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There’s been a lot of buzz (and a lot of reader questions) about a new credit card product that launched recently called Coin. Coin is a credit card-sized device that can store the information and accounts of credit or debit cards for you so you can don’t have to carry them all around in your wallet all the time and when it comes time to make a purchase, you can choose which of the credit cards stored on it to use.
Sounds like a good idea in theory, but I’m still a bit skeptical into how it will go into practice. Here’s a video explaining how it will work:
So you put your credit card information on the card. By downloading the Coin app on your smartphone (it’s available for iPhone and Android) and using a credit card swipe plug-in reader (that Coin will send you) that stores the information and taking a picture of the card so that you can match it to the account on your Coin. While you can only store the information for up to 8 cards at once on your actual Coin card, the app can store the information for as many as you need. It will accept debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards.
The app can also disable your Coin card if it gets lost or stolen and will alert you if your phone is outside a certain proximity to the card via a Bluetooth signal so you don’t accidentally leave it behind. You don’t need your phone with you to use it, though.
Before making a payment, you decide which card to use by tapping the Coin’s button to scroll through your choices, and when you swipe it, the transaction should go through just as if you were using the card you chose.
Now for the gritty details. As I mentioned, the actual card itself can only take 8 cards at once while the app can store an unlimited amount. That’s probably okay for most people, but for other points enthusiasts like me (I currently have 19 credit cards that all earn me points, miles and other benefits), that just won’t cut the mustard.
You can use the card as an ATM card, which is helpful, but it might not work outside the US and it won’t have EMV Chip technology. You also can’t use it for online purchases. When you are making a purchase online, the Coin mobile app can be used to reference your card details, but the Coin itself cannot be used directly for online payments.
Currently you cannot lock your Coin to prevent others from using it, but it will automatically deactivate if it loses contact with your phone for a period of time that you configure in the Coin mobile app. Your account is password protected and the mobile app requires that you type in your password before you can access sensitive card details as well.
Coins are designed to last for 2 years under normal usage (10-20 swipes per day) and do not need to be recharged. Once the battery dies you will need to replace your card. Coins are water resistant but not waterproof so if you accidentally take it swimming, time for a new card.
Each Coin will also cost you $50 for now, but the price goes up to $100 once a certain quantity are ordered, so only folks willing to pony up now are going to get it for half price. They will also get a referral code for $5 per referral up to 10 referrals, potentially taking care of their purchase cost. Referral orders be completed within 90 days of your own order to count.
Cards will not ship until the summer of 2014, so they’re not asking for your shipping information – the website justifies this by saying a lot can happen between now and then, like you move. Or Coin goes bust (my additional hypothetical).
Maybe I’m just too much of a doubter, but the fact that they’re asking you to pay a $50 fee and $5 shipping, but they’re not delivering the cards till the summer at the earliest doesn’t pass my smell test. Not only does it seem strange that you’d have to pay for a product so far in advance of getting it, but it seems to me like this is a bid to raise some venture capital through the $50 sign-up fees.
Different From Wallaby?
The other product that comes to mind here is Wallaby. That was launched (or announced, rather) last July and was meant to be a a single card that you can link to all your other credit cards and that will automatically register transactions with the appropriate card that you designate to maximize your travel points and cash back.
Another great idea in theory, but the Wallaby card itself has yet to materialize. For the moment, Wallaby is an app that you can load with your credit card information and that will help you choose which of your credit cards – which you must still carry – to use for which transaction based on the available category spending bonuses, etc.
Coin is simpler in that you have to choose which credit card to use yourself rather than relying on an algorithm like Wallaby would, but I’m still not sure we’ll be seeing the actual physical cards anytime soon.
Not only that, but by linking all your credit cards to the Coin, you’re giving the company huge amounts of personal information about your identity, your finances and your spending habits as well, and there’s no mention of whether Coin might or might not allow merchants to offer cardholders targeted deals based on their purchase activity, or to let banks and credit card issuers market products to customers.
To me it sounds more like a PR move and a money grab, and I wouldn’t sign up for a card until they actually exist, but if you’re interested, I’m curious to hear why and if you have any more details, so comment below.