28 Feb, 2019 at 11:31am
A debit card is a card that can be topped up with money to use when making payments. A crypto debit card works the same way except that it can only be topped up with cryptocurrency - a bitcoin debit card would be a card that can only be topped up with bitcoin. The bitcoin cards work by taking a deposit from the user, in BTC, and automatically converting that amount to a fiat currency when making a purchase or, in some cases, when depositing the crypto. Depending on which way the exchange rates go, you may get more money from an instant conversion on deposit, or you could get more money from a conversion that happens when paying for goods or services. Your card can be used whenever and wherever for everyday purchases, provided you have enough money on it and that type of card is accepted, typically Visa or MasterCard.
One of the most frequently asked questions about cryptocurrency debit cards is in regards to anonymity. Whilst Bitcoin transactions can be traced back to their source, there is some level of anonymity and privacy with a debit card for the coin. It is, of course, impossible to track someone’s physical location as debit cards do not contain GPS tracking, however, it is possible to see which ATMs the card is used at - this is the same with regular debit cards as well, and not an isolated incident with BTC cards. A worrying factor when it comes to wanting to retain privacy is that many ATMs have security cameras, so it is possible that your face could be linked to your card if the ATM company/camera operator wanted to. As with the previous point, this can happen with any type of card though, because the card providers aren’t the ones monitoring the ATMs, it’s the people that install them who do.
With Know Your Customer taking exchanges by storm and preventing people from having anonymity, it is often a big question as to whether someone’s personal information is needed when signing up to a crypto-related platform. When it comes to bitcoin debit cards, the short answer is both yes and no.
With some companies, it is allegedly possible to get an unverified card. The unverified cards are usually only virtual cards that are readily available and offered by many companies, providing a solution for non-physical cards that provide anonymity. Virtual cards can be used for many things, whether it’s ordering on an e-commerce site or making a donation - the only real restriction with them is that they can’t exactly be used in physical stores as, well, they’re virtual cards.
Due to government regulations and identification requirements, unverified prepaid cards have largely disappeared, especially with the reports of it being linked to illicit activities. In fact, every company I tried that allegedly has unverified cards in the EU wouldn’t let me create one, maybe because I reside in the UK. Although I wasn’t able to get an unverified physical card, I could get a verified physical card, but what good is a verified crypto card when this article is meant to be about anonymous ones.
Different card companies are offering different things - here is a comparison of some of the top and most trusted cryptocurrency debit card providers.
Wirex is one of the most used companies for VISA cards and offers plastic ones for USD, EUR, and GBP, essentially three of the most used currencies. The kicker to this is that you are required to upload ID to verify and confirm your account, even for a virtual card, eliminating all chances of anonymity. On the other hand, though, you are free to use Wirex as a wallet for your cryptocurrencies without verifying your identity. A benefit with Wirex is that you are also getting a mobile app that goes hand in hand with your online account, allowing you to do everything you need on the go.
Bitpay is another popular option and is, sadly, only available in the United States but on the plus side, it supports all 50 states. In addition to this, they require ID verification before deciding whether someone qualifies for a prepaid plastic card. One thing to note is that a large number of people do complain about the customer service and the transaction fees. The company charges a variable “Network Cost” fee on each transaction - these are essentially the miner fees. More can be read on the Network Cost fee, here. Bitpay doesn’t appear to offer virtual cards but does have a mobile app.
One of the more popular options is U.K. registered Cryptopay which, like with Wirex, offers virtual and plastic cards for USD, EUR, and GBP. Unlike Bitpay, this option is not offered in the U.S but it offered in a wide array of other countries. Like with both of the above options, there is a mobile app available on both Android and iOS. Cryptopay cards appear to not be available in the UK when I tried to make on the site, and they also required ID verification, however, you are able to use the platform as a wallet without verifying your ID.
Supporting over 40 cryptocurrencies, Uquid is certainly an option for those who want more of a range. In addition, the plastic cards offered also support USD, GBP, and EUR, like most of the other card providers we’ve talked about. Similarly, a mobile app is also offered. On a negative note, as with the other providers discussed, ID verification is required.
Since crypto debit cards were first introduced, anonymous or unverified cards have been rapidly disappearing to the point where it is near impossible to get one. This was proved at my inability to find and secure one - a rather disappointing result for something that is centered around privacy. It is now no longer possible, in most cases, to get a prepaid card without verifying your identity. One could choose to opt for using a mobile wallet over a debit card at many locations.
Image Sources: Wirex, ICOReign,