Despite the rise of services like Apple Pay and the delays on getting products like Coin to market, consumers continue to love the idea of a physical payment card that can hold the details of multiple accounts. Now we have Stratos, which smartly skipped first mover disadvantages and has now announced a new Bluetooth Connected Card, emphasis on connected.
The Stratos card uses a dual stripe technology that is guaranteed to work across America, whether you are at a gas pump, using an airport kiosk, getting cash from an ATM, or buying a latte. The card uses “bank-level encryption” and can apparently hold a nearly unlimited number of credit and debit cards (as well as reward, membership, gym and other number-related cards). There’s even a double-tap feature that can suggest specific cards to use based on your location and history, handy for loyalty and membership cards.
You set up the Stratos with the help of the Stratos Reader, which connects to your phone and allows you to swipe any cards that you want to load onto the Bluetooth card. Stratos is also planning on several future upgrades, including biometric fingerprint security, contactless payment with NFC technology (much like Apply Pay) and the ability to download and share account information.
The completeness of this payment card stands out: The other cards on the market, like Coin and Swype, remain light on detail and often light on compatibility, too – the Coin beta only works on around 80 percent of point-of-sale machines in the United States, for example. Stratos deserves recognition for its full compatibility and more detailed explanations…although more information on that bank-level encryption would be nice.
Stratos also differs from other universal cards in a final, important way. You do not buy the Stratos card in a solo purchase. Instead, you buy a membership for either one or two years at a time. One year costs $95, while two years cost $145. With the membership comes special offers, customer support, and an annual upgrade or replacement card. Not only does this replacement plan allow Stratos to replace cards with low batteries, it lets the company include updates like the previously mentioned NFC tech and biometric readers. Shipments of the first cards are expected to start in April 2015, and you can order online now.