MoBeam nümi key Review

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Sometimes a gadget comes along and you wonder how you’ve been able to live without it.  The nümi key by Mobeam is one of those rare finds.  For those of us that have a wallet/purse full of rewards cards, this device purports to make your  life easier and lessen the bulk in your wallet.  Does it live up to the promise?

The idea behind the nümi key is that you can store you rewards cards on the device, then at checkout you just beam them to the cashiers scanner.


The device is smaller than my car key and is no more of a lump in my pocket than the loyalty key tags I carry. In the package you’ll find the key fob and a short cable with a USB connector on one end and a USB mini connector on the other. This is used to both charge the device and input the rewards numbers. The user instructions are on the back of the package. The first step is to charge the nümi for 4 hours. So I plugged it into my laptop.

Specs and Requirements:

  • Holds up to 50 entries
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Color display
  • Windows operating system only
  • IE 6 or greater only

Presently the nümi can only store rewards cards information, but the people at mobeam expect to add coupons and gift cards at a later date.


Before the nümi can be used at the store, your rewards card information must be loaded into the device by plugging it into the PC and connecting via a web site at This is plainly indicated on the package, but I took a shortcut which led to 14 emails between me and mobeam trying to figure out why I was getting the same error using 3 different computers with 3 different versions of an operating system. I could load all the data to the web page, but could not get the nümi connected.

I read the instructions again and had a flash. I wasn’t putting the www at the beginning of the URL. Well, that fixed the problem, but I have no idea why. So, I proceeded to load up my rewards card data and headed out to the stores to check this thing out. The drop down list of supported stores limits which rewards cards you can add to the device. However, the web site indicates that you can request the addition of other retailers.

My first stop was a Shaw’s Supermarket. I used the self checkout to give me time to play with the nümi.  Sending the rewards card number is a multi-step process.

  1. Turn the slide power switch on.
  2. Press the red button which boots the firmware
  3. Select the loyalty cards category on the display
  4. Scroll to the required card
  5. Press the red button to select the card
  6. Press the red button to send the card info to the scanner (the red beam at the front will glow as the information is sent)

I was rewarded with a beep from the scanner and acknowledgment that my card number was accepted!  I was feeling hopeful, so off I went to another store.

My next stop was CVS Pharmacy. Immediately upon entering the store, I pointed the nümi at the coupon printing machine and it was recognized. Encouraged by the positive results I bought a Kit Kat and went to check out. Unfortunately, no joy. Pointing the nümi at the hand held reader produced no beep nor recognition of the device. I convinced the clerk to hold the wand at different distances from me and nothing changed. I asked her to key in my number from the fob and it was accepted so there wasn’t an error because of the saved rewards number.

I headed off to ACE hardware a store I frequent and purchased a Kit Kat bar. The clerk at the check out was very helpful, because we couldn’t get the nümi to be recognized. In the FAQ it suggested the device be held at a distance of 4-6 inches, so I borrowed a tape measure from the store and used the nümi at varying distances with negative results. When manually entering the card number, it was accepted.

Disappointed, I headed out to Staples and bought a Kit Kat bar. At the check out I pointed the device at the hand-held scanner and NOTHING. We tried many times with negative results. Entering the card number manually worked.

Next door to Staples is a Borders book store. I went in and bought a Kit Kat bar and used the nümi for my rewards number. It WORKED!! As a matter of fact, using the device drew a small group of employees who were interested. I suggested they read the review before making a purchase decision.

Because of the mixed results I wasn’t very confident the nümi would be the device to replace my pocketful of rewards key tags.   Anyway, I needed to step back and revisit the device load procedures and called it a day because I had a stomach ache after eating all the Kit Kat bars.

Several days later I was 200 miles from my home, so I used the opportunity to try the nümi at a different store and a different outlet of a chain.

My first test was at an ACE hardware and the results were exactly the same as my first try at the other store. Keying the rewards number worked just fine. I then dropped by a Price Chopper market. Upon walking in the store, I aimed the nümi at the coupon machine and it beeped and went into OUT OF SERVICE mode. I hid behind the watermelons while the store staff reset the machine.  Upon checkout I aimed the nümi at both the hand-held and tabletop scanners with negative results.

This was getting very frustrating because I really want this device to work. So, I deleted all the rewards numbers from the nümi and reloaded just the ACE and Price Chopper numbers. I then went to the store and received the same results as before. The nümi was not recognized by either ACE or Price Chopper.

Here’s the bottom line: the concept is intriguing but in practice it doesn’t work dependably. Although the web site FAQs suggest that if the device doesn’t work at a particular vendor you can read the numbers off the nümi.  Also, they point out that the device will not work with scanners that take a “photo” of the bar code.  Sorry, that’s not acceptable.  If I have to read out the numbers, I might as well just carry the key tags.


Product Information

  • MS Windows (XP, Vista, 7), Internet Explorer 6.0 or better w/ActiveX support enabled, internet connection
  • Small, easy to setup
  • Only works for some stores

7 thoughts on “MoBeam nümi key Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I use key ring on my Nexus one. It has limited results as well, but the “key” thing (pardon the pun) is that it is free on the android market.

    With the recent updates with the said app, I have yet to test it but for free you cannot complain.

  3. Is the numi that much smaller than a bunch of loyalty cards meant for the keychain? I suppose if you have 50 loyalty cards it would be. I have less than 10, so it seems like the “analog” way would be easier.

    Maybe if the fob was something that was small, thin and had an e-ink display.

  4. @Jackie

    It seemed to be the common thread thoughout the review, that I could always find a Kit Kat, no matter which store.


    It is in Cobleskill NY. I’ll probably be there tomorrow. BTW, I like your gas rewards program.


    When I can afford a Nexus One, I’ll give it a try 🙂


    It’s small enough for me. It just doesn’t work at enough stores.

  5. Why not just ask the clerk to identify you by keying in your phone number…that way you don’t need to waste money on this silly gadget OR bother carrying the bar code tags.

  6. The thing took too many steps, I think the steps should be reduced to:
    1. Turn on
    2. Scroll to find your card
    3. Select

    The device can make your life easier by:
    a. Displaying the most frequently used cards to the top
    b. Having a couple of “shortcut” buttons for your frequently used cards. For example, the green button = CVS, blue = grocery… As for the number of shortcut buttons, I think 4 is a sensible number.

    By the way, I once tried to scan my library card’s bar code and store in my cell phone and iPod touch. Neither of them work with the scanner. On the iPod touch, I view the photo of the scanned bar code, zoom out until the size of the bar code is approximately the size of the real one, then take a snapshot. Unfortunately, that snapshot does not work. It would be nice if we can do that: store cards on the iPod touch/iPhone/smart phones. Do we have an app for that?

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