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Coin's Second Life? Helping Put Payments in Fitness Bands and Smartwatches.

... with MasterCard's help.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

After my bad experience trying to use Coin’s all-in-one credit card this summer, I came away thinking the startup probably wasn’t going to make it. But now Coin is charting a new course, with the help of credit card giant MasterCard, that could give it renewed life.

The two companies are announcing on Wednesday that Coin is going to begin placing MasterCard payment information into wearables like fitness trackers and smartwatches as soon as this year. With the move, Coin is betting that makers of wearables will want to add payment functionality to their devices and that people will want to use them to tap and pay in stores.

Smartwatches from a company called Omate, as well as the Atlas and Moov fitness bands, will be embedding Coin payments hardware and software into their devices, Coin CEO Kanishk Parashar said, adding that they are aiming to get these into market in 2016.

If these devices get released, consumers will be able to add payment information from multiple MasterCards to their wearables and then toggle between them, according to Sherri Haymond, a senior vice president at MasterCard. Haymond said MasterCard’s deal with Coin isn’t an exclusive, opening up the possibility for other credit card companies to participate.

The multi-card feature is similar to the idea behind Coin’s all-in-one credit card, which also lets people store payment information from multiple cards on one device. The fitness bands and smartwatches won’t contain actual account information on them but rather “tokens,” or placeholder numbers, that only get matched up with actual card information inside MasterCard’s walls. Coin wouldn’t comment on how it makes money from these deals, but it seems plausible that it could charge a fee for each wearable that integrates its technology.

Parashar was adamant that Coin will continue to produce and sell its own payment cards, and that its new role as payments matchmaker for wearable companies is an extension of its current business, not a replacement for it. I’d say I’m firmly in the skeptical camp when it comes to believing that Coin’s original business will be around for years to come.

But is there a chance that payments features eventually become table stakes for most wearable devices? I guess it’s possible. And, if so, could Coin carve out the role of payments facilitator? Maybe so.

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