Stratos is a special card that is designed to replace all your other cards, including debit cards and credit cards. Instead of carrying a big wallet filled with a plethora of card options, you’ll just have to carry one — no more bulky wallets or purses. It can even store information from your gift and loyalty cards.
|Info displayed on card||None|
|Card interaction||Single tap on any card surface and press one of three preset buttons on the card before swiping|
|# of accounts supported on the card||3|
|EMV||No (future upgrade)|
|NFC||No (future upgrade)|
|Battery life||2 years (non-rechargeable)|
|Pricing||$95 every year or $149 every 2 years|
How It Works
Smart cards offer convenience and some extra security, at a price. They do not offer extra rewards of any kind. Instead, you’ll have a much smaller wallet (or none at all) while still having access to all your cards. Some people are willing to pay for this, while others won’t.
At its most basic level, an all-in-one smart card is capable of storing the information from all your other cards, so that you can just carry the single smart card instead of a wallet full of different cards.
Stratos supports nearly every single card that has a magnetic stripe, including: debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, membership cards and more. Each of them have smartphone apps on iOS and Android devices to let you manage the accounts that are synced to your smart card.
Your smartphone acts as the remote control to your smart card. You can switch the cards that are synced the smart card and disable the smart card entirely if you ever had to. In fact, these smart cards will automatically lock themselves when they’re not within proximity of your smartphone. Unlike your credit card or debit card numbers, which are printed on the card, ready for thieves to use if those cards are stolen.
Today, paying with a credit card is extremely hassle-free — just take it out of your wallet and swipe. There’s no button-pressing or fiddling with your smartphone. This is the everyday card interaction that smart cards are competing against. So, the key question you should ask yourself before buying a smart card is, “How do I use it in everyday life and it better than how I use a card now?”
I like the card interaction from Stratos the most, after reviewing how each smart card would work. You just have to tap the card on any surface, press one of three card indicators and swipe. The video below gives you look of how it’ll work:
The introduction of mobile payments, like Apple Pay, is leading to the awareness of paying for things with near-field communications (NFC) technology. Mobile phones and plastic cards have this technology to let you “tap and pay” — no swiping needed.
EMV chips help protect your card information by scrambling the data when you make a purchase. There is a growing list of U.S. credit cards that have EMV chips.
Both of these technologies play a role in convenience and security so it is imperative that these smart cards adapt to the changing card technology. Unfortunately, Stratos does not support them. As we pointed out previously, the lack of EMV compliance could mean the fall of smart cards.
Active smartphone users can relate to the frustrations of a device with terrible battery life. With a smart card, we’re injecting these possible frustrations into the way that we manage our money, so battery life should be a major concern.
Stratos has non-rechargeable batteries that last for 2 years, which is a pretty long time (once the battery dies, you’ll need to pay for a new card).
If you want the convenience offered by these smart cards, you’re going to have to pay for it. Stratos uses a subscription model that requires you to pay every year ($95) or every two years ($149).
Right off the bat, the Stratos card appears the most expensive as you have to pay on a regular basis. The company says that the subscription pricing helps to cover regular card upgrades for members and it’ll pay for upcoming cloud features that include card activity tracking, insights, instant card downloads and more. For this price, you could afford the annual fee of some of the best travel rewards credit cards. Is the convenience of Stratos more valuable than a top-notch travel credit card?
The designs of the smart card from Stratos evoke a sense of luxury and prestige with their use of dark color tones. Without a doubt, the use of the darker colors is an homage to the notoriety established by the American Express Black Card, a rarely seen card that is obtainable only by the super rich.
However, I’m going to hand it to Stratos for offering several color schemes and for being the smart card that has no display of any sort. I like the minimalistic approach to the design — it is simple and clean with no screen or card information shown whatsoever.
Stratos really takes the cake in the looks department and I really like the simple card interaction. The pricing, however, is a major turnoff. The subscription model just seems rather expensive, especially when smart cards don’t provide any value, in my opinion, other than convenience.
But, I don’t yet know how long the batteries will actually last. So, for now, I’ll say that Stratos is a good option for a smart card.
Simon Zhen is a research analyst for MyBankTracker. He is an expert on consumer banking products, bank innovations, and financial technology.
Simon has contributed and/or been quoted in major publications and outlets including Consumer Reports, American Banker, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News – World Report, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Lifehacker, and AOL.com.