Keeping Your Credit Cards in the Loop

I'm using my American Express card to buy coffee at Chobani SoHo in Manhattan. Instead of grabbing the card from my wallet, I place a key chain fob against the store's credit card reader. I press a button. Success.

I shopped this way a lot these past few weeks testing a highly promising -- and imperfect -- new mobile wallet solution called Loop Fob. It went on sale for $39 recently from Boston start-up LoopPay.

Mobile payments are supposed to be the future. You pay for stuff swiping or tapping your phone, or in Loop's case with a fob that works in tandem with the Loop Wallet app on your iPhone. You can store all your credit cards, loyalty and debit cards, gift cards, and other forms of ID on your handset with Loop. By doing so, you can shrink your George Costanza-thick wallet in the process.

Proponents of mobile payments generally insist that tapping to pay is faster, more convenient, and arguably more secure than old-fashioned methods. And those proponents include tech companies, credit card issuers, banks and other financial institutions, even if they hardly agree on the best approaches.

Kickstarter alum LoopPay would appear to face stiff odds in the space, but it has come up with breakthrough technology that addresses one of the key hurdles stifling the growth of mobile payments, notably that merchants would have to cough up considerable dough to upgrade their existing point-of-sale terminals and credit card readers. Loop is compatible, the company claims, with 90% of the magnetic stripe credit readers that are already out there. (The most notable exceptions are card readers at gas stations and ATMs.) The beauty is that merchants don't have to replace or alter equipment or change the software.

But does it translate into a better shopping experience? The answer is that Loop...

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