Bitcoin is now a little over eight years old, and has experienced an extremely swift rise in value. As a result, the cryptocurrency has skyrocketed into the awareness of the public at large, causing armchair investors from around the world to buy into the crypto phenomenon.
Since inception, Bitcoin has primarily been used as an investment security, but the number of retailers and merchants that accept the currency as payment for goods and services is slowly growing. Amazon, Newegg, Shopify, and several other platforms now accept Bitcoin as payment, as do thousands of smaller retailers around the world.
Recently, one of the largest electronics retailers in Japan, Bitflyer, has announced a decision to accept Bitcoin at more than 260,000 retail stores across the country. While mainstream adoption of Bitcoin as a payment method is growing, however, using it to purchase goods and services is not a seamless task yet.
In order to use Bitcoin to purchase goods and services from a merchant that doesn’t accept Bitcoin, it’s necessary to sell BTC on an exchange, withdraw the fiat currency it generates into your bank account, and access it from there. One of the latest developments in the crypto sector, however, is the advent of Bitcoin debit cards.
Bitcoin debit cards provide cryptocurrency investors with the ability to circumvent the unwieldy steps necessary to convert BTC into fiat currency, and allow them to spend their currency freely. In the case of Bitcoin debit cards, the card providers perform the exchange element of the conversion, which in most cases is not as favorable as market rates, but provides an extra layer of convenience that balances out the slightly increased cost.
7 Most Popular Bitcoin Debit Cards Platforms
In this article, we’ll take a look at the seven most popular Bitcoin debit card platforms on the market today and break down their major features to help you determine which solution is the best for you.
The first card we’ll be looking at in our Bitcoin debit card breakdown is Wagecan. Issued by Transforex, Wagecan is a Mastercard debit card, and can be used in the United States. The Wagecan solution is one of the most popular Bitcoin debit cards with digital nomads and location independent freelancers, as it offers a 1.5% foreign currency conversion fee, whereas most other solutions sit at around 3%.
Wagecan also offers a slightly lower ATM transaction fee than other Bitcoin debit cards, at 1%. Most of the other BTC debit cards on the market today charge a flat rate fee of between $2.5 to $3.5 USD, so Wagecan’s percentage-based fee generally works out cheaper.
The Taiwan-based team behind Wagecan have been providing their service since 2014, and offer both web and mobile accessible wallet system that synchronizes with the card. An interesting feature of the Wagecan card is the wallet address that is printed on each individual card, which is convenient for both depositing Bitcoins as well as immediately converting them to fiat currency.
Wagecan is accessible to multiple nationalities, and provides a range of purchase benefits. As the most convenient card for international travelers, Wagecan can be used at more than 30 million ATMS worldwide with more than 210 currencies.
Previously known as E-coin, the Wirex solution presents crypto investors with an extremely flexible Bitcoin debit card and multi currency wallet. Offering both virtual and plastic cards, Wirex make it possible to use Bitcoin to pay for in-store purchases, online shopping, and international cash withdrawal.
Wirex offer two different card options- a virtual Visa card, or a plastic Mastercard with a pin and chip. Both of the card options presented by Wirex can default to either GBP, EUR, or USD as the base currency, and are accepted anywhere in the world where Visa or Mastercard are supported.
The London-based team behind Wirex are currently in the process of rebranding the Wirex platform from their previous E-coin brand, which has been in operation since 2014. Both online and offline purchases are free with Wirex, for both the virtual card and plastic card solution.
Wirex has adopted a flat rate fee for ATM withdrawals. Domestic ATM withdrawal is priced at $2.50 USD, while international ATM withdrawal is set at $3.50 USD. All of the card options presented by Wirex have a monthly service fee of $1, although the plastic card option does have an initial fee of $17 USD. Wirex plastic cards can be shipped to 130 different countries worldwide, and typically take up to eight weeks to arrive after ordering.
Wirex provide users with a dedicated smartphone app for both iOS and Android that incorporates two factor authentication for heightened security. Conversion between Bitcoin and fiat currency is managed via the app, which also provides users with the ability to load balance from other payment solutions such as Paypal.
Overall, the Wirex solution is a simple and easy to use Bitcoin debit card that offers a streamlined user experience. The only drawbacks of the Wirex solution is that verification involves submitting several proof of identity and address documents, and can take up to 10 working days.
Cryptopay is one of the most transparent and upfront Bitcoin debit card solutions available. Founded in 2013 by a Russian crypto enthusiast team, Cryptopay has already gathered more than 167,000 active users from around the world, and has issued in excess of 37,000 Bitcoin debit cards. The Cryptopay platform is one of the largest BTC debit card solutions, and manages round 100,000 transactions every month.
Like the other Bitcoin debit cards on this list, Cryptopay offer both plastic and virtual cards, but provide users with a refreshingly transparent breakdown of costs and terms. One of the biggest features of the Cryptopay platform is that they provide access to their platform to unverified users, although there are a number of limitations placed on unverified accounts.
The Cryptopay plastic card is powered by Visa, and thus can be used anywhere in the world that Visa is accepted. Plastic cards are available with EUR, GBP, or USD base currency, each of which are priced at €15.00 each. Cryptopay also offers free standard worldwide delivery on their cards, with the option of express worldwide delivery for an additional €70.00.
Domestic ATM transactions with the Cryptopay card are priced at $2.50 USD, while international transactions are priced at $3.50 USD. Cryptopay allow for unlimited online transactions with verified card users, but restrict unverified users to $1000 USD. The daily ATM transaction limit for unverified users is $400 USD, with a total lifetime withdrawal limit of $100. Verified users, however, are able to withdraw up to $2000 daily via ATM, with unlimited lifetime withdrawals.
Cryptopay offers 3% foreign transaction fee, and an additional 1% conversion fee from Bitcoin into fiat currencies and visa versa. Despite the slightly higher overall pricing structure of the Cryptopay platform, it offers unrivaled transparency and provides free card shipping worldwide.
Coinbase Shift Card
Coinbase was the first platform to provide crypto enthusiasts with the ability to spend their Bitcoin directly via their Shift Card solution. Linked directly to the Coinbase wallet system, the Shift Card is currently only available in the United States.
The Coinbase Visa-based Shift Card can be used at 99% of merchants around the world. Using the Coinbase Shift card is relatively simple- once the Shift card is connected to a Coinbase wallet, the value of purchases made with the card are deducted from BTC balance and converted to USD at the current exchange rate.
When compared to other debit card solutions in the industry, the Shift card offers a number of attractive advantages. With no monthly fee or POS charges, the Shift card offers a domestic ATM withdrawal fee of $2.50, and an international ATM withdrawal fee of $3.50, which is standard in the Bitcoin debit card sector.
The initial issuance fee of the Shift card is just $10, but it does come with some more limiting restrictions than other Bitcoin debit cards. Daily spending limit is capped at $1,000 USD, and the daily maximum ATM withdrawal is just $200 USD.
The Bitwala Visa Bitcoin debit card is a promising new Bitcoin card solution that is powered by the Bitwala platform. Boasting the fastest global bank transfer across borders, Bitwala claims to offer the world's leading prepaid card for bitcoiners.
As an all-in-one cryptocurrency debit card, the Bitwala Visa allows crypto enthusiasts to access more than 20 different currencies around the world with over 40 cryptocurrencies. Bitwala already boasts more than 15,000 users from 120 countries around the world, and has been developing their platform from a Berlin base since 2012.
The Bitwala solution presents both virtual and plastic options, and is compatible with a wide range of different currencies, including USD, EUR, GBP, JPY, KRW, VND, AUD, and even several South American currencies. By partnering with ShapeShift, Bitwala accepts a broad spectrum of altcoins as top up methods, including Litecoin, Monero, Zcash, and Dogecoin.
Bitwala offers three levels of membership, each of which offer different monthly limits, withdrawal limits, and topups. Unverified level 1 users are provided with only limited service, while verified level 2 users are able to access unlimited purchases and ATM withdrawals. Level 3, which requires a Skype interview, provides a massive monthly limit of €50,000 EUR.
As one of the most flexible cryptocurrency debit cards, Bitwala is accessible to individuals in over 120 different countries. Both the plastic and virtual cards issued by Bitwala are priced at €2 EUR, with a €1 EUR monthly fee.
The ATM withdrawal fees offered but the Bitwala Visa solution are slightly more lenient than other options, with a domestic fee of €2.25. International ATM withdrawal fees are priced at €2.75, with a 3% currency exchange rate. Unlike other Bitcoin card solutions, Bitwala also offer an exceptionally transparent exchange rate. Bitwala also provide a market Bitcoin conversion rate with no added margin.
As a powerful all-in-one multi currency solution, the Bitwala Visa is the ideal solution for crypto enthusiast that have exposure to multiple cryptocurrencies. The only drawback of the Bitwala Visa is that due to current legislative restrictions in America it can’t be issued to US citizens.
While the Bitwala Visa was the first publicly available Bitcoin debit card, Xapo was the first platform to link a card directly to their Bitcoin wallet system. The early launch of the Xapo card, however, was plagued with issues, with many users receiving unbranded cards, incorrect delivery addresses, and more.
Xapo has ironed out these early issues, however, and has grown into a strong offering in the Bitcoin debit card sector. Like most of the other cards on this list, the Xapo solution allows users to access their Bitcoin directly in fiat currency anywhere in the world, and boasts the added advantage of a first year annual fee waiver.
The fees and terms offered by the Xapo card are fairly standard, with a 3% foreign exchange purchase, a €2.25 domestic ATM withdrawal fee, and a €2.75 international withdrawal fee. The Xapo card requires verification, and offers a €1000 EUR daily ATM withdrawal limit.
The final Bitcoin debit card we’ll take a look at in this article is the Bitpay card. Bitpay offer what is the most refreshingly honest approach to Bitcoin debit cards, and provide a significant amount of guidance on how to best leverage the benefits offered by their solution without incurring excessive fees.
The Bitpay card is powered by Visa, and offers virtually identical fees and terms to the Xapo card above, with a 3% foreign exchange rate. While the Bitpay solution doesn’t offer the flexibility some of the other solutions in this list offer, it is available to US residents, which makes it an attractive option to US-based crypto enthusiasts.
Top 7 Bitcoin Debit Cards Final Thoughts
Before deciding to pull the trigger on a Bitcoin debit card, it’s always best to assess a few key factors, such as the fee structure, exchange rates, and inactivity penalties. When it comes to fast access to funds without the large costs associated with traditional card solutions, however, Bitcoin debit cards are a far more attractive solution than their contemporary counterparts. If you’re invested in the cryptocurrency phenomenon, it’s definitely worth taking a close look at this innovative new payment method.