Even though more merchants are accepting Bitcoin payments, Bitcoin still isn’t as easy to use as traditional money. If you want to use your Bitcoin funds to buy things in stores, you often have to either choose from a limited number of retailers or go through multiple steps to exchange your Bitcoin for traditional currency.
Bitcoin-powered debit cards give you a third choice. Bitcoin debit cards can make your life easier, especially if you have a large amount of Bitcoin and you want an easy way to spend. Once you link your Bitcoin wallet directly to a card, you can use that card for ordinary purchases.
Keep reading for an overview of the two best Bitcoin debit cards on the market today.
What’s the Best Bitcoin Debit Card?
Before you pick out a Bitcoin debit card, you should check to see whether or not it is available and take a close look at its fee structure. In addition, it’s a good idea to find out whether or not the card service was affected by the recent Visa-WaveCrest split.
- Availability. United States cryptocurrency laws vary from state to state. Because of this, a Bitcoin debit card that’s available in Oregon may not be available in New York– so be sure to read the fine print and make sure that your locality is within the operating area before you order your card.
- Fees. A second thing you should learn about before you commit is your prospective Bitcoin debit card’s fee structure. Most Bitcoin debit cards have reasonable fees. However, some cryptocurrency services– like Abra, for instance– charge above the market rate for Bitcoin-to-fiat conversions and then they keep the profits. This fee structure in effect creates a “hidden fee” that you have to pay every time you convert cryptocurrency to fiat, or vice versa.
- Was the card service affected by the recent WaveCrest-Visa breakup? Another thing to look into before you order your Bitcoin debit card is whether or not the Bitcoin debit card service was affected by the WaveCrest debacle of January 5th, 2018. WaveCrest is a bank card processor that failed to comply with Visa’s standards. As a result, Visa kicked WaveCrest out of its network. Because many cryptocurrency services had issued cards through WaveCrest, Visa’s move had a huge impact. After the breakup, all Visa cards issued by WaveCrest were suspended. Wirex and many other cryptocard services are still in the process of finding a new card issuer.
The best option for US residents: Coinbase’s Shift card
Because it does not charge for crypto-to-fiat conversions and is available in most US states, Coinbase’s Shift card is the all-around best Bitcoin debit card option available.
One of the biggest benefits of Shift is Coinbase integration. Coinbase is one of the most reputable digital currency exchanges on the market right now. Coinbase users can quickly and easily buy Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin and Ether and use the Shift card to make everyday in-person purchases using funds from their cryptocurrency wallets.
Though Coinbase caters to first-time cryptocurrency investors, an advanced version of Coinbase called GDAX is also available. If you ever need advanced cryptocurrency trading features like real-time charts, customizable orders and fee discounts for frequent trading, you can easily use your Coinbase account to open a free account on GDAX.
If you can’t get Shift, try Skrill
If Coinbase’s Shift card isn’t available in your area, Skrill is the next best option. Unlike many cryptocard services, Skrill was not affected by the WaveCrest-Visa split.
Skrill isn’t a full-featured digital currency exchange like Coinbase, but it is a very versatile digital wallet that can accept many different money transfer methods including Bitcoin — but not if you live in the US or Canada. Only Skrill users that live outside of the US and Canada can fund their prepaid Skrill cards with Bitcoin.
Skrill was the first licensed e-money issuer in the UK and is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It’s available in nearly every country in the world.
Unlike Coinbase’s Shift card, Skrill doesn’t let you create a direct connection between your Bitcoin wallet and your card. Instead, you have to pay a 1% fee to transfer funds into Skrill via a QR code or Bitcoin payment URL. Skrill then uses a service called BitPay to convert your Bitcoin into fiat funds. Once those funds land in your account, you can use them to top up your card.
The Best Bitcoin Debit Cards: Walkthroughs and Detailed Information
Now that you know the basics, here’s a more in-depth look at Shift and Skrill.
Coinbase’s Shift Visa debit card
Shift was the first Bitcoin debit card to debut in the US. Because the Shift card uses the Visa network to process point-of-sale transactions, you can use your Shift card anywhere Visa is accepted.
You can get more information about your Shift transactions online via Coinbase or via the official Shift app. The Shift app is similar to a standard online banking app. You can use it to track your purchases, check your balance and set up real-time push notifications.
Who is it for?
Coinbase’s Shift card has features that appeal to both hardcore cryptocurrency enthusiasts and casual cryptocurrency investors.
Cryptocurrency newbies will appreciate the fact that with a Coinbase account and a Shift card, you can purchase Bitcoin and several other major cryptocurrencies and use those funds to make day-to-day purchases.
Experienced crypto traders will also benefit from the Shift card because it provides easy access to cryptocurrency funds. Though the core Coinbase interface is probably too stripped down for advanced traders, it’s very easy to get more features by connecting Coinbase to GDAX. Essentially, GDAX is the advanced version of Coinbase. Using GDAX, you can use real-time charts and limit orders to place more precise trades. In addition, frequent cryptocurrency traders can take advantage of reduced fees. Read our full review of GDAX to learn more about it.
Though Coinbase’s Shift card is available in most US states, Coinbase is still stuck in regulatory limbo in some states. Residents of the following US states can register to receive a Shift card:
How does it work?
Unlike Skrill and most other cryptocards, Shift isn’t a prepaid debit card. It’s a “true” debit card that works just like any debit card that you’d get from a traditional bank. In other words, you don’t have to top up your Shift card before you use it.
When you set up your Shift debit card, you can connect your it directly to your Bitcoin wallet. Once you make a purchase using your Shift card, Coinbase subtracts the necessary amount of Bitcoin from your Bitcoin wallet and converts that amount into USD or whatever other currency you need to use.
You have to pay $20 USD to get a Shift debit card. After that, you have to pay $2.50 for ATM and “Over the Counter” withdrawals, 3% for international transactions and $10 if you need to order a new card.
It’s worth noting here that the Coinbase site and the Shift card site do not contain any information about exactly when and how Coinbase calculates the current price of Bitcoin when you make a transaction using the Shift card.
The first step of getting a Shift card is creating a Coinbase account. To do that, you must provide your full name and email address. After you verify your email address, you have to provide a phone number. After you verify your phone number, you can log onto your dashboard, which looks like this:
The dashboard shows you the price of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin. You can buy or sell any of these currencies by clicking Buy/Sell.
After you attempt to place an order, the interface will prompt you to set up a payment method.
Before you can use most parts of the Coinbase interface, you have to identify yourself. You can do that by uploading a picture ID.
Once you’ve verified your account, you can order a Shift card by going to the Shift card website. From there, click the blue Connect Coinbase button.
Next, you’ll see this authorization screen.
Scroll down until you get to the end of the authorization message, then use the drop down box to select the Bitcoin wallet you want to use with your Shift card.
Your Shift cards will arrive in 5-7 business days. Cards are mailed out every weekday at around 5pm PST.
Skrill’s prepaid Mastercard
With easy money transfers and prepaid debit card services, Skrill offers several options for sending money pretty much anywhere in the world.
In 2002, Skrill became Europe’s first FCA-regulated e-money issuer. Skrill is available in almost every country except in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya (click here for the full list of non-serviced countries).
As long as you don’t live in the US or Canada, you can fund your Skrill account with a Bitcoin.com wallet. Once you’ve transferred some money into Skrill, you can use your funds to top up your Skrill card.
Skrill’s fee schedule varies depending on the location. Most Skrill users will pay a 1% fee for transferring money from a Bitcoin.com wallet into Skrill. In addition, there’s a small inactivity fee (3 euros if you live in the UK) that you have to pay if you remain inactive for 12 months. Skrill prepaid debit cards cost 10 euros.
Visit Skrill’s fee page and select your country from the drop down menu to find out what your fees will be if you decide to sign up.
Who’s it for?
The main benefit of Skrill is that it lets people who don’t have a bank account send and receive money and use their Bitcoin funds to buy things. Once you have a Skrill card, you can order goods and services online and in person wherever Mastercard is accepted.
Coinbase’s Shift card also offers a way to get a bank card without a bank account, but it isn’t as flexible because Shift cards have to be connected to a cryptocurrency wallet. If you use Skrill, however, Bitcoin is just one of many available deposit and withdrawal methods.
People who send funds through remittance services will save a significant amount of money by switching to Skrill. Though the fee for sending money with Skrill varies depending on where you reside, most Skrill users will pay 2% or less. According to a study published by the World Bank, remittance services were charging their clients around 7.9% for sending money across borders in 2015.
How does it work?
Unlike Coinbase, Skrill isn’t a digital currency exchange. You can’t buy Bitcoin or other digital currencies on Skrill. However, you can send many different types of payments into your Skrill wallet.
Skrill rewards its frequent users with fee discounts, priority customer service and other perks.
Over the span of its 17 year history, the company has partnered with many different merchants and online services. Skrill users can use their Skrill wallets to place trades on FOREX, gamble and play online games.
To create a Skrill account, you have to provide your full name, date of birth and email address.
Once you verify your email address, you can begin adding funding sources to your account.
There are many funding options available, but the funding options change depending on where you reside. If you live outside of the US or Canada, you can add money to your Skrill wallet using your Bitcoin funds.
Skrill uses BitPay to convert Bitcoin into whatever fiat currency you selected when you created your Skrill wallet.
Type in the amount of money want to transfer from your Bitcoin wallet to your Skrill wallet and click Proceed to BitPay.
BitPay will display a QR code that you can use to complete the transfer. Alternatively, you can copy the payment URL instead.
Once you have some funds in Skrill, you can top up your Skrill prepaid Mastercard. You can order your Skrill prepaid Mastercard from your Skrill dashboard. The fee for ordering a prepaid debit card is 10 euros.
For most people in the US, Coinbase’s Shift card is the best Bitcoin debit card option. Once you create a Coinbase account, you’ll be able to buy Bitcoin and several other cryptocurrencies and then link your Bitcoin wallet directly to your card.
Outside the US, Skrill is a good way to turn your Bitcoin into currency that you can use in any store. Though you do have to go through a multi-step process to top up your Skrill card with Bitcoin, that hassle is offset by the fact that you can use a variety of methods to fund your card and the benefits you can get if you use your card frequently.