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Paying with a Smartwatch: A Complete Guide

With all the features of a smart device strapped to your wrist, smartwatches have become a massive asset to people looking to simplify their lives with convenient access to music, voice and text commands, and even paying for your morning coffee. Smartwatches have come a long way since the first device hit the scene in the early part of the 2010s. One of the features that have risen in popularity is contactless payment.

Most major smartwatch manufacturers will allow you to use contactless payment. This will depend on the make and model of your watch. For most, with just a simple setup, you can start leaving your wallet at home and start using this convenient feature.

Contactless payment is easy to use and easy to set up. It allows you to store the information for credit and debit cards safely onboard your smartwatch’s hardware. While this does not completely make your wallet obsolete, (we don’t have electronic IDs yet), the feature is excellent if you are on the go and don’t want to worry about pulling out your cards. The technology that allows for this to work is reliable and already built into most phones and smartwatches (how to answer your phone with your smartwatch in our guide).

How Contactless Payment from a Smartwatch Works

The technology that contactless payment is based on is called NFC, or Near Field Communication. This telecommunication protocol allows for communication between two electronic devices at a short distance. This distance is small at around 1.5 inches. More than just phones and smartwatches use NFC based technology (more on what’s possible with this technology in our guide). NFC is also used for electronic identification, keycards, and quick setup Bluetooth devices.

NFC is relatively reliable and safe. Because the range for connection is so small, it makes taking advantage of the protocol difficult. This is why it is generally safe to use it with highly sensitive data like card information and electronic identification. Most major smartwatch manufacturers will have NFC available on their devices. Here are a few to look out for that allow for contactless payment (all 3 of the links take you to Amazon):

  • Apple Watch Series 6 – Apple’s latest addition to its smartwatch line utilizes Apple Pay for contactless payments.
  • Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 – Samsung’s take on the smartwatch comes packed with functionality, including NFC for payments through Samsung Pay.
  • Garmin Venu Smartwatch –  Besides being known for creating things like GPS systems, Garmin has produced some very well thought out and functional watches, including this model that features Garmin Pay. It’s clear they are starting to get more serious about activity trackers and other smart devices.

Using contactless payment is a breeze once you have everything set up. For most smartwatch interfaces, you will need to have a smartphone connected to add your card. Once you do though, the data should be stored on your watch. Accessing the contactless payment system is simple and easy, usually consisting of finding the app on your watch.

Once you have everything loaded up, all you’ll need to do is place your watch face close to the contactless payment logo on the credit card of the point of sale system. Keep in mind that while this feature is very popular, not all stores will have them. Look for either an Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Contactless Payment logo at the register. 

Setting Up Smartwatch Payments on your Smartphone

female hands smartwatch debit card app touch and pay

Smartwatch payments are not all that different from each other, but there are some little subtleties in the way that the companies go about it. For that reason, we’ve included a short tutorial for some of the most popular brands in the sub-sections below. All you need is your smartphone and the smart watch to get started!

To set up a smartwatch with a contactless payment application, you just have to go into the appropriate application on your smartphone and then add and verify your credit/debit card. If you’re using a debit card, you’ll have to use a PIN. Check out the guide below for each individual company.

Apple Pay:

  1. On your phone, go to the Apple Watch App.
  2. Find the Apple Pay section and hit add card.
  3. Follow along with the steps to add your card to the wallet system. Currently, you can add up to 12 cards.
  4. Once you have completed the setup, hit next, and your information will be verified with your bank or card issuer.
  5. Once your card has been verified, it should be ready for use.
  6. To use your card with your watch, double click the side button.
  7. Hold the display up to the card reader.
  8. Wait until you feel a gentle tap.

Google Pay:

  1. On your watch, navigate toward the Google Pay App.
  2. You should see a button that says get started, click it.
  3. If you haven’t set up a screen lock, you will need to for this function. 
  4. Follow the instructions and enter your card’s information.
  5. Your card should now be loaded onto your watch.
  6. To make a payment find the Google Pay app again.
  7. Hold your watch over the card reader until you feel the vibration.
  8. You may be asked to choose debit or credit; select credit.
  9. If you are using a debit card, you may still need to use your PIN.

Samsung Pay:

  1. Find the Samsung Pay app on your Samsung smartphone.
  2. You will need to set up a PIN.
  3. Find the blue button on the screen that says add a new card.
  4. Tap add credit/debit card.
  5. Follow on-screen instructions.
  6. Through the Galaxy Wearable app, open Samsung Pay. This should load the app on your watch.
  7. Press and hold the top back button for a few seconds.
  8. When the app opens, swipe left to view basic instructions.
  9. Since we already imported a card onto the app on our smartphone, you can either add a new card or use the import card feature. 
  10. Once everything is set up, just hold down the Back button again to gain access to your cards.
  11. Now hold the watch over the NFC reader on the payment system and wait for the alert.

Fitbit Pay:

  1. Open the Fitbit app on your smartphone.
  2. Under the devices tab, find the watch you want to add payments to.
  3. There should be a wallet tile. Click it.
  4. Tap get started and follow instructions to add a new card.
  5. If using Fitbit Pay for the first time, you will be prompted to set up a PIN.
  6. Once the card has been added, follow instructions to enable notifications.
  7. To make a payment, press and hold the left button on your smartwatch.
  8. You should see the payment screen pop-up.
  9. Depending on your device, you may need to enter your PIN.
  10. Hold the watch face near the terminal to make a payment.

Benefits of Paying With Your Smartwatch

As you can imagine, having a contactless payment setup on your watch can make shopping much more convenient. Not only do you not have to worry about fumbling with your wallet, but there are also some other reasons you may not think of:

  • Limiting the Spread of Germs and Viruses – Since you are not touching anything other than your watch, you are mitigating some of the risks of coming in contact with public surfaces like a credit card reader.
  • Preventing Wear of Your Credit Card – Over time, the EMV chips in your card can be worn down by friction. By using your watch, you are taking this stress away completely. 
  • Increased Security – While it may seem like using contactless payment would be riskier, it is, in fact, safer in a lot of ways. Not only are the payments secure, but it also mitigates the risk of losing your card or having it stolen.
  • Increased Convenience – The main benefit, though, is convenience. When you are out and about and want to grab some groceries, you can do so without needing to reach for your wallet or phone.

Just tap your watch. It makes shopping easier and faster. Smartwatches have become a staple piece for a lot of electronic enthusiasts and everyday consumers alike. They have added a ton of convenience to our lives and improved the mobility of smartphones and their technology. Contactless payments are just another great feature that enhances our daily lives.