Carrying too many credit cards? There's a card for that

Technically Incorrect: The Stratos Card is a new so-called connected card that claims to be a fine solution to wallet overcrowding. But who will pay $95 for it?

Chris Matyszczyk
4 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Would you pay $95 for this convenience? Statos screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Thiago Olson built a nuclear reactor in high school.

He's grown up now. So he's elevated his horizons and created a credit card.

This is no ordinary credit card. For one thing, it flashes. For another, it exists to hold all your other credit cards, as well as debit cards, store cards and that card that gives you access to that private club where you're free to wear leather, furry tassels and carry a Goyard bag with a Pekinese inside.

Launching today and shipping in April, the Stratos Card, as it is known, is frightfully revolutionary. At least that's what Olson told me as he demonstrated its flashing lights. And, yes, of course it's connected to an app on your phone. Olson is 25. We've established a long time ago that 25-year-olds create apps. It's far more difficult than creating a nuclear reactor.

Olson told me: "Our research discovered that people in their 20s and 30s want something else than the cookie cutter black card while also freeing them from their wallets."

"Free me from my wallet!" is not a cry I've often heard. Then again, I've never owned a wallet.

Olson explained to me that the Stratos Card is "like an iPod for your wallet." He said: "Just like an iPod digitizes and stores all your CDs and music, Stratos stores all your cards while adding security features and FitBit-like card tracking."

This is, of course, what I've always craved. Well, other than a woman who understands me and a falcon that brings me my breakfast.

"Black cards are now a cliche," he told me. So what is he creating here? Why, "a lifestyle brand experience from the start by offering a membership that includes card upgrades, replacements and white glove support." No cliches there, you'll notice.

You'll also notice the word "membership." Lifestyle, like love, doesn't come free, does it? The Stratos Card costs $95 per year. ($145 for a two-year membership)

However, in Olson's words, it reflects "a youthful, modern, Scandinavian, yet elegant style." At heart, we all want to be Scandinavian. They have excellent health service, a wonderful sense of happiness, and weather brought to you by Beelzebub and his Dancing Thermometers.

Olson gave me a demonstration of the card in a San Francisco restaurant. Most fascinating to me was when he tapped the card in order to bring it to full Bluetoothed life. At least that's what I thought he was doing before he told me what he was really doing.

"When you tap your Stratos Card, your mobile device pairs with the card, giving you the ability to receive instant notifications on the mobile lock screen for location-based suggestions, or reminders of the three cards loaded," he said. "It also give you instantaneous feedback as to which card you have selected when pressing a touch sensor."

Yes, there are three lights on the card. Each represents one of your three favorites. Because, really, how many cards do you ever use regularly? The rest can happily sit on your app, right?

I asked him to explain the technology further to me. A deeply boyish nerd, he told me: "The card can detect rapid acceleration or bend in the card using the same Piezo phenomenon that turns the bumps on vinyl records into audible music on a record player."

Kids, you know what a record player is, don't you?

Scandinavian design. But what part of Scandinavia? Stratos

At heart, you have to believe you want to be seen with this thing. Personally, I think the design, Scandinavian though it might be, is currently a little too Bergen and not enough Stockholm.

Moreover, what about Coin? This startup was destined for wondrous things. For myself, I couldn't understand why you'd name your payment startup after something you hate having in your pocket.

Still, Coin offered something rather similar to Stratos. And then it delayed its full product release.

I asked Olson what he had learned from the Coin saga. He said: "We've been around since before Coin and have watched everything play out. At first it was very hard to watch another company 'break' the concept to the public. But in hindsight I think it was very beneficial for us as it has allowed us to focus on building and manufacturing our product and learning from the very public feedback we've seen on their crowdfunded concept."

He told me he'd learned that calculator display tech on a card looks geeky and therefore not friendly. (Did I mention he's a geek?)

He added: "We learned the importance of following through on promises made to consumers and how quickly things can turn sour after missing dates and not communicating properly. We intentionally avoided crowdfunding and early marketing approaches, because again we wanted to ship a product to our customers that is the real thing that works everywhere and is secure from the get go. We want to start our brand off on the right foot."

He mentions "our customers," but the launch will see just how many customers he will secure.

Perhaps the Stratos Card will appeal to all those who believe that every successful millennial should have a Task Rabbit slave, a check shirt and a penchant for cycling.

Perhaps they'll enjoy others wondering what this newfangled card is, the one that you have to tap to activate. Olson told me that you wouldn't want to use Apple Pay in a restaurant, would you?

You need to show your status with your Stratos. (That'll be $95, thank you.)