As a sector, plastic cryptocurrency cards have had a bumpy ride. While for some they are the perfect way to spend those hard-stacked sats, it has evidently been a struggle for crypto companies to provide such a service. Wracked by regulation, supplier issues and the volatility of digital assets, crypto debit cards have had a rough start.
Nonetheless, crypto debit card use is growing and is considered an important development for the growth in the adoption of crypto around the world. So, in which countries are most of the crypto cards available?
Wirex is a London-based crypto debit card provider and is often seen in the wallets of many people involved in the industry. The firm offers over 13 traditional and cryptocurrency accounts and has crypto-to-crypto, fiat-to-crypto and crypto-to-fiat capabilities. The firm is also backed by Visa, meaning that anywhere Visa is accepted, crypto can be spent.
Wirex launched its Russian service on May 19, offering customers fiat credit and debit cards. According to a press release from the company, it plans to offer customers the opportunity to buy crypto such as Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), XRP, Dai and its native Wirex Token (WXT) via Visa and Mastercard.
Revolut is perhaps the best-known card provider to make forays into the crypto world. Based in London and headed by CEO Nikolay Storonsky, Revolut has 10 million customers, a third of which have traded crypto on its app, according to data released by the company.
The company recently reported a 58% dip in the average size of crypto purchases from its United Kingdom customers, citing the effects of the lockdown measures imposed in March. Two months later, the average sum is climbing back up to previous levels, having increased by 57%.
Monolith is based in Manchester, England. It is a company that seeks to bring self-sovereignty to finance through decentralization. Monolith’s CEO, Mel Gelderman, explained to Cointelegraph the philosophy behind the decentralized finance factor in its crypto debit card offering:
“We have complete faith in DeFi and its role in ushering in the next economy. Monolith’s purpose is to make DeFi a viable choice to manage your everyday finances with ease, just as you might do now on your banking app. The diverse nature of DeFi will allow users to maximise their wealth in ways they haven’t been able to before. We take this a step further by ensuring we have no access to your money as each user wallet is non-custodial.”
The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on businesses, decentralized or not. Despite this, Gelderman told Cointelegraph that the flexibility offered by DeFi and crypto is particularly appealing for customers that want to be in control of their finances during the COVID-19 crisis:
“The Crypto industry is evolving into an integrated piece of daily life in terms of financial management, and debit card services are part of that. The crypto-debit card is the next step in this evolution, giving the end user a non-custodial financial platform that interfaces in a way that is no different from the current account they use daily. This mix of timing, usability, and control of funds makes this new economy more viable than ever.”
Coinbase is a United States-based platform that provides a variety of functions, including exchange, wallet and trading services. The company’s crypto debit card, imaginatively dubbed Coinbase Card, was launched in 2019. At first, the card was only active in six European countries, but it has since been launched in a further 10 countries with a greater variety of crypto assets.
The firm announced on Feb. 19 that it had become a principal member of Visa, meaning that it is now able to issue debit cards without the involvement of third parties, and it can now also issue cards to other crypto companies.
Bitwala, a blockchain-based banking firm headquartered in Berlin, offers a service where customers can convert their crypto and pay with a Mastercard debit card. The card is linked to a Bitwala bank account and is available only to EU and Swiss citizens.
Bitwala recently partnered with DeFi platform Celsius to offer an annual interest of up to 4% on Bitcoin holdings. The funds from customers using Bitcoin Interest Accounts are loaned to institutional borrowers via Celsius, earning weekly interest in BTC. Bitwala has said that DeFi is “a new way to generate wealth” and cited passive income generated from crypto holdings as an example.
Celebrity tokenization is one of the most innovative sectors in crypto finance. Socios runs a crypto sports-fan token ecosystem, offering tokenized voting platforms and a blockchain-based mobile app. The firm announced in late February that it would launch a crypto-to-fiat prepaid debit card. Alexandre Dreyfus, the CEO of Socios, explained to Cointelegraph how the project works:
“Socios Debit Card, a Fiat Debit Card that will allow Socios.com users to get a card (VISA or MASTERCARD) that will trigger rewards every time they spend money. The idea is that if you are Juventus Fan and you spend FIAT into an Adidas shop, you'll get cashback and more Juventus Fan Tokens for example.”
Dreyfus also told Cointelegraph that tokens and payments could have an impact both for service users and sponsors in sports: “Sponsors will be able to track and generate campaigns with the teams they are sponsoring, and who have issued Fan Tokens with us.”
Crypto industry titan Binance announced in March that it would release its own debit card, with the initial testing being carried out in Malaysia. Issued by Visa, the card will be available in Southeast Asia and will later be rolled out to other regions. The internal balance of the Binance Card will be in crypto, with Binance Coin (BNB) and Bitcoin. The card costs $15 but has no monthly or yearly maintenance fees.
Paycent is a Singapore-based crypto debit card provider. A Paycent Card costs $49 and comes in three tiers. Ruby is powered by UnionPay and has a daily spending and withdrawal limit of $5,000. Sapphire is powered by Unified Payments Interface and has a daily spending limit of $5,600 and a withdrawal limit of $1,650. Solitaire is Paycent’s option for big spenders. Powered by Mastercard, it has a daily spending limit of $13,000 and a withdrawal limit of $10,000. Its supported currencies are Paycent’s native PYN token, Bitcoin, Verge (XVG), Dragon (DRGN), Ontology Coin (ONT), DigiByte (DBG), Groestlcoin (GRS), Binance Coin, Ether, Litecoin, XRP, Dash and Steem.
Becoming Visa principal partners
Coinbase is leading the charge in terms of becoming a bona fide principal partner of Visa. As reported by Cointelegraph, only three further firms have publicly considered putting themselves through the grueling vetting process of becoming a partner. If Cryptopay, Crypto.com and Crypterium are successful in their applications, the firms stand to set themselves apart from all other competitors in the sector.
George Basiladze, the co-founder of Cryptopay, gave Cointelegraph an insight into the application process, saying that becoming a principal member is a long journey that requires obtaining an Electronic Money Institution license, having a Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard certification — and a lot of funding. Here’s what the firms are offering so far:
Crypto.com is a payments and crypto platform that offers five different cards. The most basic is free and offers spending rewards of 1% on all transactions, while the most expensive requires a Monaco (MCO) stake of 50,000 and offers spending rewards of 5% on transactions, airport lounge access, and Spotify, Netflix and Amazon Prime access. The company recently announced the launch of its MCO Visa card. Formerly known as Monaco Card, it will be available in 31 countries throughout the region. Crypto.com claims that this makes its card offering the most accessible worldwide.
Cryptopay’s C.Pay card is available to be ordered in the U.K. and Russia and can be used anywhere that Visa is supported. This means that customers can use it with the same support and security that they would normally expect from a Visa card. C.Pay customers can use cryptocurrencies to spend up to 30,000 euros in one transaction.
Virtual cards are free and prices start at 5 euros for a physical card that offers a daily load of 8,000 euros and a daily ATM withdrawal limit of 400 euros. C.Pay cards incur a monthly 1 euro management fee, a 2.50 euro domestic ATM fee, a 3.50 euro international ATM fee and a 3% foreign exchange fee, as well as a loading and unloading fee of 1%. C.Pay customers can spend Bitcoin, Litecoin, XRP and Ether.
Estonia-based firm Crypterium also purports to offer the most global card. Crypterium’s card gives access to over 50 million online and offline retailers, 2.5 million ATMs worldwide and is supported in 178 countries. Cards come with a spending limit of up to $13,000 per day or $60,000 per month, as well as a dedicated app.
The cards cost $25 each but don’t incur monthly costs. Crypterium’s debit cards are processed by the Chinese financial services company UnionPay. Crypterium’s Chief Operating Officer, Austin Kimm, recently told Cointelegraph that UnionPay gives Crypterium greater global reach: “Both Visa and Mastercard allow you to develop cards for particular regions like the United States, South America, Europe, etc. UnionPay, on the contrary, divides the world in two regions.”