Payment Implants Are Here to Replace Your Debit Card

It really gets under your skin

Key Takeaways

  • The Walletmor payment implant is now available in the US.
  • Payment implants solve common security issues with traditional payment cards.
  • Early adopters, however, want more choice when it comes to selecting payment providers.
Woman using her Walletmor payment implant with an NFC reader

Walletmor

Imagine walking up to the cashier only to realize you've forgotten your wallet at home. 

British-Polish startup Walletmor hopes to make this frustrating experience a thing of the past. Its solution is a payment device that it wants to implant in your arm, and it promises to solve the common security issues that plague traditional card payment mechanisms. 

"I think Walletmor are at the forefront of this emerging field," Alex Lennon, Founder of Dynamic Devices and one of Walletmor's early adopters, told Lifewire over email.

Biohacking

Walletmor employs the universally accepted Near Field Communication (NFC) standard for making transactions, enabling users to use their implants to make payments on any payment terminal that can process contactless payments. "Until now, no one has produced a payment implant that is safe and accepted all over the world," said Wojciech Paprota, Walletmor's founder and CEO, in a news post. 

Walletmor's implant is the size of a safety pin and about half a millimeter thick. Now available in the US for $229, the implant first rolled out in 2021 across Europe, where the company claims to have over 500 users.

Xray view of Walletmor's payment implant in someone's hand

Walletmor

The implant is housed in a case made of a biopolymer certified for use with medical devices. Walletmor says the implantation process takes about 15 minutes, and the company has certified about 20 Walletmor professional implant installers across the US.

The company says transferring the digital payment mechanism from smartphones to our bodies helps solve several security-related issues with digital payments. For one, there’s no CVV or expiration date that can be shoulder surfed or copied. 

Furthermore, the implant isn’t powered by a battery and only activates when it’s in close proximity to a payment terminal, which Walletmor argues helps minimize the risk of accidental payments. The makers also insist it’s impossible to track someone using their Walletmor implant.

Teething Troubles

Alexander Moser, a software engineer at Intersim AG, and another of WalletMor’s European users, told Lifewire over email that he mostly uses his implant for transactions at restaurants and grocery stores.

"I think Walletmor are at the forefront of this emerging field."

Once, he tried using WalletMor at a local food truck gathering, where most of the vendors had mobile payment terminals from SumUp. "I don't think I managed to make a single transaction go through that day, even though I can use the implant with my own SumUp Air just fine," Moser recounted.

When we queried Paprota about the issue, he said the company got reports of rejected transactions, such as Moser's, in late November 2021 but assured us such issues have since been resolved.

Of course, some issues can't be blamed on Walletmor. "I once tried it at a car wash, but the card reader was placed in a way that made it impossible for me to bring my chip close enough due to wearing it in my arm," shared Moser.

The Bigger Question

Before making transactions with the implant, Walletmor users in the US will need to create an account with the Purists platform, then transfer money into it. 

And that's the bigger issue echoed by both of the early adopters we spoke to. Moser, for instance, doesn't like maintaining an extra bank account just for the implant. Lennon, on the other hand, says the fact that he can't change the payment provider is a deal-breaker for him.

"The problem as I see it, is that this chip tech and onboarding model is based on the bank card. Bank cards can be easily replaced. Chips inside me, not so easily. So that needs to change," opined Lennon.

But he also appreciates the Catch-22 situation that Walletmor finds itself in. "Commerce is locked down by multinationals. It strikes me as hard to find a payment provider willing and able to engage with an innovative new technology," Lennon explained, adding that the big financial players will only react when they see a real demand from consumers. "And so we need to support Walletmor." 

The Ultimate Wearable

Lennon, who hasn't yet implanted his Walletmor, says he has another implant from Dangerous Things that he uses to open doors. 

"Whilst I want to pay for things with Walletmor, it's not what I really want. What I really want is a more multipurpose crypto device which allows me to pay for things and also allows me to run my own apps inside the chip inside me," shared Lennon.

That's a use case that's on Paprota's radar as well, especially considering the fact that Purists accounts expire after three years from the date of purchase.

"The hardware itself doesn't have an expiration date [and] since it is fully biocompatible, you don't need to take it out. You will be able to use it as a standard NFC tag and, for example, add its ID to your access management system," Paprota told Lifewire over email. "It leaves the door open for further updates."

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