During lockdown level 5 last year, I was unexpectedly booked into hospital. Bar a Fitbit smartwatch and phone, I had nothing on me — no personal items, or wallet and cards. But three days later, when I was discharged, I was still able to pay for my medication at the hospital pharmacy. To do that I used a virtual card that was loaded onto my smartwatch to make a secure, contactless payment. And, just like that, I received my medicines.

The timing and convenience of that purchase made that moment one I won’t easily forget, especially since it happened during the darkest period of lockdown. Virtual cards have been available on third-party wearable tech for a few years now. But adoption picked up sharply during lockdown when banks in SA released their own official ones. This followed the launch of Apple Pay, which made this form of transacting possible because it operates as a digital payments wallet.

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