Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I dislike this article: it seems to suffer from 'perfect is the enemy of good'-itis and willful misunderstanding of how complex -- and difficult -- commerce can be.

The author basically argues that things should be wonderful and easy and the service providers should handle it all (ignoring the difficulties of such a provision):

I should use a plastic card, cheap, easily replaceable, low cost (free in most cases), and my card account should buffer my purchase as long as the combined total of credit/cash in my accounts is greater than or equal to my purchase. I should then be able to place either the entirety of my purchase or parts of my purchase in separate accounts that provide different benefits. (Think, business, flight mileage, cash back rewards, etc) The service should often be smart enough to learn where I move my purchase and do so automatically if I so choose.


I believe we should be moving away from cards altogether. I think google wallet, square, and other RFID/NFC technologies are thinking about the future, where our devices are consolidated and integrated with the world around us. Bitcoin, a virtual currency, proves the success of something that exists purely in the aether, and keeping a Bitcoin wallet on your phone is easy.

How is going from 'wallet filled with cards' to 'one card' not a step in the right direction to 'no cards'? Maybe the technology or industry isn't moving as fast as the author would like, but it's entirely hyperbolic to say that Coin's trajectory runs opposite from the author's ideal vision.

Coin's goal is to abstract the ownership of a credit card away from the plastic itself. If you want RFID/NFC to succeed -- as the author does, as I do, and as I'm sure many other people do, then that's a good thing.

(The preorder legality side of things isn't my domain, so I can't really comment on that.)

Coin is like "Google Voice for Credit Card". Its a layer that sits on top of an old, crusty infrastructure that hopefully crumbles with time, but until then, we have to deal with it somehow.

Without a doubt.

Coin actually increases the complexity of an already complex and archaic system.

The product manages to create more headaches for the consumer and the merchant by consolidating various credit cards in a digital device with a nice "cool" factor but lacking any real solution to the many problems associated with the complex back-ends in the payments space.

Conceptually, it's not a bad product, and it sucks that the founders are probably reading hundreds of people slamming their hard work. But it's reality.

  The product manages to create more headaches for the consumer
I have 4 credit cards in my wallet. If this consolidates down to 1 then I don't care what else it does.

What if it consolidates four reliable cards down to one mostly-reliable one?

What if my car breaks down?

That doesn't mean that cars were a bad idea, just that I have a crappy car.

Do you have any reason to believe that Coin will be any less reliable than a regular credit card?

Yes, how about "many merchants won't accept it". Or "the battery runs out after 1 year."

A vision just flashed before my eyes, of my coworkers all charging their credit cards on their desks, next to the cell phone that is also perennially charging.

As far as I know, neither of those things are true.

Many merchants I swipe my own card and they never see it. A waitress may question it, but I have no reason to believe they won't accept it if it is validated by their card reader.

The website says the battery should last two years.

When I first moved to the UK, you should have seen the hassle I had to go through to pay with my Norwegian VISA debit card. Norwegian debit cards have a portion of them that looks like an ID card, with photo and birth date. While they did accept it in the end, several places thought I was trying to pay with my passport or ID card, despite the obvious VISA logo.

Given that, I'd very much hesitate to try to pay with something that clearly isn't the original card. (Of course, I won't be able to anyway, since I'm outside the US, and every single one of my cards these days are chip and pin cards)

Any merchant can easily refuse it. They won't know what it is ahead of time. And many merchants have systems where they have to pay a (much) higher fee for certain credit cards (cough AmEx). So, even though they could accept them with their plan, they purposely don't. They don't know what the heck this unbranded thing with no logos are, so they'll just tell you to use something else.

Stupid question. Win.

What if it only works 75% of the time? Let's say you eat a meal, and just when you go to pay, the restaurant looks at this crazy thing and says "no, you can't use that". You have to carry another card with you, or cash to cover any purchase you might make.

It's only good if it works as well as credit cards work - 99.9% of places accept them.

Well, sort of. You could always carry this, and a Visa, so you're down from 4 cards to two.

Yes, or you could always carry only the Visa. Works splendid, especially when the VISA is bound to a debit only account.

I'm curious what you need four credit cards for though. I can see maybe a personal one and a business one, but what are the others for?

I have a Delta AmEx that I use to get miles. This card also has my biggest limit. When people don't take AmEx, I use my older Discover card. This has my second biggest limit and second best rewards.

When they don't take that, I use my Chase Visa card, which has a pretty small limit and pretty crappy rewards. I also have my first card, a Capital One Visa card, which I keep around because there's a cool picture on it.

I also have a business credit card for work, and another for my personal LLC.

And there's my debit card I use for ATMs.

And how are 4 cards a problem?

Honest question. I also have 4 cards. They don't thicken my wallet, they weigh nothing, and.. I never had a problem pulling the one I want on first try.

I mean, even in terms of 'first world problems', turning my 4 cards into 1 would never even have occurred to me.

Replacing them with a card that will one day make me say "Sorry can't pay, looks like the battery in my CC went flat" seems outright ridiculous.

This. Where is the problem here that this solves? Even if you had 8 cards (the limit of Coin), how often does selecting the correct card become a problem, enough to warrant this kind of over complicated, error prone solution?

First world problems indeed! And people claim there isn't a tech bubble, if projects like this get funding...

If I max out the monthly rewards on one card, I can start building the rewards on the next.

Some people can't manage their spending with a credit card, some people can't believe that these companies are giving away all that free shit (even money in return) just by not paying cash. Depends on how they manage their finances.

That sounds like an enormous headache. I am very glad to sacrifice 5% of my $10 000/yr grocery bill to not have that headache.

$500/yr to not have to listen to anyone telling me how I can save a few more cents? Priceless - no wait, not even priceless, only $500/yr!

Rewards are transparent. Spend some money and before you know it, you get a $100 check or gas cards or amazon credit etc. What a headache!!! I hate it when people give me money for free!

For free? Really? No, people give you money, as they are building a great big database of your consuming-behavior. Not only what you buy, but when, where, in which quantities, what goes together with what, and so on.

That is the currency, that you do pay for these "perks".

I use them for different rewards. If I'm out grocery shopping, I'd use the card that gives me 5% back on grocery purchases. Similar with flight purchases with a different card.

The AMEX, the one for places that don't take AMEX, the one with the high limit and the one for buying things in foreign currencies.

Is making it easier to carry around and use multiple credit cards really a good thing?

No kidding. Credit card companies are going to love this device.

The increase in complexity isn't on the user's side, though. Look at Square - in a way, it adds complexity, since it sits on top of the "crusty" infrastructure, and it requires a smartphone/tablet and dongle, a touchscreen app, etc. That's definitely an increase in complexity, but also an increase in usability.

Isn't the "old crusty infrastructure" in this case the credit card itself?

It seems ridiculous to try to kill the credit card with... a credit card.

I wouldn't be surprised if Clinkle, LoopPay, Square, or any of the many startups in this space kills the credit card (and thus Coin) before Coin makes its first delivery in Summer 2014.

I think you're underestimating how entrenched the CC companies are in our society. I agree that they'll eventually be replaced, but I doubt it will be in the next year, let alone the next 5 years.

I think Coin is a nice intermediate step between 10 cards in your wallet, and no wallet at all. Intermediate steps are viable businesses. I think Square is an intermediate step, and they seem to be doing just fine. They're obviously going to be at the forefront of eliminating cards all together, but they knew that credit cards aren't going away anytime soon, and so they leveraged that to get their foot in the door with the merchants.

Square, which is a point-of-sale system? Two other things, which the billions of people who use credit cards every day have never heard of?

What would constitute "killing" the credit card, anyway? Less than 5% of the population using it? I don't see that happening for a good 15 or 20 years at a bare minimum.

Do keep in mind, though, that of the "billions of people" who use credit cards, the number that use cards that can be cloned by reading the magnetic stripe is fast dwindling. Until/unless Coin gets cosy enough with the card associations to the point where they can get some way of cloning chip and pin cards (EMV), they're DOA in a quickly rising list of countries that already covers the majority of the developed world.

And a large part of the point of chip and pin cards is that they're meant to be impossible to clone. E.g. in France it supposedly cut card fraud by about 80% for in-person transactions. So unless Coin can convince them that it will be as secure or more secure than these cards, they're going to be pretty much limited to the US, and increasingly get marginalised in the US too: Most large US banks have announced rollout plans for EMV cards (though many will be chip + signature rather than chip + pin).

If you wouldn't be surprised by that, you must not be frequently surprised.

Absolutely not. The old crusty layer is everything you don't see running in the background. The banks, the payment systems, the clearing houses, the entire system as a whole.

Google Voice for credit cards is ... Google Wallet. Or at least, it was supposed to have been. Page killed it off before this year's I/O. http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/05/google-kills-its-pla...

> Coin is like "Google Voice for Credit Card"

Hopefully not "Google Wave for Credit Card"

or G+ for credit card

I used to work at the Federal Trade Commission, so I'm quite familiar with this particular legal issue. What Coin is doing violates neither the spirit nor the letter of the Mail Order Rule.

The law states that orders must be shipped within the time stated by the company, and there is a default of 30 days if no other shipping estimate is given. In this case, Coin clearly and conspicuously states that they will ship in the Summer of 2014.

If they fail to ship by that time, they are required to offer purchasers a refund. However, the law clearly states that the company can set their shipping timeline, so long as they make the company aware of it.

I don't think the authors issue is with the Mail Order Rule, but instead card processing networks.

Visa and MasterCard will allow you to authorize cards for a pre-order (actually for any transaction, they don't care if it is a pre-order ot not), and then finalize the purchase when you ship. They do not allow you to use finalized funds as a business loan.

Agree completely. How did this manage to bubble up to the top of HN?

Just to be clear: you are asking how a negative, critical, "this is stupid" article made it to the top of Hacker News?

I think this is a good sign for the Coin creators. IIRC Dropbox and AirBnB had similar negative buzz when they were announced. The YCombinator forum seems to like to bash implementation of ideas, specially by throwing other ideas which in theory are better (ideas are dime a dozen anyways).

They also bashed Color.

Hah. Fair point.

I upvoted both the Coin link and the link against Coin. I find it's an interesting discussion either way.


While the ideal solution to this problem might be server side, as the author suggestions, that is in no way a feasible solution. The card networks are in direct competition with each other, so there's no way you could get a single card with Visa and Amex/MC on it, not to mention there's competition between issuers.

Heck, I can't even get my Chase credit account and checking account on the same physical card and those two are tied to the same user account at a single bank and go through a single credit card network.

I can't wait to get my Coin. I'll probably still carry around the Coin and a backup card, but that takes me down from 4 to 2.

The one plastic card approach seemed to describe https://walla.by/the-wallaby-card

I remember looking into that one time. It seemed like a good idea but I don't recall why I never did it. Maybe because I mainly keep a small set of cards in rotation and don't really use different rewards cards at any given time. It is a nice concept though. I might need to look into it again.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact