Stratos launches first 'connected' credit card on the market

It’s something most people find annoying – bulging wallets filled with easily lost cards. One tech startup is hoping to make life a little easier for those whose pockets are overflowing with plastic. Today, Stratos, Inc.  announced the launch of the Stratos Bluetooth Card, an all-in-one “smart” credit card.

“Stratos is really designed to make consumers’ lives a little easier,” Stratos CEO and co-founder Thiago Olson told

For Olson, the Stratos Card is designed as a way to make payments more efficient, smart, and secure for consumers bogged down by countless cards. Members who sign up for a Stratos Card – which will start shipping to consumers in April – will be able to load everything from debit to credit to gift cards onto on single, small card.

So, how does it work? Olson said the card is very easy to use. All one needs is a smartphone, a Stratos card, and a Stratos Reader. Members will swipe their various cards through the reader attached to their phones. Once the cards are loaded, swipe the Stratos Card through the reader and then designate three “favorite” cards that can be easily and quickly accessed.

Olson showed off the card in a demonstration for Activating the card is simple – a user just has to tap it to turn it on, and then can swipe it for any transaction just like any other credit or debit card. A double tap enables the user to access card suggestions that will pop up on the phone’s mobile lock screen. The card includes geo-location suggestions. So, if you’re headed near a Starbucks, for instance, a suggestion to choose that store’s card will appear on the mobile screen. Three touch sensors on the card allow for easy access between the top three favorites, and users can set a security lock down in case the card is stolen or missing.

Stratos users can load an unlimited number of cards onto Stratos, and they can sync their cards through a Bluetooth connection. A Stratos membership will cost $95 yearly, or $145 for a discounted two-year membership. Card users will receive $15 off their membership for each referral to a new customer, Olson added.

Based out of Ann Arbor, Mich., Stratos was founded in 2012. Olson’s personal profile is different from the typical tech startup entrepreneur. He studied electrical engineering and physics at Vanderbilt University, and studied plasma physics and fusion energy sciences through a Princeton University fellowship. For Olson and his team, part of developing their card technology came from thinking slightly outside the box.

“The earliest version of the Stratos technology was actually in the form of a first-generation, click-wheel iPod,” Olson said. “I figured out that each .wav file (on the iPod) could mimic the stripe on the back of a credit card. I attached a bunch of wiring to the pack of the Ipod, and when I held it up to a vending machine or a door, it would dispense soda or open the door, respectively.”

From that makeshift iPod demo, the Stratos team was able to fine-tune the technology. The card currently comes in a sleek design and five color options, but is constantly evolving.

“We are just launching now, obviously, but we plan to improve upon it with each generation,” Olson added.

Currently, the Stratos Card will be the first of its kind on the market, even though there are other competitors waiting in the wings. Recent retail hacks – such as the one that hit Target in 2013 –   have left consumers looking for more secure alternatives to traditional credit cards, and Olson said that he feels his card, and those like it, will help answer that need.

He added that this technology plays into the larger reality that we are all living in an increasingly interconnected world.

“It really plays into the concept of the growth of wearables in society,” Olson said. “I think we are all becoming more interconnected, and having technology like this will change the way we interact with banks and how we use cards. I think this is just the beginning of what we will do.”