While we patiently wait for services like Apple Pay to proliferate and eventually eliminate the need for plastic credit and debit cards, a new type of solution has emerged. Dubbed “smart cards,” these devices are capable of storing multiple credit, debit and membership cards in a single swipeable device, theoretically allowing users to empty out their wallets and just carry a single payment card.
Right now, sadly, these cards do not exist as far as consumers are concerned. The most promising among them is called Plastc, and it doesn’t yet have a firm ship date. Also interesting is a device called Coin, but its creators have run into a slew of problems and the current beta device isn’t always reliable.
Now there’s a new player on the scene called Stratos, and it touts one key difference compared to earlier smart cards: This one is actually real, and it’s shipping next month.
Stratos bills its new product as a “connected card,” but the concept is exactly the same as what we’ve seen in earlier smart cards. Using a connected app on a smartphone, users can input as many credit, debit, membership and rewards cards as they like, and the app transfers them all to the smart card.
Then, the user can scroll through and select the desired card directly on the device, and a swipe of the Stratos card will register the selected account.
“Stratos exists to empower consumers to make smarter, more secure payment decisions – all with the benefit of consolidating the cards in their wallets,” Stratos co-founder and CEO Thiago Olson said. “Replacing the dumb plastic we carry every day, Stratos Card is connected hardware designed to improve how we pay with more security, better decisions and ease of use. Stratos is reinventing your wallet and cards just like the iPod and iTunes reinvented your CD collection.”
Here are the card’s key selling points, as outlined by Stratos:
- Superior acceptance and reliability. With compatibility to all current U.S. merchant infrastructure, the Stratos Card is the only connected card you can use everywhere, including ATMs, restaurants, retail stores and gas stations.
- Superior security. Stratos’ patented Security Lock-Down feature lets members automatically program their card to shut down if it’s not in proximity to their smartphone for a specific amount of time. Other security features include bank-level encryption and card details securely stored behind a PIN or Touch ID.
- Superior intelligence. Stratos leverages the mobile lock screen for instant, real-time notifications, including information on member’s top three favorite cards and their last four-digits for card verification. The Stratos Mobile App centralizes, tracks and manages all cards securely. Coming soon, geo-location and history-based card suggestions and insights to help make better payment decisions.
- Superior experience. Stratos offers a unique membership that ensures cardholders always have the most complete experience. Membership includes:
- A Stratos Card, the Stratos Mobile App (for iOS and Android) and a Stratos Reader (for adding cards).
- Free annual Stratos Card upgrades (or replacement cards), so your investment is never obsolete – members have first access to the latest technology, as soon as it’s available.
- Personalized member support including phone, email and social communication.
- Future Stratos features, including geo-location based recommendations, card insights, virtual card downloads and card tokenization.
- Superior style. The Stratos Card features five distinctive colors: Slate, White, Blue, Salmon and Green. The card is beautifully designed, yet durable – unlike smartphone-based mobile payment systems, it’s waterproof and passed ISO 7810 and 7816 tests that include bend, static shock, abrasion tests and more.
For consumers, the key difference may simply be that the Stratos card actually exists. While we still have no firm shipping timeframes from any of Stratos’ competitors, Stratos says its card will begin shipping to consumers next month.
Now, for the bad news: if and when cards like Plastc and Coin launch, they will be available for a one-time fee. With Stratos, you have to pay an annual membership fee if you want to keep using the card. Membership costs either $95 for one year or $145 for two years.
Stratos cards can be preordered beginning today on the company’s website.