SAN FRANCISCO -- A new cashless medium, not on the market yet, is grabbing the attention of technophiles and merchants: Coin, a credit card-sized device that can store as many as eight credit and debit card accounts. Coin has also caught the attention of many skeptics. So the maker of the all-in-one digital credit card is adding new security features to address concerns raised by potential users who got their first look at the prototype in mid-November.
The Coin card is designed to replace every credit, bank, gift and loyalty card in consumers' wallets by letting them scan each of these instruments into a single device that syncs with their smartphones. It currently works with both iPhone and Android devices.
Cards are added to Coin using a mobile card reader that plugs into a phone's headphone jack. Once users create an account for the service, Coin creates a mobile version of the card within the app. A button on the front allows users to select their card of choice. A tiny LED screen displays the last four digits of the card they're using and its expiration date.
Critics of the San Francisco startup's payment platform have questioned whether sensitive data stored in the digital card are secure. They've also raised concern that a cashier might accidentally hit the button on the way to the register and swipe the wrong card. Some worry that Coin owners could steal credit cards and scan them into their digital devices. Another logistical concern that's been raised is whether Coin would work if the user's smartphone battery died.
In response to these concerns, Coin said it will add a button to the card that users can tap in "Morse-code-like" fashion to reactivate it even if their phone is out of charge. The company said it will also add a system that lets users know how many times their cards are being swiped, and alert them if someone is using their cards when it isn't near them.
Finally, the device will "lock" on one particular card, so retailers won't inadvertently switch the selected payment method.
The company emphasized that the Coin app will be password-protected and that all card information is encrypted.
Coin explained that its app requires users to take a picture of the front and back of each card, type in the card details and then swipe the card using the provided reader to ensure the card's encoded magnetic stripe data match the card details. It is thus impossible to complete these steps unless the user is in physical possession of a card, according to Coin. As an additional safeguard, the Coin app will only allow user to add cards they own.
The Coin card is slated for a summer 2014 release. Coin is developing the device for for the U.S. market, but said it plans to add capability to support the global EMV standard in future versions of the device.