For the minimalist, mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay can reduce the amount of plastic you have to tote around. But, as a relatively new technology, these digital payment methods still aren’t always accepted at merchants’ terminals.
Enter the high-tech Wallet Card from Dynamics Inc. Billed as “the world’s first connected, secure payment card,” it looks similar to a traditional credit or debit card but functions much like a mobile wallet: It can store multiple cards and allows you to switch among them. Wallet Card avoids some limitations of previous so-called smart cards and, unlike mobile wallets, promises widespread acceptance among merchants upon its launch by the end of 2018.
Wallet Card was introduced in January at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it won the Best of Innovation Award for Security Technologies. Here’s what to know about it.
How Wallet Card works
According to the company, individual banks will roll out their own Wallet Cards. Customers can then download all their debit, credit, prepaid, multicurrency, one-time-use and loyalty cards issued by that bank onto that Wallet Card. The cost of the card to consumers will depend on what the issuing bank chooses to charge.
Wallet Card’s digital display allows you to switch between saved cards at the push of a button. It communicates with your bank via a built-in cell phone chip and cell phone antenna.
The card has a digital display that allows you to switch between saved cards at the push of a button and select which to use for a given merchant. There are different memory options depending on the needs of the issuing bank, but the company says a typical Wallet Card will store more than a dozen cards.
The card communicates with your bank via a built-in cell phone chip and cell phone antenna, which the company says allows data to be transferred between Wallet Card and the bank 24/7, worldwide. (Wallet Card’s cell communication is not linked to the consumer’s phone and doesn’t incur data fees.)
The Wallet Card can be programmed to be used with a magnetic stripe, EMV chip and contactless payment technologies, depending on what the card’s bank chooses.
As with mobile wallet purchases, rewards and travel credit cards that are routed through the Wallet Card can still earn points on relevant purchases.
What makes Wallet Card different
Aside from its interface, there are a few distinctive features that differentiate Wallet Card from traditional credit cards and newer mobile wallets, and even from the now-obsolete smart cards that mobile wallets have effectively replaced:
- No phone or app needed: Unlike with smart cards or mobile wallets, Wallet Card isn’t managed with your phone, and that’s a key difference. Many smart card forerunners typically had to be paired with a smartphone app, and some charged fees for the service. Then mobile wallets came along. Those apps are both free to use and now standard issue on many smartphones, making smart cards redundant. Wallet Card, though, is a self-contained payment system — no phone or app required.
- Self-charging battery: Since your mobile wallet is tied to your cell phone, obviously you can’t use either in a brick-and-mortar store if you haven’t charged your device. Not a problem with Wallet Card, which has an “organic recharging chip,” meaning that the card “charges itself through normal operation” and can last indefinitely, according to the company’s news release. Users won’t need to plug it in.
- Flexibility: Mobile wallets aren’t accepted everywhere, at least not yet. For now, you have to check each retailer’s point-of-sale terminal for an icon that indicates you can pay with your cell phone. With Wallet Card, depending on what the issuing bank requires, consumers could potentially use it at any point-of-sale terminal that accepts credit cards — regardless of whether you slide the card, dip it or hover it over the terminal.
- Ready for immediate use: Apply for a traditional credit card and you’ll be waiting for it to arrive in the mail. But Wallet Card is more or less instant. Banks can distribute Wallet Cards anywhere, at any time, and cardholders can activate them immediately.
- Unique security features: The bank issuing the Wallet Card can immediately delete and replace any compromised card numbers in the event of a data breach at a merchant. Plus, the card’s cellular connection means that consumers can receive notifications through it, such as alerts about suspicious purchases, and can click on a “not me” message to set a fraud alert and receive a new card number. Also, if a Wallet Card is stolen, the company claims its regional fulfillment system can get a new card to the user within hours.
The big question: Will it catch on?
Wallet Card’s flashy features lend it a cool factor that may appeal to tech-savvy users. It’s likely to be eye-catching, and it boasts some potentially beneficial features. But whether it catches on as a practical, everyday payment method will be worth watching.
Wallet Card’s features lend it a cool factor, and it boasts some potentially beneficial features. But whether it catches on as a practical, everyday payment method will be worth watching.
For starters, it’s not available yet, and you’ll have to sign up on the Wallet Card website to find out when it’s coming to your region. Until then, it’s still pretty easy to swipe or dip a traditional plastic card, and it’s even easier to wave your phone in front of a terminal to use a mobile wallet. In fact, credit card issuers increasingly appear to be betting big on mobile wallets, with many offering bonus rewards to cardholders who opt to use them.
And while Wallet Card seems to have made fraud prevention and security a cornerstone, it’s unclear how much additional benefit a typical credit card user would receive from its features. Thanks to federal law and the zero-liability policies offered by most major credit card issuers, cardholders already enjoy wide-ranging fraud protections. Mobile wallets take security a step further via tokenization.
That’s not to say credit card fraud isn’t still a headache — and debit card fraud can be much more painful. It’s possible Wallet Card’s replacement system could help ease those pains. And with mobile wallet adoption and acceptance still not widespread, Wallet Card’s flexibility and tech advantages could be beneficial, depending on its ease of use.