6 Pieces of Credit Card Tech That Will Blow Your Mind

By Mark Jackson. Last updated 19 August 2014. 5 comments

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Credit cards are ubiquitous nowadays, but have you ever wondered what is going on inside those cards, or the machines that are in "charge" of making sure the purchases you make are credited to your account? We thought it might be an interesting series to explore the hidden technology that might impress you that's hiding in your wallet!

1. Chip + PIN Technology

This bit of technology is ubiquitous in Europe and South America, and until recently, nearly nonexistent in the United States. But, those of you that have recently applied for and received a credit card may have in your possession a credit card with a gold square in the middle of the card. This is called an EMV chip, and it makes it nearly impossible for thieves to steal your credit card and use it for purchases. To use it, a PIN is required, like a debit card. Manufacturing a fake credit card in your name is nearly impossible, according to Andi Coleman, who is part of the committee that regulates standards for credit cards in the United States. (See also: Will New Chip and Pin Technology Stop Identity Theft?)

2. Coin

This "all-in-one" credit card made quite a splash in 2013 with its flashy release of a card that can store all your credit cards in one piece of plastic, making some readers of this site very happy I am sure! You can take a look at this TechCrunch article to see it in action, but we may be looking at the future of card technology (or at least until they are deemed useless by future tech).

3. "Tap and Go"

One piece of technology that I find cool in some credit cards is the "tap and go" feature. This works just as it sounds — simply tap your credit card on the reader at the register, and go on your merry way. It speeds up transactions, which is good for merchants like Starbucks with long lines. There is a computer chip and antenna embedded in each card, which adds to costs but is in the best interests of the merchant (who saves time) and the credit card company (which makes it easier for consumers to use their card, increasing usage).

4. Tokenization

Those that are worried about their individual data being stolen by hackers can be relieved that "tokenization" is catching on. Basically, your data is encrypted into a "token" that is essentially worthless if stolen en route from your card to the merchant. The merchant can then convert back the token into something that it can read, and ultimately charge you for. (See also: How to Avoid Credit Card Fraud)

What type of credit card are you interested in?
How much do you spend per month?
Do you carry a balance?

5. Ondot

Ondot, marketed as the remote control for your credit card, gives you control over when and where your cards can be used. Location based controls can be tied to zip code, so a thief won't get far, or a card can be synced to a smartphone GPS, which means if it wanders far from your phone, it won't work. Other features include the ability to block certain stores or types of stores. It's an unprecedented level of control for those who want to manage their own — or their children's or their employees' — credit card spending. (See also: Best Secured Credit Cards)

6. Loop

The smartphonification of America continues apace, with several companies finding ways to put your cards into a "wallet" on your phone, which you then use to make payments. Loop stores your credit card data on your smartphone, and includes a special protector that wraps around your phone to communicate with payment machines. (They also offer a key fob that does the same.) Place your phone or key fob against the credit card reader, select a card on your iPhone or compatible Android phone, press the Loop button, and the transaction is complete.

So, what do you think? Are you eyeing some of this new technology as a feature for your next credit card? Chip and PIN technology will be ubiquitous within the next two to three years here in the United States, but you'll want to secure a card with this feature if you plan on traveling abroad anytime soon. If not, you'll be stuck using your debit card or cash.

Do you think any of these credit card advancements help you manage your spending more carefully? Or do you think they will make it too easy to charge another purchase? Please share in comments!

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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Guest's picture

I'd be lying if I didn't say that Coin scares the hell out of me. I'm not a computer expert but I can't imagine it's hard to pull data off that thing!

Jay

Guest's picture
JoeDV

With chip and pin becoming the standard as of Oct 2015, most of these mobile technologies are going to have quite the hurdle to overcome. The whole point of the chip and pin is that your card can't be copied. So how they plan on overcoming that aspect of it is an unknown. If the card can be transferred to a mobile tech, then chip and pin is useless, and if it can't, then these mobile payment systems are. So Loop and Coin could very easily become a short lived fad.

Guest's picture
Bill

JoeDV, if Loop's technology is going to be a short lived fad then why did Visa recently invest in the company? Did Visa's VC arm not know that chip and PIN was going to be the standard by Oct 2015?

http://venturebeat.com/2014/07/24/visa-invests-in-looppay-mobile-payment...

Guest's picture
JoeDV

Most likely because as of Oct '15 when chip and pin is required, the business accepting old swipe technology also accepts the burden of responsibility for any fraudulent purchases, not the banks or card issuer. So will it work.. yes, as long as old terminals are still around.. which will likely be for a few years. However, that number will be shrinking more and more over time as retailers switch over to chip and pin terminals.

I'm not knocking them, I'm a user as a matter of fact. I just think that it's long term feasibility is a little shaky, as are all mobile payment systems. As I mentioned, there are two scenarios.. either the card can't be replicated and chip and pin works, or there's a way to get around chip and pin, which makes it useless and provides no more security then we have currently.

Guest's picture
Bill

First, swipe technology will be around for a very, very long time. As long as there are gift cards and prepaid credit cards. Chip cards are not cost effective for either of those because the amount of loss is limited.

Second, you hit the nail on the head about chip and pin not being very secure. Read about putting clear nail polish on the chip, generating read failures, and then doing a fallback transaction.

https://www.invisiblethreat.ca/2013/12/bypassing-chip-and-pin/

No security...

Also, chip and pin would not have prevented cardholder information from being stolen in the Target credit card breach. Hard to make a chip and pin card with that info, but you could use the stolen PAN and expiration date to purchase things online.

Third, I think that VISA and Synchrony Financial (formerly GE capital; huge issuer of private label credit cards) see what the real time tokenization technology that Loop enables will allow them to do - true security for a credit card transaction because the payment information is only good for one transaction, yet it works with the current POS systems so the retailers have to do absolutely nothing on their end to get this security. It is all done on the back end, on the issuing banks servers.

Don't count Loop out just yet. After all, one of their founders invented the magnetic swipe reader and the other founder created a credit card reader that attaches to a mobile phone long before Square came on the market.