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Is Coin the one payment card to rule them all?

J.D. Sartain | Feb. 3, 2014
In an era when consumers' wallets are filled with credit cards, rewards cards, gift cards and other cards, Coin aims to be the universal payment option of choice. But can it stand out in a growing market of smartphone apps, digital wallets and NFC technology?

In the new world of plastic money, technology has provided — in addition to the old standby of magnetic-stripe payment cards — a multitude of readily available innovations and services:

  • PayPal;
  • EMV cards with embedded microchips from Europay, MasterCard, Visa and others;
  • Smartphone apps such as Google Wallet, Braintree and Square Wallet;
  • Payment readers apps such as GoPayment, PayAnywhere and SAIL;
  • Carrier-based billing and payment options, and
  • Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that makes payments by waving or tapping a phone against a contactless reader.

The concept of using one card or one device for all purchases isn't really the same as a universal credit card - although one product on the horizon, Coin, comes pretty close.

Coin Does the Work of Many Cards
About the same size as a standard credit card, Coin is a low-energy, Bluetooth-enabled card that customers can exchange for their wallets full of plastic. Users can load their credit, debit, membership, customer loyalty and gift cards to the device's mobile app by using the card-swipe dongle that connects directly to their smartphone or tablet.

Once installed, the Coin functions just like any other credit, membership, gift or debit card, with transactions as easy as tapping a button on the device's digital screen. The screen displays the card brand, such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express, and, if applicable, the last four digits of the card number, its expiration date and its CVV/CVC code.

"With Coin, we wanted to create something that was completely innovative but recognizable," says Patrick Evans, creative director at Coin, which is due to be released this summer. "Every day, we modify Coin based on customer feedback and our own testing to deliver a sleek product that easily fits into everyday life."

While the Coin card can manage only eight cards at a time, the Coin app can store all your cards, and changing the "onboard selection" is simple once the program contains all the cards' data. At that point, the Coin mobile app and user smartphone are needed only if users want to add, delete, or sync more cards, which does require an Internet connection. (Using the Coin for live transactions doesn't depend on Internet or Wi-Fi service.)

'Lost and Found' Feature Disables Coin If You, or It, Goes Too Far
Security for all storage and communication (HTTP and Bluetooth) uses 128- or 256-bit encryption on the company's servers, mobile apps and the Coin card itself. The device is password-protected, according to the Coin FAQ page, and its signature panel is tamper-resistant.

There's also a lost and found feature: If you leave your card on a restaurant table, or if someone steals your wallet, Coin will find it and send an alert to your phone. From there, Coin automatically disables specific device functions, based on the card's proximity to your phone, or fully deactivates itself if it has been away from your phone for too long.


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