Earlier this year I decided to completely switch from fiat to cryptocurrencies. And when I switch I don’t just dip the toe, I jump in — ready or not.
It began with switching from a bank account to a digital wallet. I quickly learned that opening a digital wallet is easy, closing bank accounts are hard. It has taken me months of back and forth communication with my old banks via email, fax and letters to get them to transfer my money. I also learned the hard way that the bank accounts are not mine, they belong to the banks.
The last check — yes you read that right — arrived today in my virtual mailbox. Now I just have to deposit it into my last bank account I might ever have and transfer into my digital wallet to buy and store crypto.
But I digress, this is about how I can use my cryptocurrency in the hybrid world we are still living in and the solution is one of the many cryptocards that have been available for a few years.
All cryptocards on the market today are pre-paid cards issued by a bank somewhere, using either the VISA or MasterCard payment system. Ironic yes, but as I said, we live in a hybrid world. I decided to try out Bitpay as they offer a spending limit of up $25,000 without verification.
The process is simple: you order a card, pay $9.95 in Bitcoin via their own merchant solution and your card will arrive in the mail after a few days. The card looks and works exactly as any other debit or credit card, albeit this one without chip but there are the ones that has.
The purpose with this card, which also has a digital wallet attached and can be managed via an iOS or Android application, is to sell crypto–Bitcoin in this case–when needed to purchase things in the world of fiat currency (what is being referred to currencies issued by national central banks). It’s the only interface you need between the world of crypto and fiat currency. Here are a few pros and cons:
- You have control over your currencies all the time and can easily and fast make transfers between crypto and fiat — as well as the other way around– whenever you need, weekday or weekend, anywhere in the world, independent of banking hours and holidays
- You can keep your Bitcoin in your digital wallet, increasing in value, until you actually need to buy something with fiat currency and then do the transfer which takes about 10 minutes today but will be much faster in the future
- You can order as many cards as you like for different purposes and there are even cryptocards that offer virtual cards for online usage only
- I’ve learned that the BitPay card, as it’s a pre-paid card, is not accepted to rent cars as you can stay anonymous. It also doesn’t work with Uber directly but via PayPal
- The international transaction fee is high (3%), unnecessary and very old world thinking. This is something that the issuing bank impose, not BitPay. More about BitPay’s fees here
- The network (the cost of using the BitPay network which can be adjust in the BitPay application) and miner (the cost of using the Blockchain) fees are high when transferring low amounts of money so make sure you transfer at least transfer a few hundred dollars. These fees will decrease over time as the Blockchain scales and can handle more transactions faster
I can highly recommend getting a cryptocard as a complement to your current debit or credit card and try it out to learn how it works and how it feels to be in full control of your own money. I’m convinced that we are moving towards a world of cryptocurrency as they are cheaper, faster and more secure than fiat, you are in full control and they work anywhere in the world, regardless of borders or boundaries.
Finally, the $1,000 questions: Will I return to using regular debit and credit cards? No, not after having used my cryptocard successfully for 100+ days across Europe, United States and Latin America. Knowing that I’m not dependent on the old intermediaries is liberating and empowering. That said, not having a credit card in the US imposes other challenges (declining credit rating, the need for pre-authorizations, declined usage et cetera when using a debit or a pre-paid card).
I’m working on a full review of the best cryptocards in the world which I’ll share via the below newsletter.
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Per Håkansson, Managing Editor, Inside Blockchain