Universal Credit Card: A Travel Solution

Universal Credit Cards Pt. II

In early May I briefly wrote about universal credit cards; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I summed them up as best as I could having neither a test nor production model in hand. I am a Coin backer from almost two years ago, but my delivery was pushed from June to August. I am hoping they have an even better product that supports both types of magnetic stripes at a minimum.

An Argument In Favor

I’m currently on an early summer trip taking in a bit of San Francisco, Dublin (where I am now), and Moscow. Yes, I like a bit of variety in my travels. Coin, Plastc, Stratos, and Swyp are all vying for the same audience, a solution in search of a problem. Well, maybe not. When I travel, especially internationally, I tend to drop most of my cards and opt for an ATM, and two credit cards that I think will serve me the best. On this trip I am carrying the Chase Sapphire Preferred, because no one wants to walk around paying foreign transaction fees. The other, the Barclaycard Aviator Red MasterCard, is only being carried around as a test in spending. More on that later.

Caveat up front, I don’t like the subscription model. Call me old school, but if I pay for something I should own it. Unless it’s a car, boat or home and that still has a goal of passing ownership from the bank into my hands. Where I could see Coin, Plastc, Stratos, and Swyp filling in the gaps is now, while I am on travel and do not have access to all of my credit cards. It would be great if I could have my Chase Freedom or Amex Everyday Preferred.

A Pricing Recap

The following goes back to my thoughts on how affordable these universal credit cards truly are.

I thought about going into a huge comparison, but therein lies the problem. I do not have access to any of them. I have two Coin vouchers from their initial offering, but delays have pushed my card from April 2015 to August. That is four months away. I looked at Swyp, but I was late to the party and I am currently on the wait list for batch #2. Next was Plastc, but at $155 for something sight unseen, I will have to pass. It also doesn’t help that I have been scorned by Coin’s production delays. At this point, I see no reason to drop $155 into the void. Lastly, there is Stratos. I did not know about Stratos until just recently. At $95 it sits around the average price for a universal credit card, but has to be renewed yearly. I am not sure if I am ready for yet another subscription.Hitorishibai

When We Have A Solution?

Not likely anytime soon. There are a myriad of different approaches being used and yet none have fully come to market as a 100% solution. Coin is rolling out slower than a Mississippi mud slide rolling uphill in the middle of winter. Stratos has started shipping, but the reviews are mixed; the tap before use is what gets a lot of people if you have to hand the card over.

Swyp and Plastc at least have the potential to cater to the EVM market which, as usual, the US is slow to adopt. And yet there are no products in sight because while their ads are great and brief well, there is no hard product to validate their claims. Cue the success of the Jawbone 3.

Feature Review

Feature Coin Stratos Swyp Card Plastc
Cost  $100  $95  $99  $155
Ship Date  August 2015  October 2015  Fal 2015  Summer 2015
Card Capacity  8  3  25  20
Security  Proximity and Tap Code  Proximity  Proximity and Pin  Proximity and Pin
Magnetic Strip BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint
Display BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint
EVM Chip BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint
NFC BlueBulletPoint BlueBulletPoint

In Close

I could use a universal credit card. I believe it has potential. My only reservation is that I believe most will come out half-baked. I wish most would follow Apples release program. Fine tune it, get your partnership agreements inked and have the best hard product known to modern engineering. Rushing to fail is only good if you like to fail in spectacular fashion.


Do you travel? What cards do you carry? Would you purchase a universal credit card if it improved your overall experience and security?