The idea of uncluttering a consumer's wallet by loading multiple payment accounts into a single high-tech card has been tried — and failed — for years. But the dream lives on.
The graveyard of defunct all-in-one startups includes companies like Coin, Swyp, Stratos and Plastc. But whenever one of these companies failed, its technology simply moved on to a new owner. Coin's technology became the foundation of Fitbit Pay, and Plastc's platform became part of Edge Mobile Payments LLC.
Earlier platforms failed because they dreamed too small, according to Edge CEO Peter Garrett. Just because the device looks like an ordinary credit card doesn't mean it has to limit itself to that role.
"We have to be more competitive because that’s what consumers want," Garrett said. "They want P2P transfers, mobile check deposits and more.”
For Edge to deliver on that all-in-one concept, the company decided that each Edge Card customer would also receive a full-featured digital bank account with budgeting and investing tools, digital receipts, P2P money transfers and mobile check deposits. The bank accounts will be offered through a partner program manager, but eventually Edge plans to file for its own charter. All accounts will have the FDIC insurance one would expect from a brick and mortar bank, but without a branch network.
The card also has to appeal to banks, who lose valuable branding space when they agree to put their products into someone else's digital wallet. It's why so many nonbank mobile wallets use a digital image of each issuer's plastic card within the app.
"The reality is that banks want to control the branding. It’s their identity with their customers and they don’t want to lose it," Garrett said.
So Edge is changing how its card will work and where other bank card credentials are stored. This is particularly important as Edge has the desire to extend itself into online shopping, mobile payments, cryptocurrency exchange and wearables.
Garrett describes Edge's system like how the Curve prepaid card in the U.K. works. Curve uses a single transactional Mastercard at the point of sale with the bank cards funding it via a mobile app, allowing the customer to choose which one will be charged. But that’s where the similarities end, since the Edge card also connects via Bluetooth to provide an array of digital features and functions to the consumer.
Because Edge is backed by investors, it is in a much different position than many of its predecessors, which favored a pre-sale or crowdfunding model. Thus, Edge has to focus on a more long-term plan than just fulfilling its immediate orders.
Edge plans to expand into wearables to add options for branding and iconography. Wearables "are a more of a fashion play," Garrett said. "Think of loading a concert ticket onto a wristband with the ability to make purchases at the event.”
Edge’s May 24 acquisition of Nexus Payments gives it 18 IP assets such as its Cloud Wallet and an NFC ring that would allow the firm to deliver on such a capability.
Edge plans to launch its digital banking and cloud wallet platform alongside the Edge Card and Edge Pay mobile app this year.
Pricing for the Edge Card is tentatively in the $150 to $200 range and will be finalized when orders will be open up in Q4 2018 with deliveries scheduled for Q1 2019. Thrifty consumers can get a bank account with a traditional debit card for free if they opt not to use Edge Card.