How to survive a music festival: pack light.
When you're surrounded by sweaty crowds and long lines, the last thing you want to do is carry anything valuable that could get stolen -- like your wallet.
That's why many music festivals around the world, such as Outside Lands in San Francisco, are rolling out wristbands that let you go totally cashless. Inside these wristbands sits a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that not only grants you access to the venue, but acts as a digital wallet.
So I donned my cutoff shorts and fur vest -- or in the case of San Francisco's weather, a warm coat and boots -- to test out the system.
Festival goers are encouraged to load up the wristband with a dollar value using a credit/debit card or PayPal before their visit. That process was relatively painless, though I decided not to enable the auto-top up feature just in case ordering multiple serves of $15 waffle fries got out of hand.
Otherwise, the festival had wristband top-up stands around the grounds to add money.
All the vendors across the festival were equipped with readers that accepted wristband payments, except for a lone churro stand in the middle of the polo field.
Buying food, drinks and merchandise at the festival using the wristband was simple. Just say to the cashier you would pay with the band, tap it against the reader to check the balance and tap again to confirm the purchase.
Refunds of any remaining value on the wristband after the festival are automatically credited to the original credit/debit card, less a $5 processing fee. The main issue I encountered was trying to use up the last few dollars on the wristband. Vendors weren't able to split the payment so you could pay part of the cost with the wristband and the remaining balance with cash or card.
Despite rolling out wristbands, the festival still had plenty of ATMs around, plus systems to accept credit cards. The aim, however, is to go totally cashless sometime in the future.
RFID wristbands are not limited to music festivals. Disney World has also deployed the technology in what it calls MagicBands.
So why use a wristband instead of a digital wallet like Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay? At a festival the convenience factor makes sense because you're generally always wearing a wristband. It also means that vendors don't have to roll out NFC terminals in the case of Apple or Android Pay (Samsung Pay uses magnetic secure transmission technology that makes it backwards-compatible with many older point-of-sale systems).