Jawbone Up4 fitness wristband doubles as an AmEx card

Jawbone introduced the Up4, a $200 fitness tracker that allows users to pay with their American Express credit card by tapping their wrists on a special terminal. The Up4 also tracks a user's heart rate, steps, and sleep patterns.

Jawbone
The Up4 links with a user's American Express credit card to allow mobile payments. In this promotional image, a woman uses a Jawbone Up4 to pay by tapping it against a scanner.

After years of having to take out our wallets to pay for goods and services, suddenly we’re presented with multiple ways to pay straight from our wrists. The Apple Watch allows users to make payments by tapping the watch against a special terminal, and a handful of Android-based smart watches have the same feature, or will in the near future.

Now Jawbone, the maker of fitness-tracking wristbands, has announced that its latest band will allow users to make payments with a flick of the wrist, as well.

The Jawbone Up4 wristband includes a near-field communication (NFC) chip, which allows it to communicate with other close-by devices such as specialized credit card readers. The caveat is that the Up4’s NFC chip will only be able to work with American Express payments, since Jawbone worked out a partnership with AmEx. (A future software update might unlock the ability to connect to different credit card companies’ accounts, but Jawbone made no announcement about upcoming plans.)

Up4 wearers who also happen to hold an American Express account can link their wristband to their credit card account, and from that point on can pay with that card by tapping their wrist on a terminal. It’s more straightforward than fishing a plastic card from a wallet to make a payment at the counter.

The Up4 doesn’t have any special security measures in place to keep someone from stealing your band and making payments with it. If the Up4 goes missing, however, you can unlink it from your American Express account by tapping a button within the accompanying smart phone app. “It’s kind of like when you lose your card but it’s easier because you can go right into the app,” American Express executive VP Leslie Berland told The Wall Street Journal.

In spite of its new partnership and new fitness band, Jawbone has had a rocky few months. Last August, the company was sued by one of its manufacturers for “over $20 million in goods received but not paid for,” according to Fortune. Then, Jawbone had to delay the availability of its previous flagship device, the Up3. The Up3 was announced in October 2014, but only began shipping in April 2015. And Jawbone has faced extra competition as Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and others have introduced smart watches with fitness features.

The Up4 will cost $199, and will include a heart-rate monitor and software that allows it to track a user’s steps, sleep patterns, and more. The Up3 is identical to the Up4 in every way, except that it costs $20 less and lacks the NFC chip that allows it to make mobile payments.

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