Coin: Your new best friend or a consumer nightmare?

By , CardRatings contributor

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Between your credit cards, debit card and gift cards, your wallet might bursting at the seams.

Enter Coin. The scorching hot start-up is hoping to replace your many cards with their one card. You get to keep all your current accounts, including rewards credit cards and loyalty cards, but they are all loaded on a single sleek piece of plastic.

Although Coin won't be available until summer 2014, customers are apparently desperate to help push along any effort that will make their wallets more manageable. Within 40 minutes of launching pre-orders, Coin hit its $50,000 funding goal.

While the concept is intriguing and Coin promises to be convenient, some detractors say it has major problems that may make it difficult for consumers to use.

How Coin will work

How does Coin aim to make your life easier?

Using a card reader connected to a smartphone, Coin users swipe their current cards and take a photo to be stored in the Coin mobile app. You can store data from unlimited cards in the mobile app, but the physical Coin device can only store eight cards at a time.

Then, when you are out and about, you use a button on the front of Coin to switch between your cards. This apparently changes the magnetic strip on the card so it will read as whatever card you've selected.

Coin will work at the ATM and with any magnetic strip reader, but don't try to take it out of the country since it is not set up to work at chip-and-PIN terminals. For security, the card is tethered to your smartphone with Bluetooth technology that alerts you in case you leave the card behind at the store.

Why Coin might be a mistake

Many have been quick to jump on the Coin bandwagon but is everyone being a bit premature? After all, the cards haven't even been put into production yet, although a prototype is apparently being used by the company founder.

According to a recent CNN Money report, the company faces serious problems that could make Coin a nightmare for consumers to use.

  • Coin will not work if it loses connection with your phone for more than 10 minutes -- a security feature that could be a headache for consumers should their phone's battery die.
  • Credit card companies aren't on board yet. What's more, at the time of the CNN article's publication, Coin's founder said he hadn't even started discussions with issuers yet.
  • Merchants might be confused. Although Coin works like a credit card, merchants might be inclined to refuse it given its unconventional appearance.

When Coin launches in the summer, it is expected to sell for $100 a pop, and early fans were able to pre-order the device for $50.

My advice? Keep your hard-earned cash in your wallet for now. As CNN notes, Coin isn't the first to company to promise you one-card-to-rule-them-all for your credit cards. Protean Echo said back in 2012 they would deliver the same thing. Guess what? We're still waiting.

Coin may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but let's not hold our collective breath.


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