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Swiping in to the New York City transit system using a payment bracelet. Photo courtesy of Purewrist.

Bracelets, rings, key fobs and watches that double as credit or debit cards are enjoying a burst of popularity as COVID-wary consumers gravitate toward contactless payments.

Where it stands: While people have grown accustomed to waving their phones — or smart watches or Fitbits — in front of payment terminals, the next generation of wearables will likely be cheaper and/or more fashionable.

Driving the news: Several recent product launches point toward a future where payment features are built in to clothing and jewelry — and may include biometric features.

  • A company called Purewrist introduced a payment bracelet that comes in six colors, costs $25, and can be used to spend up to $1,000 at a time.
  • It's a linked to a reloadable Mastercard account that the wearer can manage online.
  • At CES this year, a startup called Flywallet showed off Keyble, a "small smart module that fits into bracelets, watch straps and key rings" and uses the wearer's finger image to authenticate payments.
  • On the high end, a European company called Armillion introduced limited-edition diamond-encrusted payment bracelets for men, which GQ UK says start at £38,130 ($52,000)
  • ABN Amro, the Dutch bank, allows customers shop for payment rings, watches and bracelets through its website.

Of note: Europe is way ahead of the U.S. in its adoption of payment wearables.

  • Some surveys show that smart rings, like the ones being issued by Belgium's KBC Bank, are the most popular form factor.

What they're saying: "We expect people to be using this for riding the MTA in New York or going and getting coffee, making small purchases," Suresh Palliparambil, CEO of Purewrist, tells Axios.

Flashback: This isn't the first time that banks and credit card companies have had high hopes for payment wearables.

  • In 2015, Barclaycard and Topshop teamed up on a line of teeny-bopper accessories that doubled as payment cards (but are now discontinued).
  • Every two years, Visa uses its sponsorship of the Olympics to showcase its payment wearables, including bracelets and "NFC-enabled gloves."

But, but, but: Some wearables may be ahead of their time, judging from a WSJ article about mobile wallets.

  • "Problem is, many shoppers and cashiers have no idea how to use them," per the WSJ.
  • "Even those who do find the major brands are still not accepted at the U.S. stores of some big retailers" like Walmart, Home Depot and Lowe’s.

The intrigue: Amazon is expanding use of its "Amazon One" payment terminals — which read your palm to authenticate a transaction.

  • Under Amazon's vision, a biometric identifier — the palm image — would become a ubiquitous payment vehicle.

Go deeper

Updated 10 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

Mike Pompeo shells out for media makeover

Via "Fox News Sunday"

Mike Pompeo's political action committee spent $30,000 on media training from last March to June — the most on any service beyond payroll during the first six months of 2021.

Why it matters: The former secretary of State hasn't just been losing weight but working to hone his media skills amid speculation about a possible presidential run, records show.

33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan infrastructure group takes on election reform

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The bipartisan group focused on updating the Electoral Count Act of 1887 is seizing on this recess period to court senators more freely.

Why it matters: The group is led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and includes many members who helped reach the bipartisan infrastructure deal. They see themselves as the only hope of creating an election reform package able to muster 60 votes in the Senate.