Loop Payment Fob Lets You Swipe Your Phone Instead of a Credit Card
Maybe you’ve heard: Big technology companies are frantically trying to get rid of credit cards.
It’s a worthy goal, actually. Many people carry around purses or wallets that are bloated and bursting with plastic cards. And for what? Each sheet of hard plastic exists solely to bear a magnetic strip that you can run through card readers at checkout.
The dream is to let you pay for things, quickly and easily, with the swipe of your phone. Or, someday, your watch. Fast, convenient, secure — and cardless.
It’s not going so well, though. The world’s shops, gas stations and restaurants already have all the equipment they care to install: standard credit-card readers. They’re not interested in buying something new just to accommodate, for example, Android phones that are compatible with Google’s Wallet payment system.
But now there’s something new called the Loop, which began life as a successful Kickstarter project. It’s instantly compatible with those hundreds of millions of existing credit-card readers. But it still lets you pay for stuff without ever extracting any plastic from your wallet or purse.
It does that by sending out a magnetic signal that tricks the credit-card reader into thinking that you’ve actually swiped a card through it.
I’ll wait here while you read that again.
This is the part that’s hard to believe. You wave the Loop near the card-reader slot, up to a couple of inches away, and — beep! — you’ve just paid. (Inside the Loop, there’s an inductive magnetic loop of wire that generates an alternating current. Hence the name.)
I’ve paid for things at about 20 shops and restaurants with my Loop. It worked every time — and dropped a lot of cashiers’ jaws.
What’s wild is that although every single clerk has been amazed, I haven’t yet encountered one who was suspicious. When that card reader displays the “Card Authorized” message — well, its word goes.
(Actually, a few cashiers never even noticed. You know those card readers at drugstores, on your side of the counter, where you swipe your own card? The cashiers usually don’t even see what you’re doing. For all they know, you swiped a card.)
Right now, you can buy the Loop as a $40 white plastic square fob; that’s what I tested.
In April, you’ll be able to buy an iPhone case ($100) with the Loop transmitter built in. The case will also include a backup battery, something like the Mophie case; it will give your iPhone 60 percent more juice to get through the day.