The wallet wars have begun. In the past few months, mobile payments, smart wallets, and clever credit cards have sprung up like daisies in the spring. Apple Pay and Google Wallet are fighting to control your smartphone wallet, and there are a slew of physical card gadgets trying to consolidate all your credit cards. Although Coin is perhaps the most iconic of the bunch, newcomer Swyp thinks it’s a better fit for your finances.
This sleek, metal card can hold as many as 25 cards, including credit, debit, loyalty rewards, gift, and frequent flier cards. Swyp works at any store, restaurant, or payment terminal that takes normal credit or debit cards. It even learns from your behavior to pull up the right card at the right place and time.
The best part: It’s not a crowd-funding project. Swyp already has a working product that’s close to the final version, which will arrive in the fall of 2015. Co-founder and CEO Ashutosh Dhodapkar showed us how the card works and told us why he thinks it will be the credit card that declutters your wallet.
What it is and how it works
Swyp looks like a futuristic credit card for super rich people. It’s made of metal, has a small black and white display, and on it are a pair of buttons for clicking through your cards. There’s a stripe on the back for when you swipe the card through a payment terminal, and it’s as thin and rectangular as any credit card you’ve ever seen.
We saw a close-to-final prototype, which has a few rough edges, but the final design will be sleeker, with three clicky buttons in the lower right-hand corner, a logo in the top right, and the display on the bottom left. All your cards show up on the screen along with the nickname you gave the card, the last four number on the card, the expiration date, and CVV number. There will be a space for your signature on the back, and an EMV chip, which will become standard in the United States in 2015.
“We want it to be as much like a normal card as possible,” he said. “We found that plastic cards wear out really fast — Especially when you use one card for everything, so we made a metal card.”
The prototype we saw certainly looked like a pre-production unit, but it sure didn’t work like one.
Just a few minutes into the conversation, Dhodapkar opened up the PayPal app, popped the PayPay card reader into his iPhone 6’s headphone jack, and processed a small payment with one of the credit cards he has loaded onto the Swyp card. After one swipe of the card, PayPal processed the payment, and he had his receipt. The first demo worked perfectly, as did the second.
Then, he went through the same process with a few different cards that he had loaded onto Swyp beforehand. They all worked, but not without a few hitches. With one card it took awhile for the payment to process, and with another, Dhodapkar had to swipe it through a second time.
At first glance, you’d think Swyp is a futuristic credit card for super rich people.
When it comes to all-in-one credit cards like Swyp, it’s important that it work everywhere, every time, just like a normal credit card. In our review of Coin, we found that the card didn’t always work so well, and the reviewer often had to dig out his regular card with a sheepish grin on his face.
Dhodapkar says that using Swyp has to be effortless or else no one will buy it, and he’s right. By the time Swyp arrives in customers’ hands, he says the experience will be even more seamless than it already is. That’s also why he and his co-founder funded Swyp themselves instead of looking to Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
“My co-founder and I are hardware engineers by training, so we didn’t want to sell a product before we knew how to build it,” he said. “So we went through a lot of prototypes first, until we had a near-finished product to show for it.”
The card connects to an app on your phone via Bluetooth LE and the app is secured by a PIN and looks remarkably like the Apple Passbook app with Apple Pay onboard. You load your cards onto Swyp using the dongle that comes with the card, and from there, you can categorize or name your cards in the app. Personalization is key here, as Swyp can hold up to 25 cards, including everything from gift and rewards cards, to credit and debit cards.
Dhodapkar originally built the card because he was tired of wasting money by never redeeming the stacks of gift cards he had at home.
“I have two kids, and my wife and I constantly run into this problem where they get gift cards for their birthdays and we had this stack of cards lying around,” he explained. “And we kept running into this issue where we’d go to the mall, go to Toys R Us, and buy a toy, but I’d have $200 of gift cards at home, and none of them were with me.”
But thanks to Swyp, they soon will be, Dhodapkar says.
It can predict which credit card you need
At this point, if you think that Swyp sounds exactly like Coin and every other competitor smart card you’ve heard of, you’re not alone. However, Swyp claims to do one very cool thing that no other smart credit card can do yet: predict which card you’re going to use, based on when and where you use Swyp.
“It’s a fairly simple experience, but the key thing is the card starts to learn from you.”
“It’s a fairly simple experience, but the key thing is the card starts to learn from you,” he explained. “Over time the card will start to learn what account you use at what locations and what time you shop there. It will determine which card you’re most likely to use in that moment, and that way you don’t have to sit and click through multiple cards.”
Swyp doesn’t keep track of your transaction history or monitor your every move. Its app simply knows your location, thanks to your phone, and starts to learn which card you use the most at a certain location. For example, you might always whip out your credit card at the Apple Store, but when you’re hanging out at Starbucks, you use gift cards.
He imagines that as iBeacons and other Bluetooth systems become more popular, Swyp will also know that you have a CVS rewards card you want to use and pull that up as well.
“People have a pretty set routine and they tend to do the same things over and over again,” he said. “It lends itself to existing consumer behavior. People are used to just taking out their cards and swiping them and that’s what Swyp tries to do.”
Of course, since we haven’t tested Swyp out in the real world yet, we can’t say whether this key feature works or not.
Swyp also supports far more cards than Coin, which can only hold eight cards, has an EMV chip, and is supposedly rechargeable, though Dhodapkar didn’t explain exactly how that will work. He merely said that Swyp has a rechargeable battery that will last two years of normal use before you have to charge it.
What makes it secure
Swyp is at heart just a regular credit card. It doesn’t have any fancy sensors or other functions built in, it just has Bluetooth LE to sync up with your phone, and that’s it. The card itself is encrypted and features a bank-grade processor, making it just as safe as your average debit or credit card. None of your financial information is stored in the cloud, either, so you don’t have to worry about hackers absconding with all your information.
Swyp built the card with the intention of supporting the EMV, Chip and PIN standard that will become mandatory in the U.S. this fall. For those of you who don’t know, EMV cards are more secure than cards with magnetic stripes and are popular in Europe already.
If someone steals your card without the phone, it’s a useless piece of plastic.
The card has two token security, and holds your signature as well. To top it all off, only the last four digits of the card number, the expiration date, and the card name you choose show up on Swyp’s screen.
Since the card is linked to your phone, it literally does not work unless it’s within a certain distance from your phone. If someone steals your card without the phone, it’s a useless piece of plastic. Additionally, the card is sealed with a PIN, so if someone enters that number incorrectly many times in a row, Swyp will wipe all your information from the card immediately.
For those situations in which you have to hand your card over to someone, like a waiter in a restaurant, Swyp has a special mode that locks card to one account, so waiter can swipe it and pay even if they get out of range from your phone. As soon as the card gets back to you, it exits restaurant mode.
How to get one
Swyp is currently up for preorder on the company’s website for $50, but it will retail for $100 once it arrives in the fall. Swyp will only have a limited number of cards available in the fall, Dhodapkar told us, mainly because the company wants to get it right and not bite off more than it can chew.