There have been a number of fancy bluetooth credit cards, Stratos, Coin, Plastc, Wocket, Swyp, etc… appearing in my facebook feed and kickstarter feed lately. Wired test drove one over the last few days and have just published a pretty lengthy review.
But here are some of my favorite takeaways.
I found the card works anywhere your normal credit card does, as long as you know the trick: You have to whack it on the table, the reader, or your palm right before you use it. The only way for the Stratos to last two years is for it not to be on all the time, so the tap activates it: A tiny LED blinks next to the active card, and it’s ready. (Double-tapping connects it to your phone.)
This is fine when you’re using it yourself. It becomes a tic, even—part of the routine of swiping and signing. But go ahead and try handing your credit card to a waiter or bartender and saying, “you just have to tap it once before you swipe it, you’ll see the light, and then it’ll be fine.” It won’t be fine.
I tried explaining as much to a very confused, very tired server Friday night. Her response was to ask me where the hidden camera was. After some convincing, she came back a few minutes later with my check. Turns out if you’re willing to explain how Stratos works every time you hand it to a cashier, bartender, or waiter, it works every time. Still, I was embarrassed enough that I switched back to my regular credit card when we went to the bar. And I tipped the doubting waitress about 40 percent.
All that for the low price of $95 a year.