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My experience with Coin Beta in the real world

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It worked, but then my unit stopped functioning

I don't carry around a traditional wallet. Instead, I've got a pile of cards held together with a hair-tie. I've been carrying around this "wallet" for over three years, and it's worked really well for me.

I preordered a Coin Beta because I was intrigued by the technology, and I'm always looking for ways to simplify things and diminish clutter. I thought, "Could I slim my wallet down even further with this device?" After many months of delays, I finally got Coin in the mail. I had actually forgotten about it, and when it showed up in my mailbox I was desperate to try it out.

I was desperate to try it out

Setting up Coin involves using your phone and the company's app. You can input your cards into the app via a Square-like card reader or by taking a picture of the card à la Apple Pay. I found the set-up process to be a bit confusing: you have to first pair your Coin to your phone, then swipe a credit or debit card. You then verify that card by confirming a temporary charge from your bank statement. Next, you put your Coin in sync mode and sync the cards from your account. The whole process took about 10 minutes for just the first card (my debit card), but the second two — an American Express card and a Crisp restaurant loyalty card — gave me no trouble.

coin beta sam sheffer

I went to get some lunch at Crisp, where I used the Coin as both my credit card and the Crisp loyalty card. Unsurprisingly, the clerk was intrigued by my new digital credit card. I explained how Coin worked, and first, he scanned my loyalty card. I then took Coin and turned it into my Visa with a single button press, and paid for my food. It was seamless and worked flawlessly. Like the clerk, I was also quite surprised — not that Coin exists, but that it in fact worked.

The process was virtually seamless and worked flawlessly

I also bought some candles at Duane Reade, and Coin worked just fine there. This time the cashier didn't ask any questions.

About 36 hours into owning and using Coin Beta, my unit stopped functioning. I cannot get it into sync mode, though the button still cycles through the cards I have programmed, but they don't scan. I've since contacted Coin's support, and I'm in the process of getting a new one. Understandably, Coin is a beta product, but I didn't think it'd break after just a day and a half.

Overall, Coin works as well as you'd expect it to, but it's clearly limited in its beta form. Remember: it can only store credit / debit cards, gift cards, and membership cards. Coin lacks support for transit cards, which is a huge downer for someone like me who rides the subway every day. Incidentally, it does work in dip-style machines, so I was able to use Coin to add money to my subway card. Coin doesn't work at my bank's ATM (the one that sounds like it's literally chewing your card), which was disappointing as I tried multiple times to get the machine to take the card. No dice. Looks like I can't exactly get rid of my debit card just yet. Bummer.

Also, Coin Beta lacks security features — I disabled Bluetooth on my phone and was still able to make purchases. What if I lose the card? I'm hoping the company rolls out an update to fix this soon.

coin beta in hand

So no, Coin will not replace your wallet, at least not right now. And if you're a Wells Fargo customer like me, you can't leave your debit card behind. The only thing Coin Beta has done for me is allow me to ditch my Crisp membership card and American Express card (though I won't deny the technology impressed me, too). I'm going to add Coin to the bundle of cards I carry around in my makeshift wallet once I get my replacement unit, and I'll opt to pay with it instead of my traditional plastic cards. But for the $50 I shelled out to join the beta program, Coin is merely a good conversation starter.

My eyes are now on you, Plastc.