COIN: Is This The Future?

by Abigail Muir, UX Designer

Two years ago, when Apple Pay was but a whisper, I didn’t really consider my wallet to be a problem space. But a charming Kickstarter video changed all that.

It explained that going through my wallet was really cumbersome. I listened. Three minutes later, I needed this thing, this Coin card, the solution to my problems. The pricing was flawless: $50 to pre-order the future. It took all of six minutes to convert me into a sale.

Unfortunately, there were delays in the manufacturing. So, the future took time (1 year and 11 months, to be exact) and by the time it arrived, I had to ask myself: “Is this it? Is this the future?”

WHAT IS COIN?

Coin is all of your credit, debit and loyalty cards conveniently built into one single, familiar form: another card.

But that’s being reductive.

Coin is a wonderful piece of technology which is cleverly disguised within the familiar. It’s the same size, shape, and relative weight of any debit/credit card, plus: there’s a nice button (that has a satisfyingclick when pressed) and a small LED display.

You sync cards into your phone using a miniature card reader (and then into the Coin via Bluetooth). You can sync up to 8 cards at a time (but store unlimited numbers in the app). It has nice security features, like reminders if you’ve left it behind and the fact that no one ever sees your card numbers.

The companion app is gorgeous and functional but without detailed attention to the more human aspects of UX. For example, I can’t give my cards nicknames — something I really hope changes very soon. When clicking through 8 cards on a small LED screen you quickly realize that either you must memorize the last four digits of each one, or risk accidentally charging the wrong card.

But it’s the card itself that really gets me. It’s fantastic. Visually, it’s a huge improvement from all of my other cards. None of that de-bossed Courier nonsense on the front, no overwhelming visual confusion when looking at the back. Coin is smooth black, with a lovely white border that pops out into arrows which indicate the location of the strip. The reverse is equally well-considered, if not more so.

It’s clean and white, with my name printed directly onto the surface in a decidedly “techie” font. Overall, it feels official, well-designed, very “now”.

When it works, using it is a great experience. I receive approving nods from guys at Tekserve, a sort of confused compliment from the cashier at Dunkin Donuts and absolutely incredulous reactions from all manner of otherwise disinterested vendors.

  • “Is this really a card?!”
  • “What bank is this from?”
  • “Are all credit cards going to look like this soon?”

To put it briefly: People are both impressed and uncertain. They might think, just as I did: this must be the future.

Which brings me back to my original question…

“IS THIS IT? IS THIS THE FUTURE?”

Well, yes. But by the time it was delivered (to me, anyway) Apple Pay had already been out for a few months and had seamlessly merged into my life. But there is one major difference: Apple wants to solve for this problem space in a different, more radical way — by making the wallet obsolete.

But of course — back here in reality — I have to go to lots of places where Apple Pay isn’t an option (bodegas, the dry cleaners, bars, local restaurants) I find myself turning to another, more familiar option: my Coin.

Swipeable, tangible cards are unlikely to become obsolete (and the corner bodega probably isn’t getting Apple Pay), so Coin still addresses a need. Solving for the wallet is an interesting problem, albeit not an incredibly urgent one.

Because that is only a tiny piece of what is, in reality, a much larger and vastly more interesting problem space: How can great brand experiences extend to even the smallest touchpoint?

What if all banks gave you a Coin card?
What if all debit and credit cards took design cues from Coin?
What if Coin offered more security services by integrating with other start-ups in finance tech like Final Card? (I mean the same beard guy is in their promo video!)
What if Coin integrated with Mint to track my spending and send smarter alerts?
What if — for example — Bank of America licensed Coins?

THIS IS THE FUTURE

Imagine you open a new checking account with CapitalOne. When you receive your debit card, it’s a CapitalOne branded Coin card.

Later, when you open a personal credit card and a business credit card, they are conveniently added to that same Coin. Perhaps Capital One or Simple Bank would follow suit.

Then, instead of 7 separate cards in your wallet, you’d have 3 secure, well-designed Coins, each from a different issuing bank.

Less cards, less plastic. More secure, more user-centered, more convenient. Better experiences. Better design.

Now that sounds like the future.

PS: Look out for Coin 2.0, slated for release next year. It’s going to have NFC integration and other future-stuff. :)


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