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If you’re like most Americans with a credit card, you don’t just have one card in your wallet — you have at least 3 or 4. In fact, the average American with a credit card has 3.7 credit cards. Another 7 percent of Americans have seven or more credit cards in their wallets.
When you add in the various other cards that many of us carry around each day — grocery store loyalty cards, gym membership cards, library cards, and more — it is little wonder that our wallets are nearly bursting with cards.
That’s an issue the new technology, the all-in-one credit card, is attempting to solve. But before you sign up for this hot new commodity, read this article to learn the basics of what this new type of card is — and whether it can benefit you.
What is an All-In-One Credit Card?
An all-in-one credit card is a programmable credit card that eliminates the need to carry all of the various cards that are currently in your wallet. Instead of toting around your main credit cards, store credit cards, grocery store rewards cards and various other cards, you can simply store all of your data in one card and carry it instead.
These cards have tremendous potential.
They promise to be more secure, as they can be protected with a password. So if someone steals your all-in-one credit card, they will be unable to use it without the password or code.
An all-in-one credit card will also make it easier for you to track your finances and budget, as all of your financial information will be stored on one device and can be easily viewed and synced.
Finally, the cards will make users’ lives far more simple, as they eliminate the need to carry multiple cards. All you will need to do is carry your all-in-one card and swipe it to access its benefits.
However, the technology for these cards is still developing, and there have been hiccups in the progress of certain companies. Below is a description of some of the forerunners of the all-in-one card movement — along with an update on their current status.
What is Stratos?
Stratos offers an all-in-one credit card and app for an annual fee of $95, or $145. This fee is inclusive of all annual upgrades to the system, and will include new cards if necessary when the battery on your card dies.
To use the Stratos card, you simply download the app, and then load up to three cards at a time onto your Stratos card via the app. The device can hold an unlimited number of cards, but you can only load three cards onto the all-in-one Stratos at a time. Once your desired cards are loaded onto the Stratos, it is ready to use. You can activate it by tapping it against a hard surface. One tap will activate the card in the first position, while tapping twice will bring up three blinking LED touch sensors, which you can then use to select which card you would like to use for the transaction. Then just swipe your Stratos like you would any other card.
Unfortunately, there is no display on the Stratos card itself, so you will have to either remember which position the cards are in, or have your phone handy to check the app. The Stratos has a security feature that allows you to put it into lock mode so it cannot be used without your phone. However, if you do not have your phone or if your phone dies, your Stratos cannot be used.
The Stratos card does not come with a charger, but its battery is estimated to last for approximately two years. The company states that the app automatically detects low battery levels and will send you a replacement card, free of charge. There are some limitations on the types of card readers that will accept Stratos; it cannot be used with standard EMV-chip contact readers or NFC (near-field communication) readers.
Stratos was acquired by the Danish company CardLab Innovations, and is no longer providing new cards. The Stratos service is still supported, but new cards have not been shipped.
What is Coin?
Coin is an all-in-one credit card that costs just $99, with no annual fee. Unlike Stratos, Coin operates without a mobile phone. Instead, users can store an unlimited number of cards and sync up to eight onto a Coin device. The Coin has a small screen that allows users to see the type of card that has been activated, along with the last four digits of the account and the expiration date. The card can be unlocked in one of two ways: either by entering a tap code on the Coin’s button, or if the card detects a synced phone nearby.
Coin is unique among other all-in-one credit cards in that it offers NFC, or near-field communication, technology. That means you can pay without swiping, and instead can wave the Coin in front of the NFC reader. However, the Coin card is not compatible with EMV-chip readers that require users to insert their cards.
While the Coin doesn’t require an annual fee, the device does not have a battery. When the battery dies in an estimated two years, users will have to purchase a new device.
While Coin offered promising technology, it is no longer available. After being acquired by Fitbit, Coin has discontinued service.
What is Swyp?
Swyp is an all-in-one credit card that costs just $99 with no annual fee. Like Stratos, Swyp works through a mobile phone app where users can upload cards. The Swyp app can store an unlimited number of cards, while the card itself can store up to 25 at a time.
The Swyp card has a small display, like Coin, which lists the card name, network, last four digits of the account number, expiration date and the card verification number. Using buttons on the card’s face, users can scroll through card options to find the card they want to use. Swyp can be inserted into EMV-chip card readers or swiped, but it does not work with NFC technology at the moment.
Unlike the Coin card and Stratos, the Swyp card comes with a charger. In normal use, a single charge should last for a full year.
Swyp is currently accepting pre-orders for new cards via its website, with no time frame listed for when these cards will ship.
What is Plastc?
Plastc promised to be the most technologically advanced of all the all-in-one credit cards, with biometric security images, a large touchscreen and other features that would make the card easier to use and more secure. Unfortunately, Plastc stopped operations before it produced a single all-in-one card.
Originally, the Plastc device was priced at $180 for the device and an 18 month subscription. Ongoing subscriptions would cost $50 per year. Users would load an unlimited number of cards onto their app, and store up to 20 cards onto the device itself. The Plastc card was to feature a large touchscreen that would allow users to unlock the device using a PIN code, display information about the stored cards, provide security information and display barcodes that could be scanned. The touchscreen would make the Plastc card far more user friendly than other options, which all relied heavily on apps for navigation.
If it had been released, Plastc would have been compatible with all available card readers, including magnetic stripes, NFC and chip readers. It would also have come with a charger, and a single charge was estimated to last 30 days.
The Future of All-In-One Credit Card Technology
While the all-in-one credit cards discussed above may not be as promising as originally believed, that does not mean consumers are stuck carrying around a slew of cards in their pockets. Digital wallets are the wave of the future — but they have taken a slightly different form than a credit card that can be loaded with other cards.
Instead, many users are turning towards apps such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Venmo as ways to quickly and easily pay bills, send money to friends, or make purchases. Rather than carrying cash and cards, users can simply scan their phones to pay for a meal or a coffee, or buy something online quickly and securely with just a few taps.
Using a digital wallet is often more secure than carrying cash or credit cards, as the information is stored in the phone behind a passcode and/or fingerprint scanning, and the financial data itself is encrypted. In contrast, if you drop your credit card, it could be used by anyone. These payment types are widely accepted across the country in both physical stores as well as online, and it makes shopping online simple. You can also load coupon apps, loyalty and reward cards, and other information directly into these apps so they’re all in one place. Best of all, these digital wallets don’t cost anything to use — and they don’t require you to carry anything other than what you likely already have with you: your phone.
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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