Coin and Coin 2.0 – A Year In Review

In November of 2013, I was pretty excited to hear about a digital credit card that could replace all of my physical cards for fifty bucks. It was an early backer price and seemed a bit high for taking a chance on something new, but my mind couldn’t let go of the idea of it. Sometimes I see an innovative new gadget and I just have to have it. As Kickstarter was gaining momentum, I felt comfortable giving it a shot and handed over my money. Even though I knew I’d have a wait ahead of me, I often wondered over the next nine months when it would come. In August of 2014, my Coin 1.0 arrived. More than a year later, Coin 2.0 was released and I was upgraded for free.

Coin Digital Credit Card
Coin Digital Credit Card

What is a Coin digital credit card?
Before I get too far into my personal observations, I should take a moment to talk about what Coin is. Coin is a smart device, the size of a single credit card, that can store the information of up to eight credit cards and work as any of them when swiped. It has an e-ink display to show which card is selected and the last four digits and expiration and a button to switch between cards. Coin also has the ability to set up a Morse code style password so you can unlock your Coin with a few short and long button presses when your phone is not nearby.

One year with Coin 1.0
While I’ve had Coin for a year, I’ve honestly only used it for a few months total. For starters, it didn’t always work when I would swipe it. Almost half the time, I had to try again and too often, I wound up pulling out the actual bank-issued card to complete the transaction. Coin’s two big selling points for me were convenience and security. Having to try multiple times and eventually use my other cards sometimes eliminates the convenience I would otherwise gain with a single card to carry around. That said, I now only carry my Coin and one major credit card.

As for security, the thought is that I no longer hand over a card to someone who can simply copy the numbers and make purchases online. Additionally, my Coin (and by extension, all my credit cards) become unusable when away from me for more than 7 minutes. I always worry that my server at a restaurant won’t get it swiped in time, but it hasn’t been a problem yet. Of course, the other side of the security argument is that I now have all my credit card information in a device that uses Bluetooth. What if it gets hacked? I use an RFID shielded wallet, so I’m more concerned about someone obtaining access to my phone than I am my Coin.

The several months in between usage can be explained by the fact that I’d get a new phone and have to enter all my cards again. For the sporadic level of swipe success, it sometimes felt like something I didn’t even want to bother with and my Coin would sit in a box on my shelf for a couple months.

Coin Digital Credit Card
Coin Digital Credit Card

Coin 1.0 and 2.0 Compared
Using a coin is pretty simple and basically the same with both versions. When I’m getting ready to pay, I just pull it out and choose the card I want to pay with and hand it off to the cashier or swipe it at a terminal. With both versions, most cashiers are awestruck having never seen something like this before and usually tell me that they think it’s pretty cool. It can be nice, but it also means I usually have to tell them what it is and how it works when they ask. The first incarnation of Coin – despite a long wait that included being envious of west coast beta testers – did not always work. Above all, that has been my biggest complaint. As mentioned above, just under half the time, it would not work on the first attempt. Thankfully, improvements have been made to really cut down on this. While I’ve only had Coin 2.0 a week or so, everywhere I’ve tried it was a success. There was one place it failed on the first try and I immediately reverted to my bank-issued card because there was a long line behind me.

The Morse code security feature hasn’t proven useful for me yet. The one time I left my phone in the car, I completely forgot that I could unlock the Coin without it and just grabbed my phone. Had I remembered the feature, I don’t think I would have remembered the code. For others, this may be an indispensable feature, but to me, it’s just a possible security hole if I lose my card. Luckily, the Coin app will tell me if it can’t see my Coin when the Bluetooth connection drops. This is another great feature for other people, but not as much for me. Having a shielded wallet means that every time I put my Coin back in my wallet, the app thinks I’ve left it behind. This is an acceptable trade-off, I suppose.

Coin comes with an internal battery that will last about two years with “normal” use. Normal use is defined as using your Coin about 5-6 times a day. I’m assuming I’ll get up to 3 years out of mine since I don’t use it nearly that much.

EVT and NFC are concepts new to Coin 2.0. While the new Coin doesn’t have an actual EVT chip, NFC provides a contactless form of EMV payments. It seems that this will only be useful for cards that support EVT. While shopping earlier this week, I attempted to tap to pay with both of my cards and it simply would not work. This was at a single merchant and I have yet to try again. This was one of the key upgrades with Coin 2.0, so I’m hoping it will prove to be a usable feature for me.

Conclusions
Coin is a great little device, but it has found its struggles as the pioneer in an odd little niche product market that seems to have caught on in the last year or so with a few competitors. Despite the challenges, Coin has done well to support those who believed in it by giving free Coin 2.0 upgrades to early adopters, but it will need to work hard to keep up as competitors innovate with new features. Coin 2.0 offers much needed improvements, but unless there’s a feature-rich Coin 3.0, it will probably be the last of its line. At $99 with a two year battery life, you’ll be in for about $50 per year, which is still not bad if you’re able to make the most use of it.

How to Avoid Falling Victim to Email Fraud

Economy of American SamoaImage via WikipediaAs I sit here and watch banks crumble under the weight of a failing economy and bad decisions, I also continue to watch countless emails pour into my mailbox telling my that my bank’s security policy has changed or some information needs to be verified. It is with this in mind that I decided to make a post warning people of the various scams floating around. I only hope that it saves at least one person from making the mistake of falling for one of these scams.

Types of scams
Some of the more popular scams include emails that:
– Notify you of lottery winnings and request sensitive information
– Notify you of inheritance and request sensitive information
– Ask for your help moving $xx,000,000 to the United States and request sensitive information
– Notify of an ebay dispute or question, prompting you to log in
– Notify you of banking security changes, prompting you to log in

The first four try to get you to email back information to them, baiting the reader with a reward of some kind. Often, they request extreme discretion, as they don’t want you telling a friend who may, in turn advise you to do some research. The end goal is to have enough information from you to aid in identity theft, whether the scammer steals your identity or they sell your information.

The last two pose a more immediate threat. Those types of emails try to get you to log into what you think is ebay or your online banking account. Instead, you’re handing your information over to a scam artist who will then log into your account, himself, and drain it. If you ever think you handed your banking information to the wrong person, don’t be shy or too embarrassed to call your bank right away. I know better, and still fell victim once. As stupid as I felt about it, I immediately called my bank, explained that I made a mistake and needed to change my information, and they changed it before I ever lost a dime.

Why talk about this now?
There’s a lot of dumb and/or greedy millionaires and billionaires running America’s banks into the ground, having taken very risky mortgages in an unstable market. That’s how I see it, anyway, but the fact is that banks in this country are dropping like flies. If there’s one thing a smart scammer does, it’s latch seize an opportunity when it comes along. I haven’t seen any yet, but I know that somewhere out there, a scammer is writing up an email about how your bank needs you to verify your information to guarantee that your money will be FDIC insured or some similar lie. In an extremely fragile economy with real threat of your bank vanishing tomorrow, people get scared and even the smartest people make dumb mistakes out of fear. So what better time is there to remind people about the scams.

General email safety rules
It’s impossible to know every scam email out there before it circulates. There’s always a first victim. Luckily, there’s some pretty easy things to remember to help make sure you’re not one of the victims:

– If you’re going to a site you have to log into or will download anything from, ALWAYS type in the url yourself rather than clicking a link in an email
– Most reputable organizations will begin their email to you with your real name. “Dear member” is almost the same as “Dear victim”
– Never run anything in an email that you don’t trust 100%
– (phone) Never give out over the phone enough information to get a credit card unless you called the company and want a card. If someone calls and wants to verify information, make them give you most of it and verify very little. At the very least, ask if you can call them back.

I hope you gained even the smallest bit of information from this and if you did, feel free to email the URL on to someone you think could benefit.

Quick Survey
Have you ever fallen victim to any of these emails or other forms of identity theft or credit card fraud?

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