I heard about coin from onlycoin.com from a co-worker.  Coin claims to be an electronic card that can hold the information of any magstripe card, such as debit cards, credit cards, ATM cards, some store loyalty cards, and there is potential for some hotel keys as well.  While the Android/iOS phone app holds all your card information, the actual Coin card can hold up to 8 cards at a time, than can be quickly synced from your phone.

Well I heard about it it on November 15th, 2013.  The pre-order price at the time was $50 + $5 shipping. It was expected to go up to $100. Being that I work for a credit union, I like to keep up on financial technologies.  So I thought for $50 it is worth the try. So November 16th, 2013 I had officially pre-ordered my coin, I only had to wait. and wait and wait! In June no, not 7 months later, but 19 months later June 2015, I got notification of a UPS delivery, I was quite surprised, I was hardly expecting it to ever show up.

I quickly got it out of the box, installed the app on my new phone (I had replaced my phone within the 16 months since the app had come out). Setting it up was fairly simple. I got it setup with two credit cards and a debit card.

To add cards you login to the app with a Tap Code you setup when you installed it, insert a card swipe reader similar to that of a square reader, click Add Card, and then swipe your card. Next you type in the CVV  code and an optional customer support phone number. You can then photograph the front and back of the card for storage in the Coin App.

I could not get it to read my American Express, because the MagStripe is pretty worn out, because the card cannot be swiped, it will NOT be synced to the Coin.  So I am waiting until either American Express sends me a new one, or Costco switching to Visa and I no longer need American Express.

Once you have your cards added to your phone app, you can then sync the cards you want to your coin.  Tap Sync Coin at the bottom, put a check mark on the cards you choose and tap sync.

So let’s get to usage.  I was excited to go out an try it.  That night I had to hit a few stores  at first it worked well, then it just said LOCK.  I wasn’t sure how to unlock it.  It turns out after some time it goes into a lock mode, which is good in case it is lost or stolen, your card info is safe.  It turns out to unlock the Coin, you use the same Tap Code that is on your app.  Armed with this knowledge I was able to use my Coin more effectively.

So does it work?   I have about an 80% success rate of merchants being able to successfully swipe the coin, without me having to pull out the real card instead. Going through the FAQ, this seems to match what they say, 85% of the merchants only use Track 2 data (card number info), while others use Track 1 data (Card holder name) as well, which Coin does not send.  When it works, merchants hardly look at it.  If it doesn’t swipe well then they look at it rather strangely.  I think because most merchants fall back method is to type in the card number and  the Coin only displays the last 4 digits.  A few merchants are intrigued by it, others don’t seem to care on  way or the other.

So after about a month of usage here is my list of Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. It does seem to hold cards securely,  If I leave my coin with a merchant, they won’t be able to use it.
  2. It also keeps track of it’s last known locations via bluetooth tether which will also let you know if you left your Coin behind (though the only time I was alerted that I left my Coin behind, it was right next to me).
  3. It is freaking cool, if I do ever have declined card, I could push a button and say try again… I wonder how that will go over
  4. I only paid $55 for it so I think that is an okay price to try out some new technology

Cons:

  1. While it does usually work, it doesn’t always work… Which means I need to carry at least one backup card..
  2. When choosing a card, it only shows the type (Visa, M/C, etc) last 4 digits and Exp, which can make it hard if you don’t remember which is which without going to the original card or phone app.
  3. The battery will only last for 2 years and is not rechargeable or replaceable.
  4. It has no support for EM at least not this iteration, which will start to become an issue by the end of this year.  If only it had come out when it was supposed to, this version’s battery would be dying just after EMV is supposed to become more standard.
  5. In day to day usage, pulling out a card and handing it to a merchant in a fast paced environment, I have found myself choosing a standard card, because I don’t want to type in the Tap Code to unlock, then click through to find the correct card.  It just takes that much more effort that I sometimes just skip it.  Though if it worked well enough to not have backup cards, I wouldn’t have this option.

Overall I am impressed that it works, though there are things I would like to see.

  • At one point I thought I had read, that the Coin knows when it is swiped and can alert of multiple swipes, I liked this idea, as it can alert you of skimming.
  • I saw something about a freeze type mode, so when I am handing my Coin to someone, it stays on the card I selected, so that can’t purposely or accidentally charge the wrong or even multiple cards.

I am looking forward to see if and when Plastc will ship, as I did pre-order that as well.

Let me know if you found this useful