Coin 2.0 finally makes good on company’s promise

September 23, 2015, 8:05 PM UTC
Photo by Jason Cipriani

I’ve only had Coin’s second-generation electronic card for a few days, but the experience is already night and day compared to the original version. For those unfamiliar with the device, it’s all-in-one electronic card lets users store all of their credit and debit cards on Coin, and toggle among them at will with the touch of a button.

The upgraded card will be shipped to current Coin users, free of charge. You can check the shipping status of your upgrade within the Coin app. New users will be charged $100, with orders currently shipping in early 2016.

Unlike its predecessor, the new iteration worked every time I used it, which includes paying for service at gas pumps, and a few standard payment terminals. It even worked at a local store, which wasn’t the case with the startup’s beta version.

Coin 2.0 brings a bigger e-ink screen to a slightly thinner card, and includes a NFC (near-field communication) chip, which makes it possible to process payments without ever having to swipe your card.

NFC is the same technology used with Android Pay and Apple Pay, and accepted by a variety of retailers. I tested the NFC functionality with a Chase credit card and it worked without issue. I unlocked the card, tapped it on the blue payment terminal and payment was processed.

The new addition makes Coin EMV compliant; an important feature with the October 1 deadline fast approaching that requires retailers, and card issuers alike comply with new fraud-prevention measures.

Currently, only cards from Chase Bank and CitiBank are compatible with Coin’s NFC feature. As Coin adds more card issuers to the list, users will receive an alert when one of your cards becomes NFC compatible.

In order set up the device and add cards, users simply need to download the Coin app and plug in a complimentary card reader into your smartphone. After that you can begin adding cards using the card reader. Once you’ve swiped a card, you’ll be asked to give the chosen card a four-character nickname and enter its security code. The new nickname feature is a welcome addition: Instead of having to memorize the last four digits of every card stored on Coin, which you were forced to do with the previous version, you can now pick the correct card in a hurry.

Paying with Coin is similar to using a standard credit or debit card, save for the typical two-minute conversation with the clerk about the confused payment system.

Users can “wake” or turn on Coin by pressing the button on the card. The word “LOCK” will appear on screen, and if your iPhone or Android device is nearby Coin will attempt to unlock itself by connecting to your phone via Bluetooth. This process is nearly instantaneous with an Android device. For iPhone users, the experience is hit or miss; sometimes Coin unlocks, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not Coin’s fault, however. The blame lies on they way iOS manages memory on the smartphone, since it randomly closes applications running in the background without any alerts.

If the Coin app has closed your card won’t work, meaning you’re faced with taking your phone out of your pocket and opening the app (thus unlocking the card) or using the button on the card to enter what Coin calls a “Tap Code.” The code consists of a series of taps, closely resembling Morse code: long-long-short-short-long-long. You have three attempts to unlock the card before Coin resets itself and all data is erased.

However, is the new card enough to lure in new customers in an increasingly crowded mobile payment market? Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGL), and Samsung (SSNLF) all offer mobile payment solutions built right into its smartphones, which begs the question: Does a $100 all-in-one credit card like Coin make sense? A card, mind you, that’s built to last two years, after which you’ll need to buy another one.

To be honest, I’m not sure.

The ability to carry fewer cards around, combined with the peace of mind that should I lose Coin would-be thieves won’t be able to pillage my bank account are features I appreciate. On the other hand, while I’ve yet to experience Coin 2.0 problems, it’s bound to happen from time to time. It comes with the territory with these all-in-one cards, and each time it does, it’s embarrassing.

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