There’s a revolution coming to your wallet. Soon, perhaps very soon, your wallet will become thinner. All those credit, debit, and gift cards littered throughout the sleeves of your bifold will disappear. Either people will start paying for everything with their phones, or the all-in-one credit card will become a staple. The all-in-one credit card, while perhaps slightly less practical, would be pretty damn cool. If you’re thinking of becoming an early adopter, you probably want to know which one you should be excited about? Here’s our breakdown of the contenders:
The Good: Coin is simple and designed to mimic the credit cards you know and love. It can be swiped just like a standard card, and thus can be used just about anywhere … for now.
The Bad: EMV (EuroPay, MasterCard, and VISA) is a global standard for use of chip cards and devices that accept them. It isn’t the standard in the United States, but it probably will be. If it becomes the standard here, which it’s supposed to in October, that could present issues for Coin and for others. Basically, they could be unusable in tons of places. Coin claims they’ll figure something out after their first version, but that means you might end up needing a future Coin 2.0. While the ability to store up to eight cards—credit, debit, gift, loyalty, and membership cards—and flip through them with the press of a button is fantastic, that storage is dwarfed by some other offerings. Finally, Coin has a life expectancy of 2 years, then it needs to be replaced. We’d ideally want something that doesn’t cost us $50/year to own.
Cost: $49 pre-order / $99 retail
The Good: It’s just like Coin except it can hold 25 cards in its encrypted memory. The creators also claim it will be EMV-ready with a firmware upgrade when the transition happens. If that really is true, that’s a big plus. SWYP also learns about your spending patterns and will pull up the right card depending on where you are. Also, while SWYP’s battery life is also two years, the company says it’ll be rechargeable.
The Bad: While it functions just like Coin, we like the look of Coin better. Coin is sexier and less utilitarian. Other than that, we need to see if they live up to their claims regarding chip cards, because it could be the same issue Coin runs into if point of sales systems require a card with a chip and some sort of workaround isn’t feasible.
Cost: TBD (was $149 pre-order)
The Good: Wocket works without a phone. You swipe cards directly into it, and while you can use a smartphone app for management and updates, you don’t need to use your phone at all if you don’t want to. While not simply a card, Wocket will have available accessories so you can clip money to it and more. It will also support barcode, QR code, and eventually Bluetooth payments. Also, while you can unlock it with a PIN, you can also do it with the sound of your voice. Oh, and it can store up to 10,000 cards. While battery life is only one year, it is rechargeable, and one year is still a long time.
The Bad: It’s not just a card, it’s a completely different device that happens to work with a card. You can’t slip the whole thing into your wallet; it is your wallet. Finally, like other cards in this category, chip and pin could present an issue. Wocket’s first version, like others, has no way to deal with that if it becomes the standard in the US, but the company claims they will figure a way if need be.
The Good: It looks awesome. The e-ink display and overall design make it look like a minimal, modern credit card. A deactivated chip included in the card that can be activated with a firmware update will allow it to be used in all EMV machines and devices. Again, that could be a huge plus in the future. You can store 20 cards and an unlimited amount more with the app.
The Bad: The price isn’t as attractive as some of the other models. Again, you need your smartphone to store, manage, and sync your cards. Battery only lasts 30 days even though it’s rechargeable.
Cost: $95/one year & $145/two years
The Good: While there aren’t a ton of details yet, the Stratos team claims their card will have pin and chip integration.
The Bad: Forgoing a crowdfunding campaign might be a good thing for tempering expectations and missing deadlines without an angry mob after you, but it also means we haven’t really seen much of what they’re offering. Stratos is a wild card at this point.
Should You Buy One?
So what’s the bottom line with all these devices? Well, banks aren’t quite sure what to make of them yet, and maybe you shouldn’t either. Sometimes it’s best to wait for tech to mature before you go in on it. We’d be hesitant to pull the trigger on any of these at this time. We will say this, if Plastc delivers on its promises, we’d probably make that our pick, but we’re still a ways away for knowing for sure.