Is the Stratos Smart Card Worth It?

Mike Randall • June 26, 2015

Big changes are coming to the credit card industry that will impact the way you use that little piece of plastic in your wallet. You’ve probably heard of the new chip-and-pin credit cards that will soon be made available, but there’s something even more revolutionary in store for credit card users.

A new generation of smart credit cards is under development, and their creators hope they’ll take the place of every other card in your wallet. The latest to be announced is the new Stratos Smart Card.

The Stratos consolidates all the other cards you carry onto a single piece of plastic, regardless of what type of card it is. Credit cards, debit cards, store cards, gas cards and even gift cards can all be loaded onto the Stratos Card. In this regard, Stratos is really more of a payment ecosystem than it is simply a credit card.

How Stratos Works

There are a lot of things that set the Stratos Card apart from a standard credit card, or from other smart cards for that matter.

For one thing, Stratos has a lithium-ion battery and a printed circuit board imbedded within its layers of plastic. It’s this circuitry that allows Stratos to store other card information and even communicate wirelessly with your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. In fact, your smartphone or wireless device is a crucial part of the Stratos system.

Stratos uses a card reader that plugs into your smartphone using the headphone jack. Once the app is installed, you can then load your cards onto your device via the provided mag-strip card reader. Next select up to three cards that will be active on Stratos for immediate access, whether you have your device with you or not.

Why only three?

According to the creators of the Stratos Card, we use three cards for 95 percent of the transactions we make on a daily basis. But not to worry – all of the cards you load are available through your smart device and can be loaded onto the Stratos Card within seconds.

Selecting Between Cards

Once your cards are loaded and you’ve chosen the three to be installed on the Stratos Card, selecting between them is as simple as tapping the card to activate it and pressing one of the three touch-sensors. A light will indicate which card is active, and you can then use it just as you would the actual card.

In order to accommodate different card readers, there are actually two types of magnetic strip on the back of the Stratos Card. This makes Stratos a truly universal smartcard, usable almost anywhere in the world.

Another feature of the Stratos Card is the ability to remind you of gift cards or to suggest the optimal card to use in a given situation. No more trying to remember what rewards or perks you get for different purchases.

Is the Stratos Card Worth Getting?

Finally, the question we’ve been working toward. Is the Stratos Card worth the $95 annual fee? In order to answer that, we need to look at just what you get with the card. Stratos is actually a subscription service when it comes right down to it.

For the annual fee you get:

  • A personalized Stratos card, card reader and Stratos mobile app
  • A free replacement or upgrade annually, or if the battery ever dies
  • Free upgrades to the software
  • Immediate access to new features and cloud-based services
  • Personalized customer support via phone, email and social media

So what about the new chip-and-pin technology that’s coming? Will the Stratos card be compatible with that, you might ask? Of course, the company has taken this into consideration as well. When chip-and-pin rolls out nationally, the Stratos Card will be upgraded to be compatible, and all holders will receive a new card.

It is expected to be available starting in April of this year.

Of course, if you’re carrying a “status” card like the American Express Black Card or Citi’s Chairman Card, the new Stratos Card might defeat the purpose – but we’ll leave that decision to you.

Photo credits: cnnmoney

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

About the Author

Mike Randall

Mike Randall is most knowledgeable in the areas of credit scores and credit cards, having written on those topics and others for the past eight years. He graduated from California State University with a degree in English literature, and he has an extensive background in personal finance studies. When he's not keeping readers informed of changes in the subprime market, Mike’s hobbies include sailing and gourmet cooking. Connect with Mike on Google+.