I like to keep a weather eye on the credit card news, partly out of personal interest and partly because I am am always on the look-out for interesting stories for this blog. This one stood out for grabbing the headlines and clogging up the blogosphere on a grand scale. It is all over my regular sources of online information, including the major credit card blogs, newspaper websites, and financial sites. Technology firm Coin certainly know how to drum up publicity, but is the new device relevant and will people want to use it?
What is it?
Coin is a credit card sized device capable of storing the information from up to eight separate cards, and it looks pretty cool. Like old-style credit cards, the Coin card uses a magnetic strip to store information. The clever bit, and the USP for the Coin, is that you can change the information on the strip depending on which card you wish to use. When you want to make a payment you decide which card to use, select it by scrolling through the choices on your Coin, and swipe it like a regular credit card.
Due to hit the shops in summer 2014, it will retail for $100, but as this is the first offering from a start-up company in need of funding, anyone who fancies taking a chance on the project can pre-order one now for $50.
Should you get one?
On the plus side, it comes with a few gimmicky security features. For example, if the card loses contact with your phone for a specified time, it will automatically deactivate. So if you absentmindedly leave your card on a check-out counter it will send an alert to your phone. Your account will also be password protected so no casual thief will be able to access your card details.
Coin are marketing this as a high-tech, cool and funky device which will streamline your wallet, but I am not sure it will live up to the hype. For a start, it can only hold the details of a maximum of eight cards, which may not be enough for the true credit card junkie devoted to getting deals, collecting points and building up air-miles. What is more, it cannot be used for online shopping! What the heck! The expected battery life of the device is two years, after which the card needs to be replaced. I am unclear if you will have to pay for a replacement, but if you do, it seems very expensive.
High-Tech or What?
It might be marketed as the latest must-have, cool, high-tech gadget, but it sounds like it will be very clunky to use. To get a Coin card, you must first have a Smartphone: the device cannot work without Bluetooth connection to a phone. To set up your coin you have to take photographs of all your credit cards, swipe them through a dongle; upload them to the Coin mobile app, which will then store the info on your coin card. Phew.
A Century of Credit Cards
The fact is, credit cards of one form or another have been around now for almost a century. If you don’t believe me check out this earlier MWOP posting:
http://charlottemooney.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/looking-backward-more-on-origins-of.html. There are lots of card companies out there vying for our custom, and the traditional credit card model is facing competition from every quarter. It was originally designed for businessmen dining out in restaurants, not for twenty-first century shoppers making online purchases over the internet.
Ask yourself this question: with today’s technology, why do we even NEED a piece of plastic at all? We have mobile phones, PCs, laptops, smart phones, tablets: why do we need anything else? Credit card companies are fighting for our custom and struggling to remain relevant. As for this particular piece of plastic, is it really a step forward? I would say not: it is old technology wrapped up in fancy packaging. How will it fit into the Chip&PIN world? Well, the truth is, it won’t, as it is aimed squarely at the US market, which has not yet adopted the Chip&PIN and still uses the magnetic strip system. Once the
switches over to Chip&PIN, the Coin will be defunct. RIP Coin! USA