- American Express plans to introduce a wearable payment device at the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, which begins on August 27 in Queens, New York. The new Amex Band lets customers pay for concessions and exclusive merchandise and pick up free mobile charging devices, per a statement.
- AmEx also is sponsoring a fan experience area that's open to all tournament attendees. The area has an interactive game called Super Rally that gives players a tutorial from tennis star Venus Williams before using a 3D-printed racket to return virtual tennis balls in augmented reality (AR) against physical targets. Williams and AmEx partnered on a content series to highlight the company's offerings at the tournament, viewable on AmEx's social channels.
- For Platinum and Centurion cardholder, the Amex Band also unlocks special access to a suite that showcases the features of the company's airport lounges.
AmEx over the years has experimented with various wearable payment methods, which are slowly gaining acceptance among consumers as they get more comfortable with nontraditional payment tech. The company's effort capitalizes on the excitement around the annual tennis tournament, which reels in thousands of visitors each year and could drum up awareness of AmEx's innovative payment offerings.
In a similar move, Visa this year introduced three wearable payment devices as part of its sponsorship of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Gloves, commemorative stickers and pins were equipped with near-field communications (NFC) chips that let wearers make payments by tapping the devices to special checkout equipment at the games.
This year's U.S. Open isn't AmEx's first bout with wearable payment tech. In 2015, the financial company partnered with ill-fated startup Jawbone to give owners of the Jawbone UP4 fitness tracker the ability to pay anywhere that AmEx's contactless payments were accepted. Jawbone, which was once valued at $3 billion, faced financial pressures and began liquidation proceedings last year, The Information reported. Jawbone's demise highlighted the difficulties that smaller companies faced in developing wearable electronics.
Despite Jawbone's failures, big companies are continuing to experiment with wearable devices that include payment features. Fitbit Pay comes with the company's Ionic watch and allows wearers to add their credit or debit card information for purchases. Garmin has a digital wallet system called Garmin Pay, which was first available in its Vívoactive 3 smartwatch. The growth of the global wearables market is forecast to slow to 8.2% this year from 10.3% in 2017, according to the International Data Corporation. Growth, however, is projected to accelerate next year through 2022 as smartwatches become more popular.