looppay fob

LoopPay: Can you really leave home without it?

When I first started using my Moto X, one of the many features I was looking forward to was the ability to use the built-in NFC chip along with Google Wallet, so I could use contactless payment systems.

Yeah, it’s the cool factor and the geek in me that wanted to be able to just tap my phone to a special terminal and pay for my purchase. I’ve used Google Wallet at a few locations since I’ve had my phone, but the problem with the NFC contactless payment system is that you can’t use it everywhere.

Enter LoopPay. I’m not going to get into the history of LoopPay, as this is something you would be able to read about on their webpage. I’ll just give you a basic overview. LoopPay is a device that was designed to use Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) to send the information stored on the device to the card reader on the credit card terminal. The card reader will pick up the information that is being transmitted as if your card was swiped through the reader. In this way, the LoopPay will work with most readers currently on the market versus needing a special reader like the contactless payment systems. I say “most readers” because there were some readers that I tested that LoopPay does not seem to get along with.

Upon receiving my LoopPay Fob (there’s also a case available, more on that later) setup was very easy. All I needed to do was download the app, run the app, and follow the prompts for creating a new account. The Fob has a card reader built-in that you would use to add your credit/debit cards to the app. You add cards to the app by plugging the fob into your phone and tapping the plus icon and then swiping when prompted to do so. The app will also want you to take a photo of your card. You also have the option of just using stock images to represent your card. I recommend going with the generic image. I tried taking a photo of my card and it just wasn’t pretty.

The app also allows you to take photos of your ID (driver’s license) and all those plastic reward cards so that you’ll have everything handy within your new electronic wallet. The idea behind having a photo of your ID is so that you can show it to anyone asking to see an ID. Somehow, I don’t think the officer that pulled you over or the merchant wanting to see if you’re really who you say you are, will be willing to accept a photo of your driver’s license. As for photos of your reward cards, I’ll just say that there are other apps out there that handle this better than the LoopWallet app.

The LoopWallet also allows you to enter information you wish to have access to, such as PINs, passwords, phone numbers, and the location to the secret treasure. As I mentioned above, other apps are better at handling this than LoopWallet.

I would recommend giving the LoopFob a charge before you start using it. If you do about five transactions per day, the fob is supposed to last about two-months on a charge.

Now off to the fun part. My first transaction with the LoopFob was at a 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven used to allow payment with NFC contactless payment systems such as Google Wallet and ISIS (“the contactless payment system formerly known as ISIS”), but they’ve replaced their terminals and no longer allow contactless payment systems. I took my LoopFob, placed it next to the terminal, and pressed the button. The transaction went through right away. The cashier’s response was “Wow!” and I was on my way. The next day I stopped at McDonald’s for breakfast (don’t judge). McDonald’s does allow contactless payments, so they’re probably used to seeing people pay with their phones. I placed the LoopFob next to the terminal, pushed the button and the transaction went through. This earned a “COOL!” from the clerk. He also called over the manager and told her “This guy just put some box up to the register and it paid for his order!” The manager replied, “It’s probably just like Google Wallet,” and walked away. Later that day, I stopped at my car dealer to have some work done and used the LoopFob with the same ease as at McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. The cashier did ask for the last four numbers on my card, so I had to dig my card out and read off the numbers. Of course, I could have just opened the LoopWallet and read the numbers from the image stored in the app, but I wasn’t thinking that at the time. I should also add, the dealer is in the process of installing contactless payment terminals.

My first rejection with the fob came later in the day. I stopped at a bookstore and tried LoopPay and it wouldn’t complete the transaction. The cashier was very intrigued with the LoopFob and said that the register is old and they’re going to be upgrading it soon. I also tried the fob at Walmart and Redbox with no success. It should also be noted that the fob will not work at gas pumps, ATMs, or any where in which you must insert your card into a slot and pull it back out. It seems to work better when the card reading device is closer to the surface.

To make any changes in how the fob behaves, you must have the fob plugged into your phone. The fob plugs into the earphone jack of your phone. When you don’t have the fob plugged into the phone, there is a protective sleeve that the fob pops into for carrying around on your keychain. Once the fob is setup, the fob will be active with your default credit/debit card. You set the default card via the LoopWallet app while the fob is connected to the phone.

The following options are available for the fob, which can only be set when the fob is connected to your phone:

  • ALWAYS: Always means what it says and that the fob is always active. This way, when you want to use the fob it’s already active. All you need to do is press fob against the terminal, press the button, and your transaction goes through. The downside to this is if you misplace your fob or if it’s stolen, then it will remain active until the primary card is cancelled by your bank. The same would hold true if someone stole your actual card. They would be able to use your card until you cancel the card.
  • 10-Minutes: This will keep the fob active only 10 minutes. The suggested use would be that if you were somewhere, like a restaurant, and had to hand the fob over to a server to make payment. Of course, in the time it would take to explain to the server what the fob is and how to operate it, you could have just handed them your card and been done with it.
  • 8-Hours: This would keep your fob active for eight hours. The suggested use would be if you wanted to hand your fob to your child while they go shopping, but that could be dangerous.
  • The last setting is NEVER. This would be used if you never want the fob to be active when not connected to your phone. To use the fob when it’s set on “NEVER” you would have to have it plugged into your phone, the LoopWallet app must be open, and you would need to tap the virtual card within the app when you wish to make payment.

If you have the fob set to the “10-Minute” or “Eight Hour” option and the set time expires, you would need to connect the fob to the phone, open the LoopWallet app and the timer would be reset. As you can imagine, this would become rather cumbersome. This is where the LoopCase comes in. The LoopCase is only available (at this writing) for the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s (not the iPhone 5c). I was not able to test the case, but the advantage of having the case versus the fob is that the case is always connected to your phone. You wouldn’t have to reconnect to the phone to change settings. Also, the case has a built-in phone charger, which could charge your phone when the battery gets low.

I like the fob, but it does get in the way. It adds bulk to my keychain. I would much rather have a case. I realize it would be very difficult to make a case for every Android phone on the market, but maybe they could make a case for a few of the popular phones. I do have a Moto X, somehow, I don’t think they’ll have problems finding people to buy a Moto X case. 🙂

One of the downsides to the case/fob is communicating current status. There’s no indication of how much charge is left on the fob. Also, there’s no way, other than plugging the fob back into your phone, to know which of your charge/debit cards is the active card. Another major downside is the having to plug the fob back into the phone all the time to make changes. I think the next version of the fob should have Bluetooth so that the phone and fob can communicate with each other without having to have the fob plugged into the phone.

I could see this eventually replacing carrying around a wallet full of credit/debit cards, but before that happens, the system needs to work with 100% of the credit card terminals out there and not just a few here and there. The fob also has to be thinner and less bulky and have Bluetooth to communicate with the phone. Visa just recently invested in LoopPay, so maybe we’ll see some changes soon.

In my next article, I will be talking about my opinion on mobile payment systems (Google Wallet, ISIS, LoopPay, Coin, etc.) so keep checking back.

The LoopPay fob is available for $39 and the case is $99. You can order directly from LoopPay, but you can also get them from Staples.