Coin: What’s In Your (Hi-Tech) Wallet?

Take a look at your wallet. In all likelihood it’s cluttered with credit cards, reward cards and gift cards, not to mention a smattering of receipts and tickets stubs. In this age of technology, shouldn’t the way we pay be… simpler?

Enter Coin, a start-up with a mission to modernize the way we pay. Unlike Google Wallet and other tap-to-pay smartphone apps, Coin aims to make paying with a card easier, but not obsolete. Coin essentially works like a stem cell for your wallet. Its single magnetic strip can function like any of your other swipe-able means of payment, all in one familiar, credit card-shaped package.

Programming your cards into Coin is simple. The device ships with a digital card reader akin to the Square that connects to your smartphone or tablet. Simply swipe your cards into the Coin mobile app, which syncs with your card data and loads it onto your personal Coin card. Each Coin can store up to 8 cards at a time, including debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards. The Coin mobile app will be available for iOS and Android, but Windows users, make your voices heard: the company vows in their FAQs to keep track of demand for Windows phone support in the future.

Coin features a single button and displays the card type and last 4-digits of your corresponding account number for secure toggling between cards, and can be used everywhere cards are accepted, including ATMs. The company’s servers, mobile app, and the Coins themselves use 128-bit or 256-bit encryption for secure transactions, and the mobile app is password protected to safeguard your sensitive card details.

For those of us who are forgetful, Coin even uses low-energy Bluetooth like an invisible tether between you and your ubiquitous sidekick: your smartphone. Closing time and you’ve left your Coin behind? The device will send an alert to your phone if you go out of your Coin’s Bluetooth range. (Leave your Coin and your phone at the bar and, well, those are just the breaks). Users can even set the Coin to automatically deactivate if it loses contact with their smartphone for a designated period of time, which could prove annoying in some circumstances, but is certainly less of a headache than canceling and re-ordering all of one’s credit cards. The company’s servers, mobile app, and the Coins themselves use 128-bit or 256-bit encryption for secure transactions, and the mobile app is password protected to safeguard your sensitive card details.

But you can’t ditch your wallet just yet. Coin can store any ID with a magnetic strip, but the company’s website notes “you should not rely on your Coin as a form of ID the next time you’re in line at the airport or at the club.”

The San Francisco-based startup, which is backed by Y Combinator and K9 Ventures, defines itself as a company with “a passion for building products that simplify, improve and fit seamlessly into your life.” While Coin certainly has promise to change the way we pay, there are some features that sound great in theory but will need to pass muster in practice.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed the Coin is designed to prevent unintentional toggling between cards, but that will have to be put to the test once the first Coins ship, as accidental toggling during the handoff to a waiter or cashier could scramble one’s finances. The product isn’t set to be released until sometime next summer, but while each Coin will retail for $100, you can pre-order yours for only $50 now. Plus, Coin is offering a $5 credit per referral, so if you do plan to pre-order, be sure to spread the Coin gospel.

Take a look at the company’s promo video to get a better sense of how Coin could transform the way you pay:

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