How One Startup Plans to Replace Every Card in Your Wallet

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Entrepreneur Kanish Parashar has an ambitious goal: He wants to replace every credit card, gift card and loyalty card in your wallet.

To do that, Parashar has founded a company called Coin. Unlike other companies like Square and PayPal that are trying to do the same thing with mobile apps and proprietary services, Parashar plans to use something quite different -- something that looks like a credit card.

Coin is a Bluetooth card that can be used in the place of the cards in your wallet. Any card with a magnetic strip can be added to Coin, and a button on the front allows you to easily swap between cards. With each button press, the magnetic strip on the card essentially becomes your card of choice, giving you the ability to carry around your whole wallet in just a single piece of plastic. A tiny LED screen displays the last four digits of the card you're using along with its expiration date.

The final version on Coin will also allow you to give each card a four-character nickname such as "Bank" or "Work" to keep them straight.

Parashar got the idea for Coin after another payment startup of his, Smartmarket, failed.

Smartmarket was a mobile payment solution that used "geofencing" to allow customers to pay for goods when they were physically near a store. While Smartmarket got quite a few downloads, it wasn't actually being used for payments. "Turns out we had a chicken and the egg problem," says Parashar. "Customers couldn't find merchants who adopted it, and merchants didn't see customers use the app, so they didn't have a reason to adopt it."

With Coin, Parashar hopes the process will be intuitive. "A card is something that we're used to using," he says. "We have a habit [of using a card], and we trust it."

Cards are added to Coin using a mobile card reader that plugs into your phone's headphone jack. Once you create an account for the service, Coin verifies that each card you add belongs to you and creates a mobile version of the card within the app. You can carry around literally hundreds of cards at a time in the app, and eight cards can be added to the physical card at any given time.

A digital leash on Coin helps keep it safe. If you and your card are separated an alert will show on your phone letting you know you might have left Coin behind. After you're separated for a while -- you can select a time between just a few minutes or several hours -- the card is locked down, preventing any further use until you're reunited.

The battery in Coin should last two years, and the card isn't susceptible to issues like scratching and demagnetization that plague traditional credit cards.

Coin is launching a crowdfunding campaign today to begin production of the card. Initial backers can purchase the card for $50, a 50 percent discount on its future retail price of $100. Coin is expected to ship in the summer of 2014.  

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