LoopPay delivers on what ApplePay, Google Wallet and CurrentC can only dream about: it allows you to leave your wallet at home. LoopPay’s bluetooth devices use MGT—Magnetic Secure Transmission— instead of the NFC (near field communication) technology in Google Wallet and Apple Pay. It does not require that a store sign up for the service, nor that a bank register to be part of the plan. I’ve been using it for over a month and have often ventured out without my wallet while shopping at several stores. It does take a little longer to use, but that’s only because the sales people/cashiers are so amazed that it works that I have to stop to explain.
LoopPay is a bluetooth device that talks to the LoopPay app. The device somehow creates a magnetic loop that fools the payment terminal into believing that you just swiped the magnetic strip of a real card. I have my LoopPay dongle connected to my keychain. When it’s time to swipe a debit or credit card, I press the button on the dongle and tap it on the swipe area to pay with my default card. Because it was founded by Will Graylin and George Wallner who have innovated for companies like Verifone— who makes a large percentage of retail payment terminals—it works perfectly about 90 percent of the time. I have been able to use it in everything from taxi cabs to doctor’s offices, and even at the bank teller window. If I don’t want to use my default card, I can pull out my phone and tap the card on screen while holding the LoopPay device near the swipe slot.
Setting it up is a breeze. It comes with a magnetic card reader, (kind of like a square reader) that, depending on the model you get, attaches to the device or the phone. Swipe the card, add a photo of it, enter the CVV (3 numbers on back of card) and the card company’s phone number. If you set up your signature by signing the phone’s touchscreen, it will add it to the “back” of the card so you can show it to a clerk if they need to “see the card.” Add a picture of your driver’s license so you can show your ID. There hasn’t been a store that has asked me to pull out my real card.
The LoopPay card can be used without the phone nearby by pressing the button on the device. In theory, this means that you could give it to a server at a restaurant and they would be able to tap/swipe it at their POS (point-of-sale station). The benefit of using the LoopPay is that the server can only see the last four numbers of your card. To make sure they aren’t tempted to head out the back door with your LoopPay, there is a setting in the app that limits activation of the button-press feature to 10 minutes, at which time it stops working until re-activated. Using the LoopPay in a restaurant has only worked a couple of times. Every time I’ve tried to use it to pay for a meal, the server had a confused look and asked me to go to the pay terminal with them. Each instance where the LoopPay completely failed, it was the type of swipe terminal that is attached to a computer.
Still, when the LoopPay failed, and I didn’t have my wallet with me, I was still able to pay. The app shows the photo of the card with the numbers clearly displayed so a cashier can type in the information. I could show them the photo of my driver’s license in the app to verify my identity. In the past 6 weeks, I have never once been turned away from a purchase.
The app and device appear to have security covered with 128-bit encryption and password protection to open the app. Of course, if you don’t limit the button press feature on the LoopPay device, someone could abscond with it and make purchases. The best protection is to limit the button press activation to “never” or to “10-minutes.” The problem with limiting the button press, is that you have to pull out your phone to make a payment. My device is attached to my keychain so I’m pretty sure I won’t easily lose it. I leave the button activation to “always.” If it was stolen, the thief would only have access to my default credit card. Because I entered the bank phone number in my LoopPay app during setup, I can alert the bank as soon as I know the LoopPay is missing. It’s safer than someone stealing the actual credit card.
LoopPay is relatively inexpensive and comes in a few models—from the LoopPay Fob that fits on a keychain ($29.95 on sale for $10) to a case that can hold your ID and cash for $59.95, to a charging case that fits on your phone for $89.95.
Still, as I was finishing this review, there was news that Samsung acquired LoopPay. Hopefully, this will not change everything.