank, an Austrian financial services provider that operates roughly 2,800 branches throughout seven countries, hopes to change that. In June 2016, Erste Bank, in conjunction with Austria's Sparkassen (savings banks), introduced a contactless payment system featuring the BankCard Micro wristband and the BankCard Sticker, which can be affixed to a keychain, mobile phone, notebook, purse or other item. The waterproof payment devices incorporate Near Field Communication technology and work with existing NFC-enabled terminals.

The wristband and sticker are compatible with an existing mobile-payment app that runs on smartphones. The two devices use the MasterCard Maestro network to enable contactless payments of up to €25 without the consumer entering a PIN code. If the transaction is higher than €25, a PIN is required (the system works in the same way that chip and PIN cards do). There's no built-in interface. When a consumer approaches an NFC terminal—designated by the widely used symbol—he or she places the device within the 0.5-centimeter read range, which prompts the transaction to pop up on the terminal. If necessary, the user can input the PIN.

"There are a lot of situations in which people don't have their plastic cards or it is inconvenient to use them, such as when they are at the swimming pool, going for a run or playing sports," says Ertan Piskin, Erste Bank's head of cards, payments, accounts and product development. "There are other situations in which the phone is not ideal or convenient. So, our goal is to introduce a payment system that is simple to use—and extremely convenient. We want to offer mobile tools and transactions for all customer situations and touch points."

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