Coin – go gadget go?

Posted by Sticky Password Dec.23, 2013 in News

Have you heard about Coin, the new digital holder for your credit cards?

It’s very high-tech and gadgety, while the name has a pleasant, casual ring to it. (Surely the  name ‘coin’ was chosen to suggest ‘money or cash’, rather than the small pieces of metal that jingle around in our pockets!)

The credit card-sized – well… credit card is a digital repository for up to 8 of your credit cards. Simply use the widget to scan your credit cards into the iPhone app and then download to your Coin. The next time you’re in a shop or restaurant, pull out your Coin, toggle to the credit card you’ll be paying with and hand it to the cashier. Everything else remains the same. Your one Coin will scan like each of the 8 cards inside.

Coin - the digital repository for up to 8 or your credit cards

That bears repeating: Coin is intended for ‘live’ scanning transactions.

It’s not clear to us whether Coin is primarily intended for increased convenience or security, but the quality production of the video and website indicate that there’s some money behind the venture.

Coin is definitely gadgety, so it’s not surprising that it is closely linked to an individual’s cell phone: iPhone. What is surprising, though, is the extent to which Coin security is tied to your cellphone. Reading through the FAQs and having watched the neat video, it seems that one of the primary security features is an option to link your Coin to your smartphone (iPhone only at this time?). Kinda neat, but especially at a time when valid concerns over identity theft abound, we would have liked to have seen more security features.

Other features seem to be for practicality and not for security. For example, the FAQs inform us that a feature makes it ‘difficult to trigger a “press” unintentionally’, i.e. it’s hard for someone (like your waitress) to inadvertently select a different card for payment than the one you’ve chosen. Does that mean that merely holding the card isn’t likely to change cards, but that a knowing tap of the thumb in the correct place will?

Many of the responses in the Q&A section are written in the future tense, which we suspect is more than simply an issue of style, but rather an indication that features have not yet been implemented. For example, concerning the length of time the Coin can be out of contact with your phone ‘will be a configurable setting in the Coin mobile app’.

When we read that each Coin would support 8 credit cards, we thought that that wouldn’t be enough for the ‘average’ person. We did a bit of investigating and discovered that the ‘average number of cards held by cardholders (in the US)’ is actually on the decrease: going from 3.7/cardholder in 2009 to 1.96 in 2012. So, that capacity of 8 cards seems to be sufficient for now, but it is a bit out of synch with the ‘one card to rule all your cards’ claims.

We wonder what Visa, MasterCard, Discover and other credit card companies will think of the new Coin. One thing is certain, as an early adopter, you’ll likely get a lot of double-takes from waiters, gas station attendants, retail workers… just about everyone, when using your Coin possibly as early as the second half of 2014.

We humbly submit our pre-review of this pre-product as you consider making a pre-order.