Pay with your Fitbit or Garmin wearable with FNB

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South Africans will soon have a range of new mobile payment methods to choose from. Earlier this week Absa announced integration with Samsung Pay (with Standard Bank expected to do likewise any day now), and today FNB announced support for Fitbit Pay and Garmin Pay that will work with any contactless enabled point-of-sale device. Apple Pay, where you at?

Now anyone with compatible Fitbit and Garmin wearables will be able to make payments without the need for a bank card.

How does it work?

But Stuff, what sorcery is this you ask? Smartphone and wearable payments already exist in many other countries, and South Africa has just taken a while to adopt the tech because of hold ups with the banks. In the banks’ defence, we have some of the best banking security in the world… because we have some of the most enthusiastic and persistent criminals and fraudsters, so we’ll forgive them for being cautious.

If you have one of the compatible devices, you’ll need to select the wallet feature in the app (for the Fitbit devices, at least, we’ve not had a chance to try it on a Garmin), link your FNB Visa cheque or credit card to it. Thereafter you can pull up the payment app on your wearable and tap it on the contactless card machine, just as you would when paying with a FNB Pay-enabled smartphone or a Tap-n-Go card.

“This latest offering complements a number of our digital solutions that enable customers to conveniently make payments without the need for carrying a physical card or cash. It further aligns to our ongoing strategy to migrate customers to digital channels where we continuously provide them with innovative and customer-centric solutions that meet a diverse range of needs,” says Jason Viljoen, the Head of Digital Payments at FNB.

How safe is it?

The main reason for digital, cardless payments is convenience — eliminating the need to carry cash or cards around, especially for active people who don’t necessarily have their wallets with them at the gym or after a Park Run. Because it works like a contactless card, the same security applies — small purchases won’t require a PIN, but larger ones will.

As a further security measure, whenever the Fitbit or Garmin device leaves your wrist you will be required to enter your wearable password when you put it back on your wrist in order to reactivate the pay-functionality. If you haven’t got a security code set up you’ll be prompted to add one when setting up your wallet.

How to get it

Any existing FNB clients will have access to the feature, as long as they have a compatible device. With regards to Fitbit devices, only the Ionic and Versa will work, and you can check the list of compatible Garmin devices on their website (and see the image below). You’ll also have to download the Fitbit or Garmin App.

After you’ve linked an FNB Visa Card on the Fitbit or Garmin App, you’ll be sent an one-time pin (OTP) via the FNB Banking App, SMS or email, just to verify it’s actually you linking the new wearable to your bank account.  

These new digital payment methods could pose a threat to the (already established) QR-code based payment methods like Zapper and Snapscan that have a prominent presence all over the country. Though, unless Cape Town parking payment folk start carrying contactless card machines, Snapscan’s pretty safe there. Also, until wearables become more common and Samsung Pay rolls out to the rest of SA’s major banks, there’s plenty of room for other solutions. The more the merrier, if you ask us.

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Deputy Editor at Stuff. Nevermind the fancy title, I like writing about things that are cool. Like games, gadgets and sometimes even software. Depending on how cool it is.

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