Plastc wants to replace your wallet with a single card

How many times has it been said that cash is dead? Now, with the upcoming release of Apple Pay, mobile payments may finally reach a mainstream audience. So surely cards must be on the way out too?

Plastc thinks otherwise. Its Bluetooth enabled card-tech offering syncs with your phone, letting you swipe between 20 cards or barcodes using an E-ink touchscreen. Plastc offers multiple ways to pay – swiping, NFC for contactless transactions, and an EMV chip.

The card is intended to replace your entire wallet. Battery life doesn’t seem to be a problem – the card can be charged on an included charging mat overnight, and lasts 30 days on a charge. Like Coin, a similar card-based solution announced last November that still hasn’t shipped, Plastc includes various security measures. Users must enter a PIN code on its E-ink screen, and can only add cards with their name on them. Then, there is the remote wipe mode, which can wipe your card when it’s lost, and the ability to show live card balances on its E-ink screen so you can check before paying.

The user experience is fairly well thought out, but where problems could arise is with adoption. Unfortunately for both Plastc and Coin, Apple Pay is launching this month, beating Plastc by a good few months, and Coin by a year. By that point, mobile payments could be commonplace, with two generations of iPhone supporting Apple Pay.

But Plastc will work with the EMV card readers that American retailers will soon be adopting, as well as the NFC technology that these new readers will likely support. This, and the setbacks to adoption that mobile payments will face, may keep Plastc safe for now, according to COO Ryan Marquis.

“Ultimately a cloud-based digital wallet will be the winner,” said Marquis, “but with our technology, we can allow consumers to build a digital wallet using a form factor that they’re used to today.”

Marquis believes there are still many use cases where we need physical cards like subway ticketing machines, ATMs, and gas pumps.

“I will utilize Apple Pay because it’s simple and easy, but there are so many use cases in our world where I’m still going to need a physical card,” he said. “There are so many things that point-of-sale machines just aren’t ready for yet.”

The adoption of mobile payments is unlikely to be swift or seamless. Cash is still used as a backup for card, despite apparently being dead already. Having a single, all-encompassing card to use if your phone battery dies, or in those places that will be slow to adopt mobile payments, seems like a clever alternative.

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