COIN: Consolidate & Encrypt Your Plastic

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Do you spend too much time shuffling through your wallet or purse trying to find the right card to pay with? If so, then you should take a look at Coin; a gadget that lets you combine all of your payment cards in one single piece of technology the size of a standard credit card. The company created a buzz a few years ago when it launched the product and pre-sold an astonishing number of units within the first hour. Unfortunately, Coin then embarked on a long phase of testing that caused serious delays. In April of this year, however, the company announced that it was ready to begin shipping some of the 350,000 units that were pre-ordered years before.

What is Coin?

Coin is a slender, sleek-looking technology that fits in your wallet but holds and encrypts the account information for multiple pieces of plastic. Your device can be paired with the Coin smartphone app, which provides the same capabilities. A Coin can behave like virtually any piece of plastic that transmits information using a magnetic stripe, including credit cards, debit cards, membership cards, gift cards, and more. Not only does Coin give you the convenience of carrying only one card, but the innovative card technology also provides some rather robust security features to prevent hacking and identity theft.

How it Works

The Coin costs $100, plus applicable taxes and shipping. Once you have it, you then register your card information with Coin and secure it with a secret code. If you open new accounts down the road, it’s easy to add them to your device through the Coin app for your smartphone. Users can save up to eight cards on the Coin at a single time, and the Coin mobile app can store an unlimited number of cards. When it’s time to make a transaction with your Coin, you simply select which card you want to pay with by using the Coin's screen display which shows your cards’ brand, last 4 digits, and expiration date. Once the desired card is selected, you simply swipe the Coin as you would a typical magnetic stripe credit card.

You can expect Coin to be compatible at all locations and machines where magnetic stripe cards are accepted. If a merchants needs to verify that you own the device, they can do so by comparing a picture ID to the name permanently engraved on the back of your Coin. Although a smartphone is needed for initial set-up and to make changes to your account, Coin works as a stand-alone device. You can always use your Coin without your phone on hand, although the manufacturer recommends having your mobile device with you for added convenience.

Security Features

Unlike traditional plastic cards, Coin automatically locks itself after each use. Your card data is protected with 256-bit encryption when it is stored in the Coin mobile app and with 128-bit encryption on the Coin device. The Coin remains locked when not in use, and as soon as you’re ready to make a transaction, a single tap on the Coin’s button will wake the device and prompt you to enter your six-digit PIN code. The Coin stays awake for seven minutes once it’s been unlocked, so that a waiter or merchant can have the time to swipe, and then automatically locks itself and goes to sleep again. The mobile app keeps track of your Coin's last known location, which can help you find your device quickly if it's lost or stolen. If you accidentally leave your Coin behind, the device emits a low power Bluetooth signal to your smartphone to alert you that you’ve been separated from the Coin.

Potential Shortcomings

With the rise of the more secure EMV technology, the credit card industry is shifting away from processing terminals that accept cards with a magnetic stripe. The Coin device is read by the old-fashioned magnetic stripe machines, so if you encounter a merchant who has fully upgraded their credit card processing system, they will likely not be able to swipe your Coin. Across many parts of Europe, for example, cards with magnetic stripes are no longer accepted. But to their credit, Coin’s website indicates that they are working hard to make their product compatible with all point-of-sale devices in the future.

Another hurdle that Coin is faced with is simply meeting the enormous demand for their product. Although they have begun shipping the original preorders, they have fallen way behind their original schedule. If you order yourself a Coin today, it’s likely that you won’t receive it for a number of months. Nonetheless, Coin is a unique product that meets a longstanding need for the everyday cardholder and it will be very interesting to see where this innovative product will go in the future.

*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.

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