The days of carrying a wallet full of cards are over. At least that seems to be the goal on many tech companies. Apple, Google, and Samsung are leading the charge to make your phone your new wallet with their individual efforts. But some companies are trying to make the transition more of a modernization than a complete rethinking of the concept. Coin was one of the early companies to introduce this idea to consumers. I was actually pretty intrigued by the idea but decided the wait a little before grabbing one after e-mailing the company about a concern. But once I saw Coin 2.0 at Best Buy I decided to give it a try. At $99 this isn’t exactly a cheap piece of tech. But is the promise of a one card life worth it? Check out my review to see what I thought.
It’s a card.
Just joking! Though the Coin 2.0 is a card there is a lot more going on here. This card packs a battery, screen, LED, and other very thin electronic components –all in a rather simple black and white plastic body. Looking at the front there is one dead giveaway that this is not a completely normally card. That would be the screen. Coin 2.0 has a E-Ink display. When not in use the screen says off. But once you press the button —noted by a white outlined circle under the screen— you will wake the card. The screen displays all the info you will or a merchant will need to know about your card such as the cards type, last four digits, and expiration date. When selecting a card it will also display what cards use currently have saved. Right beside the button is a very tiny LED that flashes green when the button is pressed.
The back of the Coin looks much like the back of any other credit card. There is a rewritable magnetic stripe, an area to write your name, and a logo noting that this card does have NFC(more on that later).
Setting up Coin is simple enough. In the package for Coin you will find a special card reader and you can grab the app from the AppStore on iOS and Play Store on Android. Sorry Windows 10 and Blackberry users; once again you are left out. Creating an account is done on the app and does require some information to make sure you are of age to use the device(and that age is 18). The app will look for the Coin and ask you to set up a Tap Code; this can be used to unlock Coin when your phone is either out-of-range or out of battery. Once you create an account you can start loading card on the app. To do so you insert the card reader in the 3.5mm headphone jack, tap the “+” icon, selecting the type of card you will be adding(credit/debit, gift card, or other), and swipe. Once the reader grabs the info from the magnetic stripe you will be asked to verify info about the card if it is a debit/credit card. They will also charge a small amount on the card to see if it is a working card. Don’t worry, they refund in within a few days. You have to ability to manually input card info but you will still have to swipe the card so it captures the data on the stripe.
So now that all done you can add the cards to Coin. There is a 8 card limit on the device so keep that in mind. To start the process you tap sync on the app. You can then pick which card you want to have available on Coin. You can also turn Auto Unlock on or off and change your Tap Code at this screen. Once you’re done you tap Sync again and the app will tell you to press and hold the button on your Coin to put it in Sync Mode. And then you are ready to use your Coin.
Coin in Real Life
Like I said, when Coin was announced I was pretty excited. But I was also a bit hesitant. At the time it was announced the switch-over to the EMV system and Liability Shift was just announced. This meant that merchant needed to start getting Point-of-Sale terminals that accepting EMV or chip card before October 2015 to avoid any data breaches and stolen card info from being on them. At the time I sent an e-mail to Coin asked about the fact that version 1.0 did not come with a rewriteable EMV chip. I would have to track down the e-mail(and when I do I will include exactly what they said in the review) to tell you their exact words but it make me decide to hold off. But when I saw that 2.0 was out and it had EMV and NFC I decided it was finally time to check it out. Well, turns out it doesn’t have EMV in the way that I was excepting. And that made using it a little more of a challenge than it should have been.
When I got Coin I first tried to use it at CVS. That did not go well at all. When I swiped the card I was greeted to a message saying I had to use the EMV reader since my card had a chip. One huge issue though – Coin does not have an EMV Chip. So I tried with a different card which somehow managed to completely crash the terminal. Thinking it was just an issue with that POS they moved me over to a different one; only to have that was crash too. So that was a bust and I had to use my real card to complete the transaction. My next attempt to use Coin was at Best Buy; the store where I purchased it from. And just like CVS the terminal said I needed to insert the card because it had a EMV Chip. So once again I had to use my real card. Good thing I didn’t stop carrying them right? Next time I used it I manage to actually get it to work. And that’s because I decided to pay with an older card without the chip in it.
But here is the issue. Both banks and credit card companies are switching their customers over to EMV-enabled cards. And that’s a great thing. They are way more secure than magnetic stripe card and with all of the major data breaches in the last few years it’s more important than ever to secure every transactions. But this means that Coin is extremely limited in its usefulness. It has EMV security but lacks a rewriteable EMV chip. This means that if you are like me and most of your cards have a chip, Coin may not work for you. I say MAY because of one exception — cards that they suppose for NFC.
Coin does offer NFC on version 2.0; a feature not found on 1.0. This offers a very tiny glimmer of hope. If you have an EMV card there is a slight chance you could still use that card. But it’s very slight. Of the ten debit/credit cards I have listed on the Coin app only three of them lack EMV chips. And out of the seven of those with EMV chips only one is supposed for NFC on Coin. Coin says they are working with banks to add support for other cards to use the NFC feature but since I have had it none have been added to my knowledge.
You ever find something that you really want to love but just can’t yet. That is how I feel about Coin. The concept is awesome. And when it works, you can see how having one card linked to your phone that gives you access to your whole wallet full of gift card and credit card could mean a future where the wallet goes the way of the portable CD player. But Coin 2.0 isn’t that. And it all hinges on that fact they didn’t include a rewritable EMV chip. EMV security is nice, but it doesn’t replace the chip which is required to complete transactions at many store. When the Liability Shift was announced the prices for EMV readers dropped so even corner stores are now using the technology. Even if you don’t have a wallet full of cards with EMV Chips I can’t recommend Coin 2.0 because chances are at some point your bank or credit card company will switch you over. But I haven’t completely given up on Coin. The idea is solid so hopefully with 3.0 they check off all the boxes needed to make this a true wallet replacement.