I hate my wallet. It's uncomfortable, overflowing, and I am always looking for ways to simplify what I keep in my pocket.
It seems I'm not alone, as the recent influx of new "wallet cards" proves. Stratos (opens in new tab) is the latest card on the market, following the likes of Swyp (opens in new tab), Coin (opens in new tab), and Plastc (opens in new tab), and it's been getting a lot of attention for being the simplest of the bunch - in a good way.
All of these cards run on a simple principle. You scan all of the cards with a magnetic strip - credit, debit, gift, rewards/loyalty, entry, etc. - into an app on your phone. The cards are then all accessible via Bluetooth and you can pick and choose which one to use on the spot.
Stratos certainly has some advantages over the competition. For starters, Stratos stores three cards directly on it, so you can use them even without your phone. And you can store as many as you like on your phone - other cards have a maximum number. Statos also doesn't need to be charged, like Plastc does; instead, if the battery gets low, the company gets notified and you just get sent a new one.
In fact, you'll get a new one every year while you're a member. Speaking of which, membership is $95 (£60) per year. It may seem like a lot, but it means you'll always get up-to-date cards, and looking ahead, that's not something to scoff at.
The company is looking to improve the app, so that it learns to remind you to use rewards cards, which could potentially save you much more over the course of the year. Plus, from a UK perspective, while Stratos will work in any magnetic card reader, it's mainly targeting the US market, which means it doesn't have a chip and pin function or NFC payment options. Yet.
Stratos has stated that it will be constantly updating its cards and app, with a look towards international expansion very soon. So paying yearly to stay on the cutting edge and always have a replacement sent out if needed seems reasonable.
The card is also more secure than a bank card, boasting bank-level encryption and the ability to shut down remotely if lost of stolen. That said, most of the wallet cards do that too. Unlike the others, though, Stratos never displays your card number, whereas the other cards display information on touch screens. Those touch screens are useful - they require various passcodes to actually activate the card, adding an extra level of security. Platc even boasts a photo ID on its screen.
Ultimately, though, I'm not convinced. The trade off for the screens is having to charge your credit card. Stratos tap activation and simple touch features give it a much better battery life.
It's clear that the age of the classic wallet is coming to an end. Things like Apple Pay and NFC may be getting more attention, but cards like Stratos will likely become the norm soon, especially once they incorporate chip and pin features.
And as someone who hates his wallet, I say anything that makes it a little thinner is a good thing.