Coin is Disruptive, Polarizing…and Awesome

| Cool Stuff Found

Earlier today, Coin announced the pre-sale of their upcoming credit-card consolidation device. Shaped to be the size (and thickness) of a credit card, Coin is actually a battery-operated, low-energy Bluetooth device onto which you can store up to eight (8) different credit cards (its companion iPhone app can store the rest of your cards if you have more than eight). When you're ready to make a purchase you select which card you'd like Coin to become, and the mag stripe on Coin spits out the info from your selected card. Simple premise, and you get to carry just one card instead of eight. Cool Stuff Found, indeed. I ordered one. But what impressed me more was just how many people stood up and found all the reasons Coin wouldn't work. That's my metric for something that's bound to be a success, and this one tweet stream is enough to convince me these folks have a winner on their hands. Cool, indeed!


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John F. Braun

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with the comment that people were looking for a way that the technology wouldn’t work, but rather, that the security aspects of the device, based on their FAQ and other information, don’t meet the rather loose standards that US credit/debit cards currently employ to protect against fraud.

Whereas current payment cards employ various physical security measures, as well as practices (checking a signature on the card, UV watermark, hologram) to prevent fraud, it looks like the current Coin model doesn’t take these into account.  Based on many discussions, I certainly hope they put something in place to make sure Coin isn’t a convenient attack vector for someone who wants a convenient way to capture all of your payment card info.

Dave Hamilton

To be clear, the article says nothing about people claiming the *technology* wouldn’t work. In fact, your comment directly supports my point: finding reasons why Coin won’t work. I love it. Good stuff. smile

John F. Braun

Well this is part of the fun of linking an article to a Twitter stream, in that it has grown to a point where there are many who now question the technology aspects (and specifically the security) of the invention.  But I don’t think anyone is looking for them to fail, just that they put a little more thought, or provide some transparency, into their security model.  No doubt they are monitoring not only this thread, but the Twitters, to get some valuable input.

Ted Thomashot

Hmmmm…. I’m sure there are a lot of card scimmers out there who would absolutely love it if these devices were widely accepted in stores. Here in Europe, you will likely be arrested if you attempt to use such a device.

Priit Pirita

Well, it is a yesterday’s solution to a technology developed world no more uses. All cards I have in my wallet are chip/rfid equipped. I have not seen magnetic strip reader in years. But nevermind, i’m told USA uses scanned signatures attached to faximile transmissions as “digital signature” too, so im not surprised.


This thing is soo cool (love the proximity warning), but sadly, it won’t work where I live, where nobody swipes (except US-based cards), and everything is chip and pin. I use cards from two countries, and this would be very convenient—were it not for the lack of chip-n-pin.

The whole thing, though, sort of makes me wonder if Coin isn’t a solution to a problem that is already going away… Give us 5 years, and we’ll see if my phone can do all this without any other device. But for those of us in the US, I bet this will be nice…


Awesome idea! Sadly it won’t work in the UK as all our credit and debit cards are now Chip & PIN :(


Will it work? Probably.
Is it a good idea? Have you heard of the old saying about all of your eggs in one basket?
To me security is the big thing. Hack this once and you’ve got everything.
It’s the same reason I won’t use OnePassword. I don’t like having all of my security dependant on one gate. Anyway, I only have two CCs, one for Canada and one for the US.  I don’t need something thicker than those two cards to insecurely store their data.


We’re Chip ‘n’ Pin/Signature here in Oz too.

Matthew Rigdon

I remember how people said New Coke was a disruptive product and pointed out all the problems with it. And New Coke went on to be a smashing success. Oh, wait…

One problem I see that Coin CAN fix is to lock the button so a waiter doesn’t inadvertently change cards when they swipe it. I live in Los Angeles (which is a fairly large urban area, and even fashions itself a sort of second Silicon Valley. We have a big Yahoo presence, Symantec, once upon a time MySpace. LA’s a pretty happening digital place is what I’m saying) and I’ve never eaten out anywhere that brings a card reader to the table. I eat once or twice a week in downtown Culver City and most of the restaurants bring out the vinyl sleeve with a check, then take your card away to swipe it somewhere else. If you only eat at one restaurant and always have the same waitress, then you’ll only have to explain the Coin once, but if you eat out a lot, it will get tiring to have to explain, “The white button changes the strip and please don’t tap it accidentally while you go and run my card,” every single time you go out to eat.

The bigger issue is whether a merchant will even take a Coin card at all. If you only shop at places where you swipe a terminal and no one ever asks to see the card, you’ll be in good shape. But if anyone ever wants to see the signature on the back of the card, you’re screwed. Let’s say you can convince them to call your credit card company, will the customer service person say, “Oh the Coin card is fine, the swipe is valid.”? Or is your credit card company going to deny the charge? Or worse, report the card stolen? Looking at the back of all my credit cards and debit cards, they all say “Not valid unless signed” or something to that effect. Maybe Coin can add a strip for you to sign and fulfill that requirement. But if you walk in with a Coin, it seems that a merchant can refuse to take it.

I’m a bit of an edge case, I know, but my mother has a thousand acres in Texas, way out in the boonies. I make trips a couple of times a year. People there don’t like new things. I know I won’t be able to use a Coin there. Some places still make carbon copies! A Coin definitely won’t do that.

I’d love it if I could use this, but in my case, I still have to carry any credit cards I want to use in my wallet, just in case someone’s going to be an a** when I’m checking out or I run into some feed store in Chico that wants to make a carbon copy.

The US is also moving to chip-and-pin, the machines are supposed to be in place starting in 2015. The Coin isn’t scheduled to be out until summer 2014 (and we all know how new products always meet their deadlines) so you might only get a year’s use out of your Coin, depending on if/when your credit cards get chip-and-pin versions. Now, they freely admit that Coin is a dead-end, it just might be a dead-end on arrival, depending on how much trouble they have ramping up production. Granted, fifty dollars isn’t much to blow on a product that might not pan out. I’m tempted, but I know that I still have to carry my physical cards around so what am I really gaining?


I am always looking for ways to reduce my wallet size.
This sounds like a good concept for the US, where I live.

The Coin needs a quick lock that would prevent a change for a default 5-10 minutes to allow waiter to leave and return.
You can over ride the lock with the mobile app if needed.

Most of my loyalty cards are barcode based. I couldn’t determine if the Coin supported bar codes or only mag stripe type cards.

Matthew Rigdon

The Coin and its reader can only grab magnetic strips. Barcodes won’t work unfortunately. Personally, most of my rewards cards allow me to use my phone number on a pin pad these days, so I don’t carry any of those cards anyway.

On their website, it points out that the Coin comes with a white strip that you can sign, so there will be a physical signature on the Coin for merchants who ask to see it. Whether they have the option to refuse Coins has to do with their merchant agreement I assume. Coin says it’s all legal, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to report merchants who refuse to take your Coin and hope the processor actually does something about it.

An article about the Coin mentioned that if your phone dies (battery runs out or it just breaks down), your Coin will shutdown as well. They talked about an option where you can disable the Coin shutdown using the app, but that reduces the security aspect. It’s just something to know that if you only carry your iPhone and Coin, if your iPhone gives out you won’t be able to use any of your credit cards unless you disabled the timeout.

The founder came up with this after spending several years working on another payment system (NFC based). Too bad he hadn’t come up with this a couple of years ago. There’s going to be a ramp-up time for merchants to get used to taking these cards. If this had been around three or four years ago (albeit without the Bluetooth low power option), at least you’d have conditioned people to seeing and accepting these cards without hassle. Maybe some of the banks would be offering these in lieu of traditional cards. Unfortunately, with chip-and-pin and other systems coming, I don’t think you’ll get more than a year’s use of this, at least for credit and debit cards.


Dave, I would love to try the Coin. Two concerns is the inability to LOCK the the card you choose to use for the transaction. Has this been solved? Also after several months how is you experience? I will you your referal code if you will repost.
As you can tell, my very big concern is the waiter inadvertantly changing the credit card used for the transaction. BIG concern. Coin needs at least a 20 minute lock (IMO). Otherwise I will give it a try.
Thanks in advance for you further comments.

Dave Hamilton

@Macfox: Coin’s not out yet so I have no real-world usage reports. You can follow their progress, though, and I believe they have already addressed the “waiter issue.”

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