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Market Overview

Sizing Up The Universal Card

Sizing Up The Universal Card

Universal cards seem to be the credit card version of universal remotes. They are handy, but ultimately do not eliminate the individual components. While they can minimize on-the-go space, their true appeal is in their mobility, simplicity and convenience.

Instead of having multiple cards used for particular purchases and shifting through countless pieces of plastic in a check-out line, universal cards aim to make swiping a cinch. One card to rule them all. While there are currently no universal cards available right now, the change is right around the corner, with Stratos' universal card due to ship April 2015 and other competitors slated to go live over the following months.



Funding: Through Venture Capitalists, Stratos has raised over $7 million.

Cost: A one-year subscription costs $95, while a two-year term will ring in at $149. Because the contract is through a subscription as opposed to a direct purchase of an individual card, Stratos customers can have their cards replaced following company updates or remodels.

Security: Bank-level encryption

  • Proximity Alerts: A command can be set to disable the card if it is beyond a preset radius of the corresponding smartphone
  • Security Upgrades Ahead: Biometric fingerprint security, NFC compatibility

Compatibility: Boasts 100 percent compatibility with debit, credit, reward, membership, gym, loyalty and gift cards. Because of its unique two magnetic stripes (as opposed to competitors' single-stripe technology), Stratos is made to be compatible with all card readers.

Breadth: An unlimited number of cards can be stored through the mobile app and on the physical Stratos Card.

Battery: Battery life is not specifically mentioned; however, the subscription element of the contract allows for cards to be replaced should the battery run low.

Other Notables: According to Co-Founder and CEO Thiago Olson, the two magnetic stripes not only make Stratos compatible with all card readers, but sets Stratos apart from its competitors, who do not boast this technology.

Available By: April 2015

Related Link: Stratos' Connected Card Is More Than Just An Apple Pay Clone



Funding: Crowdfunding hit over $5.2 million as of late October 2014

Cost: Pre-order price is set at $155


  • PIN
  • Photo ID
  • Proximity Alerts
  • Return-Me Mode
  • Magnetic stripe and NFC chips are only activated once the specific payment card has been selected
  • Data can be wiped remotely if lost or stolen

Compatibility: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, store cards, gift cards, access cards, loyalty cards, debit/credit cards

Breadth: 20 cards can be stored on the physical Plastc Card, while an unlimited number can be stored on the app

Battery: The card is rechargeable

Other Notables: E-link Touchscreen; Waterproof

Available By: Summer 2015



Funding: Has procured $1 million from an angel investment

Cost: Pre-order cost set at $50; regular cost of $100


  • Bank-Grade Encryption
  • PIN Access
  • Predictive Learning

Compatibility: Credit, debit, gift and loyalty cards. Accepted everywhere traditional plastic cards are accepted

Breadth: Stores 25 cards

Battery: Two-year battery, with embedded technology for future rechargeable capabilities

Other Notables: Gift cards can be shared and exchanged with other SWYP users' ability to capture receipts; location syncing will pull up, for example, the stored Best Buy gift card when you shop at a Best Buy location

Available By: Fall 2015

Related Link: Top 5 Personal Finance Apps: All Free And Available On iOS And Android



Funding: From two venture-funding rounds, Coin has raised $22 million

Cost: $100 plus shipping and taxes


  • Alarm that "learns" typical spending habits and can notify users if there is unusual activity on the card, such as a double-swipe at a single retailer
  • 128- or 256-bit encryption
  • Tap Code to activate card

Compatibility: Debit, credit, gift, loyalty and membership cards

Breadth: App holds unlimited number of cards; Coin card holds eight cards at a time

Battery: Designed to last two years before replacement; not rechargeable; does not have a replaceable battery

Other Notables: Coin is water resistant, but not waterproof. Additionally, it does not currently support chip-and-pin (EMV) technology; however, the company is moving in that direction.

Available By: Spring 2015

Broad Hesitations Toward Universal Cards

Beyond security, another concern raised regarding universal cards is the simultaneous tech expansion in mobile wallets. As Matt Burns from Tech Crunch explains, "Consumers will soon have a bevy of options available, which might cloud the space with confusion. But physical credit cards are not something that will quickly disappear and perhaps companies like Stratos, Coin and Plastc can get while the getting's good."

Co-founder of Plastc Ryan Marquis addressed the situation by justifying the need for something between traditional cards and mobile wallets.

"There was no way a consumer was going to go from a physical wallet to a digital wallet without some sort of bridge technology," Marquis said.


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Posted-In: Coin Matt Burns PlastcCrowdsourcing Startups Tech Personal Finance General Best of Benzinga