Money is always close at hand, with a payment chip under your skin

Money is always close at hand, with a payment chip under your skin

Statue of Ines Vanstenkisti-Muelle – Nails: Katja Bunsen / Lacquer

“You feel nothing,” says Brigitte van Gestel. I actually had a slide in my hand to open the doors, among other things, which looked like a grain of rice under the skin. The thrust slide is flat and flexible, and you can only see it when I bend my wrist.

Two months ago, Van Gestel had a payment chip from Polish company Walletmor that slipped under the skin. It is linked to an iCard account, an online Bulgarian bank. It’s a passive chip, just like the one on a debit card: you can pay with it contactless by placing your hand near the payment terminal. For amounts over 50 euros, you must enter a PIN code.

Always have a means of payment on hand that cannot be lost, which is the idea of ​​the payment chip under the skin. Van Gestel, 49, is the co-owner of Tilburg tattoo and piercing studio The Tattoo Shop. Her husband Frank has given the buckle-shaped chip to 20 people since the end of October. They can now pay and pay contactlessly at all locations that accept Mastercard and Visa. Van Gestel is the only one in the Netherlands to install payment chips. According to Walletmor, about five hundred Europeans are walking around with the thrust chip under the skin.


This technology is not disruptive, says Wouter Serdin, professor of bioelectronics at Delft. It is comparable to an OV chip card or a debit card, but it is packaged differently so that it thrives in the human body. The wafer must be airtight and not leak, because the wafer cannot withstand human fluids and the body cannot tolerate substances in the wafer, such as arsenic, phosphorous or aluminum. So the chip is encased in a biopolymer, as is also common with pacemakers, for example. “I don’t know exactly how they did it, but this is a standard process that is now reliable and safe,” says Serdin.

The Walletmor payment chip, here on the skin rather than under it.  Walletmor Statue / Maciej Kaczanowski

The Walletmor payment chip, here on the skin rather than under it.Bild and dates / Maciej Kachanowski

The chip works on the basis of near field communication (NFC): a small antenna does not transmit signals by itself, but can reflect them when the active transmitter is a few centimeters away. “So you can’t monitor where someone is from a distance and the frequencies and energy levels used are so low that there’s no interaction with the body.” The chip is therefore secure and insensitive to theft or loss.

However, the risk of chipping under the skin isn’t exactly zero, warns Serdin. “If someone shook your hand with a gloved chip reader, they could still rob you.” By the way, there are no known cases of this. Due to the payment limit and the limited number of users, it is also questionable whether it is worth all the effort. According to De Nederlandsche Bank, the Bulgarian National Bank oversees the iCard payment app, giving users the certainty that their money is safe, even if the iCard goes bankrupt.

Contactless Payment

As far as we know, Walletmor is the only company that offers a payment chip under the skin. Shouldn’t be so popular right now, contactless payment is Well in height. This is partly because the government discouraged cash payments during the first lockdown in 2020 and banks raised the payment limit without a PIN code to €50. Before that time we were still paying cash in 30 percent of cases, and since then that’s down to 20 percent.

Nine out of ten debit card payments are contactless, and nearly a quarter are cardless, says Berend Jan Buegel, a spokesperson for the Dutch Payments Association. Payments using smartphones and smartwatches in particular are becoming increasingly popular. The smartphone is already a hub for all kinds of transactions, and it also makes sense to make payments over the phone. Apple Pay and Google Pay make all this easier. Big Tech is simply better at developing apps that work on all kinds of phones than banks.

Contactless payment with Walletmor chip.  Walletmor Statue / Piotr Dejneka

Contactless payment with Walletmor chip.Walletmor Statue / Piotr Dejneka

Smartphones and smartwatches are active payment methods: the user can authorize the payment with a code, fingerprint on the phone, or watch themselves. Negative payment methods over a certain amount require entering a PIN code at the payment terminal. A chip under the skin is a case in point, but there are also rings, watches, and other wearables that offer this possibility. This is how ABN Amro delivers to customers Selection Among the more than 250 portable gadgets with passive thrust slides. The wearables act like payment cards that don’t fit in the slots, but facilitate contactless payments.

“Nice gimmick”

Dutch banks are not very enthusiastic about under the skin payment chips at the moment. “It’s a nice trick, but the banks don’t see it as a normal method of payment,” says Bugle. “It’s a rather oppressive way to pay and there’s little demand for it. He found the experiments with checkout-free stores for some of the major stores more interesting. At the end of last year, for example , Albert Heine put a containers In Schiphol, where customers only present their card (or wearable) before entering. Cameras, computers and weight sensors then keep track of what customers put in their cart and they are automatically logged out at the end of the trip. There are no plans yet to introduce the concept on a larger scale.

Although Van Gestel could be paying for Christmas shopping with her wrist in the near future, she’s not interested in these kinds of regular purchases. I put €1,000 on the chip and can’t really touch it. I really did it in case I got into an emergency: if I got robbed somewhere on the beach, or on vacation, or if my things were stolen at Dam Square in Amsterdam, or whatever. Then I always have that thousand euros and then I can always go home. I think this is a really cool idea.

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