Coin looks like a standard credit card, with a magnetic strip that can be swiped at practically any payment terminal. But instead storing just one card’s worth of information, Coin can store multiple credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards, and you can toggle between them by pushing a button on the card itself.
To load cards onto Coin, you use an app on your phone along with a small card reader that comes included. After swiping one of your credit cards, you then use the app to take photos of the card’s front and back sides and enter in the details manually. This helps prevent fraud by making sure only the actual card holder can load cards into Coin. The credit card details stored in the app are password-protected.
When it’s time to pay, a small greyscale display on Coin shows a nickname for the currently selected card, along with the last four digits and the expiration date. A button toggles through all your available cards, and Coin says the button is stiff enough that you can sit on the card without pressing the button accidentally.
All the while, the card stays connected to your phone via Bluetooth. Put too much distance between the two devices, and your phone alerts you that you might’ve left Coin behind. Coin then locks up automatically if it’s disconnected from the phone for too long.
As cool as Coin sounds, there are a few reasons to be skeptical:
- You could be stuck without your cards if you accidentally leave your phone at home or your phone runs out of battery. At the same time, you can’t manually lock Coin from a distance if you lose it, so deciding when the card should lock automatically will be tricky.
- Coin is an ongoing expense. It costs $100 and and its internal battery lasts two years, so you’d have to replace it more often than you replace your actual cards.
- Coin says it encrypts the details that it stores on its servers, but this is still a startup that you’d be trusting with all your most sensitive payment information. You just have to hope they do a good job of keeping things secure.
Still, none of these things prevent Coin from being a fundamentally good idea. It could still be of use to people who have lots of different cards for work and personal use, and the ability to store gift and loyalty cards could be a big space-saver for anyone. The concept of a universal card has lots of potential, so hopefully the technical quibbles improve with time.
For now, Coin is clearly an early adopter product at $100 for the card and card reader. If you’re in love with the idea, early pre-orders cost $50, but keep in mind that Coin will charge you right away, rather than when the product ships next summer.