Immediately the lightbulb went on in Ryan’s mind that there was a significant shift happening in the market from a physical credit card to digital payments. His mind went wild as he dreamed about what the future of digital payments could look like and within a short time after he launched Plastc." 
So, after shopping at a store that sells fruit smoothies and sneakers (?), and being told that nobody cares enough about a universal credit card to use the free Google Wallet one, he concluded that the future is a universal credit card that people will pay hundreds of dollars for?
Only in Silicon Valley...
It's for people that keep multiple cards in their wallet.
Given the shift to chip-and-PIN, which can't be emulated like this -- Plastc claimed they could but never demonstrated it (because it's impossible) -- they were way too late to market with this idea even 3 years ago.
And if merchants are going to roll out new POS hardware they might as well jump to NFC as it leapfrogs cards on convenience. And security, if your device implements tokenization and fingerprints-instead-of-PINs (like Apple Pay and others). Also it's built in to lots of phones and watches now.
Over here in Europe we have Curve that does exactly that, without the fancy hardware: https://www.imaginecurve.com
Anyway Plastc was about trying to actually emulate a card. All this has been leapfrogged by Apple and Samsung Pay.
Europe has capped interchange fees to 0.2% and 0.3% for debit and credit cards respectively. However, three-party schemes (like Amex) and corporate cards are exempt and charge more. But you're right, I'm not sure how MasterCard is happy with that (since the product is clearly targeted at consumers).
If they'd had a whole lot of market share already, maybe they could have persuaded issuers to provide private keys in some way that could be imported into the Plastc device (which might itself then have a tamper-resistant smartcard processor like the one in the individual chip cards).
Even three years ago, the writing was surely on the wall that they were exploiting weaknesses in old tech to pull off their product, so there was an obvious sunset on their ability to operate their core product. Why would they invest in something that already has an end date on it?
With tap + debit, I can track all my individual transactions via services like Mint, plus my bank sends me an email on every transaction that happens to my accounts, so I have redundant logging of where all my money goes.
I don't know the tech behind it but this Dutch startup is doing exactly that: https://www.bunq.com/en/
"To rip it off, someone would have to get into the physical chip circuit and manipulate things to get your bank information. Not only is this level of data surgery really difficult, but it also requires a set of high-tech equipment that can cost north of $1 million."
And as for "far beyond average hardware hacking skill", I suspect if you got Bunny Huang, Michael Ossmann, and Travis Goodspeed together and curious - this might well be broken in a single weekend! ;-)
I have no idea why they went under.
In my experience, having many credit cards is a complete pain to manage, because for each card you need to monitor the statement, set up the automatic payment (or do it manually), change the address when you move, etc, etc, and no sane person is going to want to do that for lots of cards. The fact that it also fills you your wallet is really the least of the problems you'll have.
It's nice to have one card as a backup, and some hardcore churners / points collectors are going to want 5 or 6 cards and use different cards for different categories... but they're real niches, it's not something that a mainstream, mass market consumer is going to want to manage.
There is also a reward program which is OK if you shop at the places where you get points, but it's no different to signing your card up to a cashback program like Quidco. There are a few big names like Boots, Waterstones and B&Q where I go reasonably often. https://www.imaginecurve.com/curve-rewards-web/
The main advantage to me is security. If your card gets stolen, you can revoke it within minutes without worrying about someone having access to your debit card. Because it's linked to the app, you can see immediately when transactions happen. You can do the same with a debit card of course, but it's an added layer of obfuscation.
Originally it was supposed to be an amazing loophole for American Express users. You could spend Amex everywhere including on cash withdrawals and rack up points like nobody's business. Then Amex pulled out, so that was a bummer. A lot of people on HeadForPoints got very annoyed and felt like they'd been suckered in. To be fair to Curve, they compensated everyone.
I believe you can still use it to withdraw cash on credit cards though, so there's still a way to manufacture points spend.
I use mine daily and while it's fine 95% of the time, there have been sporadic occasions where it's been declined. You can't use it at pay-at-pump petrol stations, for instance. It's not reliable enough yet that I can go around with only a single card in my wallet (which sort of ruins the idea of it). It's really useful for traveling abroad though.
The credit card is a credit card (and I mostly use it for company purchases that get reimbursed).
The two debit cards correspond to two different checking accounts. I have a "main" checking account that my check gets deposited into, and another account that I use for, mainly, online purchases or recurring subscriptions like netflix or anything where I am worried about card security. I transfer money into the account, then make the purchase, never leaving more than a hundred bucks or so floating in the account. That way, I limit my own pain in the event that someone gets hacked or my card gets leaked online - I'd much rather not be able to pay netflix than not be able to pay rent.
At one point, I also had a home depot card when my wife and I were fixing up our house in preparation to sell it.
I have a wallet that functions effectively as my phone case and wallet in one, and reducing the number of cards I have to carry around to - potentially - drivers' license, one payment card, and clipper card would be fantastic.
About a decade ago, I took a sudden flight to a small airport in Colorado due to an emergency at work. When I arrived, I had nothing but a Visa, and a few dollars Canadian.
I was frustrated to find that I couldn't get food or call my work, because Visa wasn't accepted anywhere. The highlight was trying to make a call on a payphone and talking to the operator. When I asked if I could use my credit card to make a call, she listed off MasterCard and a half-dozen credit cards I'd never heard of. "How about Visa?" "No, sorry."
I will forever remember the janitor for lending me his cell phone and getting me out of that mess. After that, I made sure I carried multiple cards.
(I did once end up having a tremendously fun weekend in Melbourne thanks to a broken down bike and a weekend long outage of my then only bank's ATM network - but it would have been even more fun with more than the cash in my pocket and relying on friends for somewhere to sleep until a branch opened on Monday morning...)
Vienna does away with all of this fuss by simply doing random checks, issuing on the spot fines for fare evaders, and not having to manage the expense of turnstiles etc.
I kind of like the barriers, if you are on the station platform, then you have definitely paid. For me, the stations that don't have barriers are more stressful, as you run the risk of forgetting to tap your card (or the tap not registering) and incurring a maximum fare.
Local bus drivers will sell tickets, but there are also ticket validation machines in the middle of most busses. Local trains and subways are trust basis, but I've seen more random ticket checks recently. Ticket checks are more frequent on long-distance trains, but still, no barriers. I have yet to travel on local or long-distance trains in Germany or Austria that aren't trust-based.
I definitely prefer the proof-of-payment setup more. London (which has turnstiles) can get crazy backups with people trying to tap into / out of the system, and the Berlin system lets you engineer more convenient and therefore customer-friendly stations -- no need for mezzanines, paid vs free elevators, and the like.
And promptly got pulled off the train at the next stop for not paying.
They were very understanding when I explained I had only been in the country about two hours (and showed my passport stamp as proof). They explained that there are machines to punch holes in the tickets... I did think it was strange that there weren't any turnstiles, but I figured, maybe you run into them on the way out or something (and I had only been in a foreign country two hours, everything was strange).
It's pretty common for smaller stations near major football stadia to have the barriers controlled manually after big games -- totally open for some minutes, then completely shut until the platform has cleared.
(London used to have a proof-of-payment system on the articulated buses, since you were allowed to board at any door, and it still exists on the trams.)
Tag in and forget to tag out, you pay the maximum fare.
Forget to tag in, hope you don't get checked. There is no option to tag out without having tagged in. (Although I've seen this happen to someone, and he was just given a warning.)
Get checked without having tagged in, pay $400, which is about 30 times the maximum fare.
Having one single interface to pay all bills and see spending breakdowns aggregated across all your cards, recommending the optimal order to pay down cards (if you are going to carry a balance).
Then on top of this, automatic fallback in case one card is declined, new numbers for every online transaction (not tied to a single provider).
You could even layer on top a simple scripting language to choose the card to be used for a given transaction. E.g. Use my rewards card when buying gas, but if I've maxed out the points then use the lowest interest card. Or round robin the cards to spread out the balance.
Or imagine a group outing where everyone can all combine into a single virtual card, with the ability to distribute charges however you want on the back end.
There are a ton of cool possibilities available (albeit very challenging to get right). And in theory, many people have at least 2 cards for redundancy purposes. Add in no fee rewards cards (Target, etc) and it will add up even for non hardcore points collectors.
At a gas station you would use the card that had the best gas points. At the grocery store it would switch to the card with the best grocery points...
I was never interested in it, because I don't really want to manage many cards, but I can see the appeal in it.
I don't think this is the case. I think the average person has several credit cards (and is probably in the red on all of them).
On the other end of the spectrum is the financial-savvy user that also has multiple credit cards: One that gives them a gas discount, one for their Costco membership, one for restaurant cash-back, one for general purpose cash-back, one that waives the foreign currency conversion fee, etc.
I have a credit card for precisely this purpose (it's also general-purpose cash back). It's not as useful as you might expect -- most places in China that accept foreign credit cards do so only through an agreement with a chinese bank that imposes a ridiculously disadvantageous exchange rate. (But there's no "conversion fee" -- the bank generously bills you in USD. How nice of them.) They don't seem to be able to bill your card in yuan directly even though the card supports it.
On the other hand, my debit card from the same bank that also has no foreign currency conversion fee works perfectly to get cash from ATMs.
I'm assuming they're making money on the exchange rate, then?
I asked them (my bank) about it, got a response I don't remember, and decided I could live with 0.5%
The cards tend to have no other promotion, whereas comparable cards might include travel insurance, or some gift vouchers when you sign up.
Why? I did that once, and it was a huge pain. But the cards work just as well no matter what they think your address of record is. Now I just don't change it.
If I was worried, I'd tell the payment cards to stop sending me mail.
I carry two credit cards because one is American Express and pays me more but fewer places accept it, so I have a backup Visa that pays me a bit less but everywhere accepts it.
Americans never believe this until they've made a frantic run to an ATM after hosting a big dinner out or when they want to check out of that charming Gasthaus in a ski town.
When I first got over here in 2004, Media Markt (large electronics chain) didn't take credit cards, but did take EC-cards.
The EU imposes a maximum 0.3% fee to the merchant for accepting a credit card. This is to avoid any unfair competition between cash and cards, and between poorer people not eligible for cards that get cashback.
The UK used to have cards giving 2-3% cashback, sometimes more, but they've all been withdrawn.
I don't bother with a credit card, since it's one less automatic bill payment and one less statement to check.
I have a card that gets me miles instead of cash. I did the maths and worked out those were better value for what I wanted. Again, they're just free miles and I'm always flying with the airline anyway so I'm never making extra trips in order to spend them.
The genius of the system I use is that I have multiple credit cards (American Express, Visa) but actually they all just feed into the same account with the same bill to make managing them simple.
I was just passing through for a couple of days so never had the chance to try it for myself, ymmv
Currently I use it because of the novelty but it's actually more difficult for me than a physical card
Probably the one with $400 juice press from this morning. What a glorious time.
"Flip Your Coin For A $50 Discount
Coin has been acquired and is now defunct. Or in other words, they sold you out. Don’t worry, Plastc’s got your back. We’re giving you the opportunity to trade-up your extinct card for $50 off a Plastc Card pre-order. Looks like you’re back in business!
Flip your Coin
Enter your email below and click “Trade-Up”
Instantly receive a $50 discount when you place your Plastc Card pre-order
Instructions will be sent to you by e-mail"
PS. If anyone got burnt twice by this, you should send me $200, and your Plastc pre-order receipt, and I swear I'll build you a smart card that will disrupt your wallet.
Edit: apparently there is a r/plastc and it declared plastc a scam 7 months ago: https://www.reddit.com/r/Plastc/comments/52or45/due_to_recen...
To me it's fascinating how much Plastc seems to have flown under the radar. The initial announcement, and then almost no coverage until today: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/plastc/press
I wonder if they even got the millions in preorders it claimed? How would anyone know if they lied? Did they ever get VC funding, which would presumably require me to tell the truth to investors?
Canada went straight to Chip & Pin, skipping over Chip & Sign. Since credit cards generally didn't have PINs at the time, there was a little work on the part of the issuing banks to assign PINs. One of my cards came with a letter that said "Use the same PIN as you use with your regular bank card", another came with one that said "Here's your new PIN, you can change it at any of our ATMs" (I only have a credit card with this bank). This all happened over 10 years ago.
When I visited the US recently, I used one of my cards and the cashier said "Oh, you're from Canada, you have to enter a PIN" after inserting it into the payment terminal. A payment at Walmart was even easier as the terminal was customer-facing, it worked just like it does in Canada - insert card, verify amount, enter PIN, done.
Clearly the infrastructure is in place, since the transactions all worked, but there seems to be some strange reluctance for the card issuers to actually use it.
Someone I spoke to at capital one said that Visa/MS decided to do Chip+Sign in the US due to the increased support costs of forgotten PINs.
Maybe it's different here because debit cards are so common that we've been trained to remember our PINs. My bank even uses Chip & PIN as the first step for an in-person transaction at a teller.
Some banks do that here in the US as well, as do retailers. Those are both for debit card transactions, though.
Or you could do the responsible thing and keep preorder money in escrow.
Madoff was also only a few signatures from having his Ponzi scheme staying afloat.
It isn't about being easy. It's about doing what is right. I don't care that it's not easy. Why would I, if I was a backer and you took my money?
I get what you are saying, but not taking pre-orders while they are teetering on the edge of going bust seems like the "decent" thing to do.
When we were visiting Yahoo to talk about being acquired, we had to interrupt everything and borrow one of their conference rooms to talk down an investor who was about to back out of a new funding round we needed to stay alive. So even in the middle of getting rich we were fighting off the grim reaper.
Instead, from all external appearances, they did everything they could to do right by themselves - not their customers.
Exactly. Sequestering pre-order money - at least some fraction of it - should have been one of the first orders of business for any company who cares about integrity.
If I have a hardware product that costs $80 to make (x10,000) and I'm selling it on Kickstarter for $100, are you saying that after taking in a million on kickstarter I should just sequester it and then find a spare $800k to do the actual manufacturing?
Kickstarter to fund manufacturing should happen at the appropriate time in the process, if you're "doing it the right way."
Also they just took Series A? $4.3M
They've just deleted all social profiles
I wish they have clarified this in the email and the website in plain English. I'm no lawyer, but this sounds like they won't refund.
> What This Means For Backers:
> It’s been a long road with a lot of obstacles. The support of our amazing backers has been incredible, which makes this announcement even harder. We were so incredibly ready for production in order to hit our deadlines but without capital it is impossible for us to move forward and we will not be able to fulfill any pre-orders.
How is this possible? I don't get it.
If you can't face the music when times are bad, you don't deserve the rewards during the good times. People trusted Ryan to the tune of $9MM in pre-orders and he rewards them by spending all the money and disappearing?
No entrepreneur should ever desert their customers and backers like this.
Now I can't add anymore loyalty cards to my Coin. Damn internet of shit.
CC companies have too many incentives to force you to carry their physical card, so they will keep on producing things like the chip-and-PIN tech. That means we will always have one force pushing us to carry their physical card, and until I NEVER need to pull out that real card I have to carry it with me, so I might as well just use it.
Disclaimer: I work on a similar product
Taking someone's money and relying/hoping on future investments to be able to deliver what people already bought is kind of risky...