App of the Week: Coin Combines Payment Cards, Cures Exploding Wallet Syndrome

Categories: Tech

Is it secure?

This is the biggest concern, obviously. The folks at Coin claim to have significant security on their servers, but that doesn't account for having your Coin lost or stolen. This is where the connection to your phone becomes critical, and a bit cumbersome.

The security for the card, itself, is tied directly to the app on your device. In this case, only the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android will work with Coin, which is certainly limiting. Once it is connected to your app, your phone must be on, and here's the catch, NEAR YOU, to keep Coin active. The Coin has a proximity detector via Bluetooth for maintaining security. That means your phone needs to be on and near you for it to work.

For most of us who carry our phones around as if they are an extra limb, that's not that big of a deal. But, what if we leave it at home when we run to the grocery store or forget it in the car at the mall? Basically, you're screwed because the Coin will lock up on you after a period of time.

That's the other thing. The "period of time" it takes to lock is a bit ambiguous. Card thieves can do a LOT of damage in a very short amount of time. Fortunately, the Coin locks changes so thieves can't switch from card to card. They are stuck on whatever was used last, which would seem to indicate a good precaution would be to switch Coin to your Kroger card or your Barnes and Noble membership when you aren't using it.

Other concerns.

One fairly significant issue is the cost. Right now, you can get a Coin for $50 via a pre-order, but normally they will be $100. That's quite a bit of coin (see what I did there?) for a card that must be replaced about every two years. It also won't help you if you need the actual card number, something that happens when paying bills, for example.

I didn't find a good answer to whether or not the magnetic strip in the card would work if scanned rather than swiped. I assume the technology is the same, but so many membership cards, for example, are scanned and not swiped through a machine, that could be a significant drawback.

Finally, don't plan to take your Coin with you on your trips outside the U.S. They don't guarantee its success in other countries and recommend you bring a back up just in case.

Bottom Line

Coin is intriguing and there is most certainly a specific segment of the population that will want one. I don't think I'd feel comfortable dropping my debit or credit cards onto a Coin, at least until some early adopters have been security guinea pigs, but I could see the benefits for membership cards and gift cards almost immediately. It's a bit pricey for something that will wear out and I'm not fond of being latched to my phone for use, but I could see it as a handy tool for taming a bloated wallet if you can afford the cost.

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