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Are we giving up on mobile payments already?

Mike Elgan | Nov. 25, 2013
Mobile payments have still not caught on as U.S. users stick with their credit cards. Now the innovation is coming in the form of new debit cards.

Like a regular credit card, the Coin card will have your signature and name on it. And it can be swiped and used like a conventional credit card. But that's where the similarity ends.

You use a mobile app to load credit card information from your other cards, or use an included device for swiping your cards to duplicate their data into the Coin card.

It can be preordered for $50, but it will eventually cost $100 per card when it ships next summer, according to the company.

Coin has security features. For example, if you lose it, the card can lock itself. (It needs to be physically near your smartphone or it won't work, if the user chooses that option.) Coin uses 256- and 128-bit encryption on the card itself, plus the iOS or Android mobile app. It will also have a fixed life of two years, after which a new Coin card will have to be purchased.

Security experts say the Coin card could be a security nightmare, but Coin says they're working through the security risks and hope to solve them by the time the product ships.

There are other challenges. For example, some credit cards or retail stores may choose to not support Coin cards.

Online companies offer physical plastic cards

One of the most surprising new developments in this space is Google's release this week of the Google Wallet Card -- a physical debit card.

It's surprising because Google exists to get people off physical media and into virtual digital everything. They've also been a leading force in mobile payments with both Android and Google Wallet.

The Google Wallet Card works just like Google Wallet, but it's compatible with every retail store that accepts debit cards. You simply link credit card and bank accounts to your Google Wallet account, then transfer money. If the store you're buying from doesn't accept NFC tap-and-go payments, just whip out the card. It can be used wherever Mastercard is accepted, and also as an ATM card for getting cash.

Other online-native companies have done something similar. PayPal, for example, has a physical card.

Another startup called Simple offers a debit card, but it's tied to a range of convenience services and options inside a mobile app. For example, you can deposit a check into your account by taking a picture of it. The app facilitates money management and budgeting, too.

While the financial, wireless and handset industries are having trouble pushing mobile payments on consumers, people are voluntarily crowd-funding and waiting for solutions that involve a credit card-like card.

These new credit card- and debit card-like solutions are really delivering most of the functionality promised for mobile payment solutions but usable in something like a credit card.


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