Our daily lives involve the constant purchasing of both goods and services to cater to our day to day needs. Likewise, one of the biggest hurdles in the realm of mass adoption for cryptocurrencies is the difficulty or limitations that we face when we want to spend our crypto in the “real world”. However, since the release of Bitcoin, more and more people have adopted cryptocurrencies as an additional alternative to paying for things (you can read our guide about shopping with crypto here). Providing users with a seemingly endless array of options of things that can be purchased with crypto is a determining factor towards the mass adoption of crypto, but the vast amount of options might make it a little bit daunting for people who are not familiar with them.
Here, we will briefly describe some of the most popular alternatives in regards to crypto credit and debit cards for 2019, outlining some of their pros and cons in order to determine which card is the best for you.
Back in early 2018, tragedy struck the crypto card business when WaveCrest, the card issuer of multiple companies, got its Visa license revoked, which meant that multiple crypto card companies received direct orders from Visa to close all accounts of their prepaid Visa debit card programs. More than a year has passed since WaveCrest lost its license, but the ghost still lingers as many companies had to seek out new card issuers, which led to multiple delays, suspended accounts, and limited availability. This is why, to this day, finding an appropriate crypto debit or credit card can still be an issue.
TenX plays an important role in the world of crypto credit and debit cards, mostly due to its successful PAY token ICO in 2017, which raised $80 million in less than 7 minutes. Initially, the token, designed as an integral part of the TenX ecosystem, included a feature where holders of TenX would receive rewards, but a 2018 revision excluded this feature. This could serve as a possible explanation behind the decline in price that PAY has suffered, kicking 2018 off valued at $3.83, roughly 1,350% higher than its price at press time ($0.263986).
TenX has its proprietary app which serves as a crypto wallet, where you can store any of three supported cryptocurrencies: BTC, ETH, and LTC. The app can be used to receive and send those coins to other accounts, but most importantly, it can be paired to a TenX card, which will allow users to make their crypto spendable “anytime, anywhere in the world”. The big caveat to this is that eligibility for the card is currently limited to people from Asian-Pacific countries, namely Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand, the latter being added as recently as May 3.
Still, despite the limited eligibility and the fact that some of these reward systems could never be implemented, TenX features enticing fees. The issuing fee is $15 for the physical card (shipping included) and $1.50 for the upcoming virtual card. Additionally, there are no annual fees for the cards if you spend more than $1,000 in a year—if you don’t, the fee is still smaller compared to other options, only $10. There is a withdrawal fee of $3.25, which doesn’t take into account any additional fees that a bank might charge.
Wirex is a London-based debit card company that allows you to seamlessly exchange multiple cryptocurrencies within the app and spend it as fiat anywhere Visa payments are accepted. Currently, users from the EEA can convert their BTC, ETH, XRP, LTC, WAVES, WLO, DAI, NANO and XLM into one of eleven fiat currencies: AUD, CAD, CHF, CNY, CZK, HKD, HUF, JPY, MXN, SEK, SGD. Additionally, Wirex features contactless payment and a unique Cryptoback program, which allows users to receive 0.5% of their in-store purchases back in their BTC wallets. You don’t have to apply for this program, you will automatically receive 0.5% back into your BTC wallet as soon as you make an in-store purchase.
Wirex has a physical Visa debit card with a chip and PIN. There is no cost associated with the issuance of the card, and there is free worldwide delivery to receive your Wirex card. However, this is contrasted with a €1.20 ($1.50) monthly payment for operational costs. If you make an ATM withdrawal inside of Europe, you will be charged €2.25 ($2.50), but this goes up to €2.75 ($3.50) per transaction if you make a withdrawal internationally (outside of Europe). There are no limits in regards to the account balance, but card balance has a limit of €16,000 ($20,000) and there’s a 250 euro/dollar/pound daily withdrawal limit.
A somewhat similar option is CryptoPay, another London-based company that offers a VISA contactless prepaid card. CryptoPay is a bit more established, being funded in 2013 and boasting more than a million active users and more than 120,000 issued cards. At press time, however, the CryptoPay card can only be ordered and used by residents of the Russian Federation, but it can be used anywhere in the world where VISA cards are accepted. However, the CryptoPay team is working on launching their card program in the rest of Europe later in the year.
Issuing the card (with a chip and PIN) and having it delivered to your house will cost you $15, or $2.50 if you are interested in only an online card. The card also has a monthly service fee, though it’s only $1, that is lower than that of Wirex. The ATM transaction fees are the same as above: $2.50 for domestic ATMs, and $3.50 for international ATM transactions. In terms of ATM withdrawal limits, there’s a 1,500 daily limit and a 4,000 monthly limit for both euro and dollar withdrawals. Finally, the limits of your account will depend on whether you are a verified user or not. Unverified users can enjoy anonymity, something that not many other cards offer, but CryptoPay has three different tiers in regards to the documentation of your account, which will have an effect on your bank transfers, withdrawal and deposit limits. Unverified accounts can only make transactions of up to $1,000, but all accounts have a balance limit of $8,000. If no ID and picture are provided, users will not be able to buy crypto, only receive it and store it.
BitPay is one of the fastest, easiest ways to turn your cryptocurrency into dollars for Visa shopping. BitPay was one of the most used crypto cards in Europe until January 2018, when Visa pulled WaveCrest’s license to operate with their prepaid debit card programs. This means that, unlike the aforementioned cards, BitPay is available to U.S residents only. It also offers multi-signature wallets. BitPay also works for businesses, allowing them to accept Bitcoin and get paid in any other currency.
This card can be used with any retailer that accepts Visa. The app allows you to purchase store credit and spend it at major retailers that do not accept crypto. Some of BitPay’s features include direct bank deposits, compatibility with Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash wallets.
You can load dollars by sending crypto from your wallet (it will automatically convert to USD), with direct deposits and 3rd party top ups such as ACH credit as additional options. You can also set up a BitPay business account. If you accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash with BitPay, you can get direct bank deposits in your own currency for a 1% settlement charge. Cheaper than regular credit cards.
BitPay also has a secure wallet with multi-sig security and key encryption. Shopping through the wallet is also protected with Payment Protocol. It also lets you manage funds across different platforms, create multiple accounts, play with testnet coins, transfer funds, and receive notifications of every payment, transfer and proposal.
The card has a price of $9.95 and it can be paid with Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash. Other fees are a 3% currency conversion fee for purchases outside the US, and a payment of $5 for monthly dormancy. ATM withdrawals are $2 for domestic and $3 for international.
MCO Visa is an option that is currently only available to Singapore residents, although there is potential for it to become available in the US. However, it can be classified as a premium alternative. In 2017, Crypto.com held the MCO token sale, which raised $26.7M. MCO is an utility token with a circulating supply of 15.8 million tokens approximately. The MCO token is trading at $4.68 at press time. Crypto.com also has the CRO token (trading at $0.065194 at press time), which enables cross-asset intermediary currency settlement for the site’s chain. One of the most attractive features of the MCO Visa is its rewards program. In order to qualify for better rewards, users have to lock up MCO tokens in their accounts. You can choose not to lock up MCO tokens, which would result in free card, but the only benefit would be a 1% card cashback. On the other hand, if you decide to lock up 50,000 MCO, benefits include a 5% card cashback, 100% card cashback for services such as Spotify and Netflix, and 10% cashback for Airbnb and Expedia. This is a premium offering because of the hefty amount of MCO tokens that have to be locked up, but there is a wide range of MCO token amounts that you can lock up to unlock different rewards.
One of the benefits is the metal card, which you can use to withdraw money from ATMs without charge. Using the MCO card you also get crypto credit and use your Bitcoin or MCO token as collateral. With the wallet app, you get more benefits, like interbank exchange rates with 5-8% savings versus high street banks, and the ability to transfer crypto and fiat currencies to other users without fees.
The introduction of the rewards program might mean that you have to lock up hefty amounts of tokens in order to have less withdrawal limits (for example, the free card has a $200 limit for no-fee ATM withdrawals, whereas the most expensive ones have a $1,000 limit), but the MCO card charges no monthly fee.
Users can top-up their cards with ETH, XRP, LTC and MCO. Then, users can convert this into fiat currency, which can then be used to purchase goods or for ATM withdrawals.
Despite constant delays (the card was slated for a July 2018 release), Nexo deserves a honorable mention because it is a different option. Nexo is the world’s first instant crypto-backed credit line. Their website calls it “better than any bank account”. It also states that Nexo is the only insured account in which you can borrow from over 45 fiat currencies. With more than 170,000 users and a team with more than 10 years of fintech experience, Nexo came into existence in late 2017 and it has its own cryptocurrency, NEXO, with a circulating supply of 560 million tokens.
Here’s how it works: you deposit your crypto assets to your free Nexo account (they can be BTC, ETH, XRP, LTC, NEXO and BNB), and without any background check you get a loan as a credit line which would become instantly available on the card, all without having to sell your crypto assets. This means that if the price of BTC increases next week, you still have your cryptocurrency. Your crypto credit line limit is based on the market value of the crypto assets you deposit into your Nexo account. Another positive feature of Nexo is that it charges no withdrawal fees, it only charges a gas fee. Interest is debited from your available limit. Supposedly new information will be available soon, though the delay from the original release date is already considerable.
Reading through the wide array of options available for crypto credit/debit cards will lead you to the conclusion that there is likely an option that suits your consumer needs. But the question may remain, which one should I choose?
The answer to that question is entirely up to you. The benefit of having a crypto card is obvious—it will allow you to use your crypto to purchase goods and services that can otherwise only be bought with fiat. But what are some of its drawbacks? Well, there is only one big drawback, which might or might not affect your decision. Arguably, the raison d'être behind cryptocurrencies is their decentralized and anonymous nature, and crypto cards usually have to enforce strict KYC procedures (although some exceptions exist, such as the case of CryptoPay). Moreover, using a crypto credit/debit card involves the transfer of your crypto to a third party, which is susceptible to hacks and other attacks. Still, if you are interested in being able to purchase most things with crypto, it is highly advisable for you to be careful and only deposit funds that you are willing to spend or lose in the case of an unexpected event. That way, you will be able to hold on to your crypto while still being able to use it to purchase goods virtually everywhere.
After taking into account availability, which will most likely narrow down your options, there are other factors that come into play, and it all boils down to your profile as a buyer. Do you hold relatively little amounts of crypto? Then maybe Wirex is for you given its simplicity, user-friendliness and cryptoback program, or BitPay because of its complete app. Do you hold large amounts of crypto? Then maybe Wirex isn’t the best option for you due to its limits, and TenX or MCO would be better given the lack of annual fees for big spenders or cashback programs, respectively. CryptoPay may be limited in terms of availability for now, but if more anonymity is a big concern for you then it is one of the few options available. Nexo stands as a different case as the card is an extension of sorts of its crypto lending platform, so it might also become the best option for you if that’s where your interests lay once (and if) the card becomes available. In the end, it is important to know about yourself as a consumer, know the limits and fees that suit you best and only take into consideration the rewards that will truly benefit you.
Thanks for reading, The COIN360 Editorial Team