intro: Last year, Apple captured the imagination of technology enthusiasts and credit card users alike when it introduced its Apple Pay mobile payments system. No longer would credit card users need to carry around a bulging wallet filled with myriad credit cards — their smartphones could simply be waived in front of a payment terminal.
That payment process has a huge appeal to many consumers, but there are a few limitations. First, the system works only if you have an iPhone 6, which is popular but far from universal. In addition, the retailer has to purchase terminals to be compatible with this system. Apple has signed up many prominent national chains, but only about 3% of retailers have the necessary Near Field Communications (NFC) compatible terminals and participate in Apple Pay.
So with these significant drawbacks, many credit card users are curious to explore some alternatives to Apple Pay that allow the mobile phone payments, or ones that store all of a user's accounts in a single card.
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quicklist: title: LoopPay text:
Where Apple Pay uses Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that communicates with a new generation of credit card terminals, LoopPay uses a something called Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) that utilizes the existing magnetic stripe reader on most credit card terminals. Shoppers can use the device as part of a phone case for their iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, or as an independent key fob along with an Android or iOS app on a smartphone.
Once you register your cards with the smartphone app, you make purchases by tapping a button on the back of the phone case or key fob, and selecting a stored credit card in the app, while holding the device up to the magnetic stripe reader. LoopPay claims the device can be read by 90 percent of the existing card readers deployed, but it is not compatible with EMV smart chip readers at this time. An EMV-compatible version is expected later this year.
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Samsung, an Apple rival, recently acquired LoopPay. LoopPay phone cases start at $49.95, and the key fob is $10 for a limited time (normally $29.95).
quicklist: title: Google Wallet text: The Google Wallet App has existed since 2011 as a mobile payments solution for users of Android phone that are compatible with the NFC system. Google just announced that it is partnering with another standard called Softcard (formerly under the unfortunate name ISIS). This new partnership promises a mobile payment system compatible with credit cards, offers, loyalty cards and gift cards. Under this new agreement, this system will come pre-installed on phones from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
quicklist: title:Plastc text:
This credit-card-sized device should be compatible with any smartphone, and can store debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards. Like Apple Pay, it uses the NFC wireless communications protocol, but it also contains both a rewritable magnetic stripe and an EMV chip for near 100 percent compatibility. It sells for $155 and is currently taking pre-orders that are estimated to ship this summer.
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quicklist: title:Coin text:
Coin, which is designed to be a credit-card-sized replacement for all of your credit cards, is now taking pre-orders for its beta with no shipping date. The device is planned to be compatible with iOS devices that have Bluetooth 4.0 hardware and that are running iOS 7.0 or later, and Android devices that have Bluetooth 4.0 hardware and that are running Android 4.3 or later. The idea is to allow Coin to work with debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards. Any merchant that uses a magnetic stripe reader should be able to accept Coin, just as they do a standard credit card, although it is not compatible with EMV chip readers yet. The device sells for $100 plus taxes and shipping.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.