The fact is that something between 0.01 and 0.1% of all. Probably the most famous example of this is the poor Dodo Bird. According to the website Bagherra it once inhabited the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where “it lived undisturbed for so long that it lost its need and ability to fly. It lived and nested on the ground and ate fruits that had fallen from trees. There were no mammals on the island and a high diversity of bird species lived in the dense forests”. For several different reasons most of which had to do with the arrival of humans on the island the 50-pound bird became extinct in 1681. Of course, this did not happen overnight as it took a number of years for the poor Dodo to disappear.
Is this about to happen to cash? The short answer to this is probably yes and the same thing could be said of credit cards.
The race to replace money at the cash register
The first player into this field was Apple with Apple Pay, followed very shortly thereafter by Google Wallet. Plus, there are other mobile payment devices such as Softcard, and LoopPay Card Case. The way that Apple Pay and Google Wallet work is very similar in that all that you need to do to pay for a purchase is pass the Apple or Android device past a scanner. Apple makes it even simpler if you have one of its watches as all you would then need to do is pass it in front of a scanner – eliminating the need to take out your Apple phone. In comparison, Smartcard and LoopChargeCase are standalone devices you must carry in your wallet much as you would a credit card.
The new player
There is a new player in the rush to replace cash called Coin. Its goal is to become the gadget that replaces all of your credit cards in a single device. One of the things that make Coin so practical is its very familiar form. Coin behaves and looks just like a credit card. It’s almost the same weight, size and thickness as the credit cards you’re currently carrying. It can be distinguished only because it has a small e-paper display that identifies the credit card you’ve currently selected. And there’s a small button. However, it’s flush with the surface of the card so that the whole thing looks like some kind of prop used in a movie. You would think that nothing that seems to be this two-dimensional could really host a display, a battery and the related electronics but it definitely does. On the card’s back is a magnetic strip along with a place for your signature and your pre-printed name. What it basically looks like is an all-black credit card without any bank logo.
Coin’s very easy to use
To use Coin all you do is press its button to wake it up. If your iPhone or android phone is close by you can unlock the card via Bluetooth. It holds the information for nine credit cards so you can either use your default credit card or cycle through the other eight and choose the one you would like to use to make your purchase. If you don’t have an iPhone or Android phone or just forgot your phone at home there’s an option for using a tap sequence, then swipe it or hand Coin to the cashier to be swiped.
Unfortunately, Coin shares the same weaknesses as do virtually all the other cashless payment systems. Its the swipe and reader availability. Today, there are less than 300,00 retail outlets that can read these devices, which is the old drop in the bucket thing. Also, like with Apple Pay or Google Wallet, you really need to carry a backup credit card with you for those point-out-sale credit card readers that simply won’t work with these newfangled things. One friend of ours that had Coin found that on the very first day it worked only about half the time. It could not be read in a grocery store or by a parking meter or ATM. If you have a Coin and this happens to you and you have a backup credit card you’ll be okay. But this then brings up the question why have Coin?
Learning how to use it
People who have used Coin for some time have discovered the secret is learning how to use it. First, cashiers tend to be confused by its design and its success rate declines when it’s swiped the ordinary way. If you alert the cashier to what Coin is and have Coin swiped correctly the success ratio can be as high as 90%. If you get Coin and can have a success ratio this good or even higher then it can become relevant. It’s just much simpler and easier to have just one card and then press a button to make it act as if it were a different card then to carry five or six cards. It’s also more secure than most credit cards because it utilizes 256-bit encryption that protects all the cards it holds and it doesn’t display credit card numbers. Coin says that its batteries should last about two years in normal usage, after which you’ll have to replace the entire device at a cost of about $100. It can also be an expensive purchase if the magnetic stripe should stop working prematurely or it befalls some grisly fate.
Setting up Coin
This is also fairly straightforward. You pair the device with your phone (just a one-time deal) and then use the included credit card reader which you plug into the phone’s headphone jack and then swipe your credit cards into Coin. You will need to authorize your cards within Coin to prove that you’re their actual owner. Following this, you just put your credit cards away someplace safe and rely on Coin (plus maybe a backup credit card). Another important benefit of Coin is that it will store more than just credit cards, as it will also accommodate loyalty and membership cards. While it will only store eight cards at a time, its mobile app has unlimited storage so that you can swap your cards around at any time
It is it worth $100?
Would you spend $100 to replace your existing credit cards with a universal card that may work only 90% of the time? If you’re the adventurous type and generally carry four, five or more credit cards then Coin could be a good way to trim that down to just two.
As of this writing you can only pre-order Coin on its website for the discounted price of $55. However, this “beta Coin” offer is available to only 10,000 people. In addition, Coin is running into some problems due to the fact that so many credit cards are now going to an embedded security chip and it is not yet clear whether Coin can work with these new cards.
If you’d like to see a comparison of Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Paypal, here’s a short video that summarizes the differences and why you might want to choose one of them.