Just 1 Piece of Plastic? ‘Smart’ Card Makes Bold Promise

Photo (cc) by RobertG NL

The so-called smart card is here, but you might want to think twice before becoming an early adopter.

It’s called the Stratos Card and it promises to combine all of your cards onto a single card. That includes an unlimited number of credit, debit, loyalty, membership and gift cards. The information is synced with a mobile device such as a smartphone.

The smart card uses a “dual stripe” technology that works everywhere that the magnetic stripes on “traditional” cards work, including ATMs and online, according to the website of Stratos Inc., the company behind the card.

The good news

Dan Ackerman, an editor for technology site CNET, tells CBS that the Stratos Card is more secure than traditional plastic in multiple ways.

It does not have a card number that could be copied by an unscrupulous cashier the way a credit or debit card could, for example. Instead, it generates a one-time code each time it’s used, Ackerman says:

In this case, you are swiping your own cards into your own phone and that is where the data is kept. Just like Apple Pay, a lot of these cards will send kind of a temporary number to a vendor or somebody you are buying something from.

If your card is lost or stolen, you can set it to lock down so no one can use it, according to Ackerman and Stratos.

The bad news

However, the convenience will cost you. The Stratos Card is only available with a $95 annual membership or a $145 two-year annual membership, according the Stratos website.

There are no other maintenance or transaction fees, but replacement fees for a card ($49) or reader ($15) “may” apply if a replacement is needed more than once per year. (A reader is a small device you use to scan all your plastic cards into your phone.)

You’ll also need a mobile device with Bluetooth technology to use a Stratos Card.

The Stratos Card currently lacks the EuroPay, Mastercard and Visa standard, or EMV, a technology that offers more security via embedded microchips.

What others are saying

Darren Orf of the technology website Gizmodo recently reviewed the Stratos Card after trying it for a week.

In an article subtitled “This Smart Credit Card Is Still Too Dumb,” he reports being told by multiple merchants who required him to hand over the card rather than swipe it — including a bar, coffeehouses and restaurants — that the card was not working. So he had to take out a traditional credit or debit card to pay:

The reason why old magstripe cards are so hard to kill is because they just work — unless you’ve de-magnetized it or some ne’er-do-well has emptied your bank account coffers.

Those things have happened to me just once in my many years of owning a credit card. Want to know how many times my Stratos Card didn’t work in the last week? (Hint: More than once.)

Plus, Orf points out, the smart card can’t replace the wallet just yet. For example, he still must carry around his Metro card for subway travel and his health insurance cards.

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