Be Careful With Coin

Coin sounds like something people would want. It’s an electronic device in a plastic case the size of a credit card that will contain all your credit card information.

Coin, the San Francisco company promoting the device of the same name, promises to declutter your wallet because you’ll no longer need to carry all your credit and ATM cards. Enter your credit card numbers into the device. Then, when you want to pay for something, scroll through and choose the one you want — the Coin device is swiped just like a regular card. You can also use it in card readers like ATMs.

Coin is not handing the cards out for review because they are not in production yet. It promises to have them ready by this summer. The company is raising money to build them by asking people to pay in advance. (All the ads you see online, and there are loads of them, are paid for with investors’ money, not those orders, the company says.)

It is being sold for $105, though if you order before the end of this week it is $55. (The company hinted that it might extend the discount longer.)

But here are two things to think about. First, the device, by the company’s own admission deep on its website, will last only two years. The battery cannot be recharged, so if you find the device useful, you’ll need to shell out another $100 to keep using it. So think of it as a $50-a-year subscription, if that helps it go down easier.

Consider this as well: When you buy it, you are agreeing to terms of service that give you no protection. Should something go wrong — name your worst fear: the device broadcasts your credit card numbers, it is hacked, the site containing your encrypted numbers is hacked, the numbers are improperly encrypted, merchants refuse it — it’s not Coin’s problem. The company says it is confident it will work as promised. “We stand by our product,” a spokeswoman emailed.

But only in a very limited-liability kind of way. Consider this sentence in the agreement: “You are solely responsible for your own losses or losses incurred by Coin and others due to any unauthorized use of your account.” If the card is lost, stolen or damaged: Your problem.

A number of reporters have raised security concerns, and the company has said it will address those in future devices — which you’ll have to buy if you want them.

The company also says that if the service doesn’t work as promised, well, also your problem. It might give you $5 back, but it doesn’t have to.

Source: NYT