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Another startup is attempting to make all-in-one credit cards a thing

Another startup is attempting to make all-in-one credit cards a thing

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Smart credit cards that let you toggle between multiple digitally saved credit cards haven't had a great run. Plastc, which raised more than $9 million in preorders, failed to ever ship a product and filed for bankruptcy. Coin, on the other hand, managed to ship a card, but ended its product services after Fitbit acquired the company. Still, the dream isn't dead, yet.

A company called Edge announced today that it's acquiring Plastc for an undisclosed sum with the goal of incorporating its tech into the company's own all-in-one credit card. Plastc backers won't be getting an Edge card for free, but they can sign up for a $50 discount on Edge's website. Edge hopes to start shipping cards in the next seven months and won't rely on preorder money. Instead, it's depending on private equity.

The company's CEO and co-founder Peter Garrett tells me that Plastc made some advancements between its preorder time and eventual shutdown. In particular, he says, the company's touchscreen technology was worthy of investment, as was its built-in customer base. Plastc had a problem "stitching [everything] together," he says, and was under pressure to ship, hence its demise.

When I asked Garrett why building an all-in-one card seems like a doomed endeavor, he says that it's like "creating the first iPhone." All the technology exists, but the challenge is stuffing it into a tiny form factor. Edge's card will be 1mm thick. These cards also require buy in from the major credit card companies, including Visa and Mastercard. Edge has yet to receive that approval. 

Edge is attempting to tackle a historically difficult industry for startups of its nature. In addition to the hardware challenges, working with financial information requires these smart card companies to maintain strong security practices around data. They also have to keep an app updated and in touch with the smart card. On top of all that, NFC appeared to be the way most of the industry was moving. With Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay already available through phones and NFC-equipped wearables, do people really need or want another way to store their card data? The $9 million in preorders for Plastc would seem to suggest yes, but those were placed back in 2014. Wearables have proliferated since.

Still, while Garrett calls the Edge card a "very sophisticated product," he's confident that his team of engineers, both on the hardware and software side, can make the card a reality. At least for now, Edge isn't asking for money, so we can all sit back and wait to see if the card ever makes it to market.