Bankwest's Payment Ring Is The First 'Wearable' I'd Consider Owning

Image: Supplied

Last week, we were given a sneak peak at Halo: a new contactless payment system from Bankwest that puts your banking details into a ring. Boasting batteryless, app-free operation and waterproofing up to 50 metres, it's the first "IoT wearable" concept that I'm actually exited about.

It's also one of the cheapest wearables on the market, with an introductory price of $29. Here's what you need to know!

Consumer wearables were supposed to be the Next Big Thing. However, with the exception of fitness fanatics and diehard Apple fans, they have conspicuously failed to catch on with the buying public.

We've yet to hear a compelling argument as to why any of these gizmos are superior to a good ol' fashioned smartphone. Sure, it's nice to be able to check your text messages on a wristwatch, but it's not that nice. If you're not hugely into exercise, they're basically next to useless.

All this could be set to change with the release of payment rings in Australia, however. As the name implies, these are fashion accessories for your finger that allow you to tap-and-go at POS terminals. It's the same technology that's in NFC-enabled mobile banking apps - except you don't need any software, batteries or a phone to make it run.

MasterCard showcased a similar payment ring dubbed Kerv. [Image: Lifehacker]

We were given a demo of one of these devices at an Australian Open event hosted by MasterCard. Matt Barr, senior vice-president of digital and new payment flows, proudly showed off his ring to onlookers while espousing the virtues of this new technology.

"I've been using this ring every day for coffees and lunches," Barr explained. "It links to a prepaid account in the cloud which you top up." (As you'd imagine, this has caused Barr to receive some odd looks from local cashiers who have yet to briefed on payment-enabled jewellery.)

Bankwest Announces Halo

Bankwest will be the first financial institution to offer a payment ring in Australia. The fruit of its labour, dubbed Halo, is now available on Bankwest's website to new and existing customers.

It's set to retail for $39, but currently carries an introductory price of $29. Naturally, a range of sizes are offered to suit different fingers, with users required to fill out a sizing kit prior to purchase.

Pictured: Kerv rings with a thin-style wedding band to illustrate scale. [Image: Lifehacker]

To make a payment, the ring draws power from the contactless reader on the payment terminal - which means you never need to worry about replacing batteries or charging the 'device'. According to Bankwest, the ring works best when you make a fist directly above the payment terminal. You should then hear a familiar beep indicating that the payment went through.

As with other contactless payment methods, transactions that exceed $100 require the user to enter their PIN into the terminal. In any event, the ring comes with 24/7 fraud protection that's identical to a regular Bankwest Mastercard.

The Bankwest Halo ring is available in a choice of black or white. As mentioned, it's waterproof up to 50 metres and does not require a corresponding app.

Other banks are on the way

As the aforementioned Australian Open event, MasterCard confirmed that "a number of partners" are looking to launch payment rings of their own. We wouldn't be surprised if the 'Big Four' made announcements in the coming weeks. Watch this space!

Lifehacker travelled to the Australian Open as a guest of MasterCard.


Comments

    Not sure how I feel about this, on balance. On the plus side, extremely convenient touch payments, no battery and no app are great selling points. On the minus side, sounds like you need to open another account to make it work, and it's very single-purpose.

    This tech has been around for ages. For a while, I had a CBA PayTag which was basically this in a card form rather than a ring. You could reassign what account the PayTag pointed to in the CommBank app; hopefully, these rings can do something similar.
    Ideally, I'd prefer it in a watch band/buckle rather than a ring, but you can't have everything.

      Ideally, I'd prefer it in a watch band/buckle rather than a ringThis. I can't stand wearing rings, they annoy the crap out of me. Hopefully, they will have other options, the watch band jigger would be great, all they'd need is a way to attach it to the band.

        Westpac have a watch band released.

      Westpac currently offers both a wristband, and a clip that you can attach to your watch-band:

      https://www.westpac.com.au/personal-banking/mobile-wallets/paywear/

        Ooh. I'm not currently in the market to be changing banks, but if I was this would definitely factor into the decision.

          Yeah, I'm sort of considering changing banks, but Westpac wasn't top of my list. I think I might hold out until the Opal readers in Sydney start accepting contactless debit cards and then see what's available; perhaps I'll get lucky and my current bank will have a wearable by then...

        Nice...

        A longtime Westpac customer, and never knew about it.

          Yeah, they don't seem to have gone out of their way to advertise it.

    It's hard not to notice that guy is wearing his Kerv as a wedding/engagement ring. I mean on one hand, practicality, but on the other... kinda disappointing right?

    How long before I can just get something implanted in my hand? I want to be update it though, say if I change banks, don't want a bunch of them implanted in me.

    We've yet to hear a compelling argument as to why any of these gizmos are superior to a good ol' fashioned smartphone

    Yet to hear a compelling argument for multipurpose tech (even if its just mimicking a smartphone), yet are convinced a one trick pony IS superior? Not saying a smartwatch is the answer (personally, I love mine), but if they aren't, surely a ring is no better either.

    If its just as easy to pull a mobile out than use a smartwatch, then its just as easy to pull a smartphone out than use one of these rings.

    It comes across as hypocritical to me to present these rings as so much better than other wearables.

      For me, it comes down to fashion convention and size. Most wearables are bulkier than I'd like and highly visible on the wearer. A ring is much more nondescript.

      Yes, it's a "one trick pony", but it's a one trick pony with compelling uses - heading to the beach without a wallet or phone and still being able to buy lunch, for example.

      There's also the price tag - I cant think of any smartwatches that retail for under $40.

        Fair enough. It just read that you were dismissive of wearables as a whole, and suddenly that all changed with an item that did far less. It just didnt make sense that whats still a QoL benefit made that much difference.

        Having said that, I do like the ring. If I was just getting into the wearable market (love my Gear S2, only thing wrong is a busted watchband loop), its something I'd consider. Still might actually, would be a nifty thumb or pinky ring. And just as funny paying for a beer with a pinky ring as it is with a watch.

    A couple of thoughts I had reading though this.
    so this is why we don't have applepay support?
    each bank/account will require a separate halo?
    and I'm married and wear a ring, but that is the only piece of jewellery I wear. I would be more likely to buy one of the fitness watches that does contactless payment or you know just pull out my phone.

      Bendigo just announced Osko and PayID, which I’m pretty sure isn’t just them doing and is the repose to apply pay we were supposed to get, but just looks like a bunch of nothing so far. Tempted to change banks that’ll let me spend my money how I want.

    I have a band on my wrist from Westpac bank no batteries no charging and water proof also it was FREE its about the size of a SIM card

    Load it with 20k and voila, you have the engagement/wedding ring of the new age.

      Marriage is grand. Divorce is 900 grand.

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