Find out which bitcoin debit card meets your needs when it comes to convenience, fees and currency support.
Bitcoin debit cards make it easier to spend your bitcoin like any other currency. They usually run on existing card networks like EFTPOS, Visa or Mastercard and are accepted in any place those cards are.
However, recent crackdowns by banks and payment networks in Australia and around the world mean that, at time of writing (April 2018), there are only limited bitcoin debit card options available.
Following several regulatory changes and crackdowns in the first quarter of 2018, the cryptocurrency debit card sector is currently in a state of flux.
On 5 January 2018, Visa ended its relationship with WaveCrest, the company that issues some of the most popular cryptocurrency debit cards globally. As a result, several bitcoin debit cards have been suspended until further notice. Although many of the companies behind these cards are actively pursuing a resolution with the payment service providers and regulators, the future remains uncertain. However, the information contained on this page is correct at time of writing.
It's also important to be aware that several banks in the United States and United Kingdom have banned their customers from using credit cards to buy cryptocurrency, and CommBank introduced a similar ban in February 2018. While CommBank customers are still able to use debit cards to buy digital currency at the time of writing, it's important to be aware of the potential threat of future policy and regulatory changes before signing up for a bitcoin debit card.
Compare bitcoin debit cards
The range of bitcoin debit cards currently available in Australia is relatively limited, so check out the table below for details of some of the options available. Depending on your circumstances, you may find that exchanging your bitcoin for Australian dollars (AUD) and then withdrawing those AUD to your debit card-linked bank account may represent the best value for money.
How do bitcoin debit cards work?
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency debit cards work just like any other debit card. You can swipe them at card terminals to buy things in-store, use them to withdraw cash at ATMs and enter their numbers when shopping online.
Typically, they convert your bitcoin into the local fiat currency on the spot, ideally at fair rates and without any additional fees.
They’re designed to make it easier to directly spend your cryptocurrencies as needed, even if a merchant doesn’t accept bitcoin payments.
However, be aware that some bitcoin debit cards are physical cards that you can carry around in your wallet, while others are distributed in virtual form.
Virtual debit cards can be a more secure option than physical cards because you don't have to worry about losing your plastic or having it stolen. They're cheaper (often free) and quicker to produce, with the card holder name, an expiration date and a CVV/CVC code sent to users electronically. Once you have this information, you can then start using your virtual bitcoin debit card to make purchases online.
Some cryptocurrency services will only offer physical cards, while some will offer both physical and virtual cards.
What are the common supported currencies?
BTC and USD are the most commonly supported currencies worldwide, but the supported cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies will vary by card.
For example, CoinJar Swipe debit cards only support BTC and AUD, but projects like TenX aim to provide support for a wider range of fiat and cryptocurrencies.
Make sure your chosen cryptocurrency debit card supports both the fiat and cryptocurrencies you want.
What fees and charges should I be aware of?
The fees are much like any other card. Not all providers will charge all of these, so if you want to minimise fees, shop around.
- Card issuing fee. The cost of ordering a card. It might range from $0 to $30, and varies depending on whether it’s a physical or virtual card and if there are delivery expenses.
- Card annual fee. The annual fee for a card. Many bitcoin debit cards will have no annual fee at all, and those that do might waive it if you spend a certain amount per year.
- Exchange fee. Fees incurred when converting bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to fiat currencies. Many cards won’t have any exchange fees.
- ATM fee. A fee charged when using your crypto debit card at an ATM. This fee might be charged by the owner of the ATM, it might be charged by the card issuer or it might be charged by both. It’s well worth checking these beforehand if you plan on using your bitcoin debit card to withdraw cash at ATMs.
- Third-party fees. Additional fees charged at the point of sale, usually by whichever merchant is accepting the card. Depending on your country and the type of purchase, this will often be around 1.5% to 3% to cover the portion of profits taken by Visa, Mastercard or other providers.
Where can I use my bitcoin debit card?
It will depend on the card. To work out how widely you can use it, look at what network it’s connected to.
It will often be EFTPOS, Visa or Mastercard. The card will be usable anywhere these card types are accepted.
Often this will be at an ATM, at any store with a card reader and on any website that lets you pay with a card. Of course, if you have a virtual card, keep in mind that it can only be used online.
What to consider when choosing a bitcoin debit card
You’ll want to consider all of these factors:
- What are the supported currencies?
- Where can I use the card?
- What are the fees?
- What’s the service itself and how does it work?
You’ll also want to consider any additional features of a card or service. For example, whether it lets you lock in rates to guard against price fluctuations.
Bitcoin debit cards are still very new and under development. Given the regulatory uncertainty currently surrounding these types of cards, it’s worth considering whether an alternative might suit your needs better.
Getting the card will often lock you into using a particular service. So if you don’t feel like the attached cryptocurrency wallet is secure, if it’s not good value for money or if there's anything else about the provider you're not comfortable with, then you might just skip the bitcoin debit card entirely.
Cryptocurrency debit cards are convenient, but not essential. Like anything else, you should consider how their pros and cons apply to your situation.
Risks and benefits of a bitcoin debit card
- Can be exceptionally convenient
- Can let you hold a larger proportion of your money as cryptocurrency, for better or worse
- Can be a quick and cost-effective way of converting crypto to fiat currency
- Rates and fees can vary and the costs might outweigh the benefits
- Options are relatively limited and you might be foregoing some benefits by choosing one
- Regulatory uncertainty as some banks and payment networks have imposed restrictions on these types of cards