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It can be a pain to carry multiple credit and debit cards, especially if you prefer a money clip or slim-profile wallet. And credit card alternatives, such as tapping your phone to a dedicated reader, have failed to take off, probably because tapping phones is odd, merchants don't have the readers, and most importantly, how do you pay for your latte when your phone's battery dies, or worse yet, your phone is lost?
The startup darling of the day, which has garnered coverage from all of the tech blogs, is Coin, a device that stores eight credit cards in one device, which has a dynamic magnetic stripe. This would tackle the card consolidation issue, but the company faces competition from a less ambitious alternative: Wallaby.
Coin: Cool, But Lots of Unanswered Questions
The way Coin works is simple: hit a button on the device to cycle through up to eight cards, and the magnetic stripe adjusts accordingly.
Coin also communicates with your smartphone using low energy Bluetooth, so you can swap cards on and off the device from your phone. Your phone also acts as a safety device - if Coin is unable to connect to your phone for more than a few minutes, it deactivates.
It sounds pretty nifty, but there are a few unanswered questions. What about devious waiters and waitresses who disappear with your card, and make multiple swipes with each card? (In fact, such a scheme would be relatively easy, were that waitress to be carrying a Square credit-card reader on her smartphone. Tech problems, right?)
And will your Coin work if your smartphone's battery dies? And is it worth $100 (the eventual MSRP) to carry a few less pieces of plastic? And what about situations in which clerks ask to see your card, either to read the last four digits, or to check the CVV code on the back?
Paranoia will be your biggest obstacle to replacing time-honored methods of payment. Just sayin'.
Maybe They're Over-Thinking It. See: Wallaby
We have no experience with either company, so we're not vouching one way or the other, but an existing company, Wallaby, seems like it has a much lower-tech solution to the same problem.
It's a credit card, which routes to your Wallaby account, which automatically chooses the best cards to use based on rewards programs, airline mileage deals, or cash back bonuses.
You don't have to carry multiple cards. And it optimizes your rewards programs. And it seems a bit more secure.
What do you think? Would you, or have you, tried either of these products. Tweet us your thoughts @FindLawLP.