Companies seek to take plastic to new digital heights
Remember Coin, the credit-card sized device that promised to digitize and consolidate consumer's credit cards into a single device?
A darling of the crowd funding community, Coin was originally set to ship in early 2014, but the vast majority of customers who preordered still haven't received their devices, due to numerous delays, followed by an embarrassing public apology.
Regardless of whether Coin actually ever fulfills its initial 2013 preorders and begins shipping en masse, competitors have already begun to catch up and a few have surpassed the early mover Coin in both technology and ship date.
Here's a short roundup of some of the leading Coin alternatives, and their estimated ship date.
Stratos is, payment-technology wise, significantly further along than Coin as this card consolidator offers EMV contactless payment and fingerprint security.
Stratos comes with a card reader that plugs into a smartphone's headphone jack. Consumers use the reader to swipe their current credit, debit, or gift card information into an app. While there's no limit to the number of cards you can store in the app, the actual card only holds three cards for quick access.
Stratos, a Bluetooth-equipped card designed by Herbst Produkt, uses bank-level encryption and never displays your card numbers. Annual membership, which comes with a new card, is $95 or $145 every two years. A card replacement $49 and $15 for the reader, but only if it is lost or broken more than once every year. Perhaps the most intriguing part of Stratos is that it's actually shipping in large numbers and is backordered by a couple of months.
Plastc is the brainchild of budding entrepreneurs Mark Stubbs and Ryan Marquis.
What's different about Plastc compared with Coin and Stratos is it can store up to 20 cards and features contactless, has a magnetic stripe, features chip-and-PIN, and facial authentication. The full touchscreen e-ink display can produce QR codes and barcodes for e-tickets and gift cards, and the connected Wallet app shows account balances features alerts.
Plastc's preorder price is $155. The card's internal battery uses a wireless charging pad (included with the card) to recharge.
Plastc plans to ship in late summer, according to its Facebook page.
When Ash Dhodapkar lost his wallet on vacation, he created Swyp.
This particular card is metal and, like Stratos, comes with a card reader to import card data in an accompanying app.
The app tracks and categorizes transactions with the ability to attach receipts. The card holds information for 25 payments card and learns users' behaviors and anticipates which card a consumer might use next.
Swyp's first batch of cards sold out, the company is now refining the cards for what they call “Batch 2.” They are currently beta-testing those cards and accepting preorder. The card is $45 for preorders or $99 retail.
Omne Mobile Payments, founded in June 2012, is behind Banq.
The Banq card is less sexy than its competitors, but is perhaps more utilitarian due to its apparent ease of use. Consumers use the accompanying card swiper to input cards into an app and then sync the Banq card to that data.
Banq features a proprietary magnetic stripe and EMV. Customer data is PIN-protected and stored in a secure storage element.
The card looks and feels like an ordinary card and users can swipe it on standard payment terminals the same way, too. The downside? It's still in beta, without a price tag. You can sign up for updates and information about ordering the card, but it seems this Coin alternative is something we’ll see way down the road.
Rich McIver regularly writes about technology and innovation as it relates to the credit card processing industry. He is the founder of MerchantNegotiators.com, a merchant services comparison site.
Rich McIver Rich McIver is the founder of Merchant Negotiators, a merchant account services comparison website serving SMBs. www