Mobile Wallets Kill Off Plastc’s Smart Card

Melissa Lambarena
By Melissa Lambarena 
Edited by Paul Soucy

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After three years in development, the Plastc “smart” credit card is dead — without ever having been released to the public.

Plastc was supposed to be able to store information from 20 cards, including credit, debit, loyalty and gift cards, on a single card-like device. But Plastc and similar products saw much of their prospective market eaten up by mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay.

Unable to secure financing to finish development of its product, Plastc Inc. ceased operations on April 20, 2017, and announced on its website that it was exploring bankruptcy options. Customers who pre-ordered the product won’t have those orders filled, according to the company.

Plastc was one of several companies developing smart cards. It stood out from competitors like Coin, Swyp and Stratos by promising a large touchscreen, biometric security features and the ability to do such things as unlock the device with a PIN and use it to review card balances and other information.

These devices typically had to be managed with a smartphone app. When digital wallets came to smartphones — most notably Apple Pay in late 2014 — smart cards became a needless complication for many. Also, mobile wallets were basically free, while Plastc planned to charge $180 for the device and an 18-month subscription, followed by an ongoing $50 annual fee.

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It’s not looking good for other smart cards, either. Coin was acquired by Fitbit in 2016, and its service is being discontinued. Swyp wasn’t taking orders as of April 2017; the company's social media accounts haven’t had new posts since 2016. Stratos was recently acquired by the Danish company CardLab; as of April 2017, it was not shipping new cards.

Not all merchants accept mobile wallets, and not all consumers trust them. But the technology appeals to the same kinds of early adopters who were targeted by Plastc, Coin and others, helping hasten the demise of smart cards.

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