Unfortunately, many of the most high profile digital currency exchanges in the US (Coinbase, GDAX, Gemini and others) do not support debit card buys. However, there are a handful of lesser-known cryptocurrency exchanges that do. Read on to learn which exchanges let you invest in BTC using your debit card.
How to Buy Bitcoin with a Debit Card
Here’s a big picture view of the main options for buying Bitcoin with a debit card.
The easiest way to buy
If you intend to purchase a small amount of Bitcoin, and hold onto it in the hopes that prices will go up again, so-called “retail” exchanges like Changelly or CoinMama are good options. Though both exchanges have high fees, those fees won’t really matter much to casual investors. If you’re considering placing multiple trades, however, those fees could add up to significant charges.
Peer-to-peer exchanges are similar to eBay and Craigslist in that they match individual Bitcoin sellers with people who want to buy Bitcoin all over the world. Because anyone can join, you can find sellers that are willing to accept just about any payment method there is, including debit cards. The best peer-to-peer exchanges feature low fees as well as rating systems and escrow services that protect their users from fraud. LocalBitcoins and Paxful are two of the best peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchanges on the market today.
For cryptocurrency enthusiasts
If you already are a frequent cryptocurrency trader or you intend to become one, you may want to sign up with an advanced digital currency exchange. CEX.IO and Bitstamp both cater to frequent traders with fee discounts, support for altcoins and other useful features including debit card purchases. But if you’re a complete beginner, you may find their interfaces to be confusing.
Here’s an in-depth look at each of the digital currency exchanges mentioned above.
Cryptocurrency newbies may want to consider making their first Bitcoin purchase through Changelly. Like most digital currency exchanges that cater to newbies, Changelly is easy to use, but it its fees are very pricey.
- 0.5% commission fee
- Variable network processing fee.
- Additional built-in fees.
Changelly’s base fee is only 0.5%– a very reasonable fee, compared to other newbie-friendly exchanges. However, because Changelly doesn’t give you the best price for Bitcoin, an additional hidden fee is built into the system.
According to Google, the current price of Bitcoin is currently $9255.01 USD.
But $9255.01 won’t buy you a full Bitcoin if you use Changelly. You can only buy a fraction of a Bitcoin for that amount.
The difference between the market price of Bitcoin and Changelly’s price is 0.03155265 BTC, which is equivalent to $292.02 USD. That’s quite a high fee, which is why it’s not a wise idea to buy a large amount of Bitcoin through Changelly.
However, if you buy only $100 worth of Bitcoin through Changelly, you’ll pay a much more reasonable fee: $2.17 USD.
Currently, the difference between Changelly’s price and the market price for $100 worth of Bitcoin amounts to a $1.67 hidden fee. In addition to that $1.67 price difference, you also have to pay Changelly’s 0.5% commission fee. Add those two numbers together and you get $2.17.
Joining Changelly is a a quick and easy process. Here’s a quick view of what Changelly’s interface looks like.
The first step of the process is creating an account. Use your Google+, Facebook or Twitter credentials or type in your email address to get started.
After you have an account, all you have to do is click the first drop-down box and select USD. Then, click the second drop-down box and select BTC.
Changelly’s Bitcoin purchase limits have recently increased. Now, you can buy up to $10,000 USD worth of Bitcoin in your first transaction. The daily and monthly limits are $20,000 and $50,000. (However, if you plan on buying that much Bitcoin, you’re better off using some other digital currency exchange.)
Read our in-depth review to find out about Changelly.
If you use American Express prepaid debit cards, Abra is the best option for investing in Bitcoin because it’s one of the only digital currency exchanges that supports American Express.
When you use your American Express prepaid debit card to deposit US dollars in the Abra app, you’ll have to pay a 4% convenience fee. After the purchase goes through, you will see your balance in the USD folder. From there, buying Bitcoin is simply a matter of initiating a free USD-to-Bitcoin exchange.
Like Changelly, CoinMama and most other retail exchanges, Abra offers a higher-than-market-rate Bitcoin prices to its users. If you click the question mark button next to Abra’s price for Bitcoin, you will see the following message:
The price that Abra says it’s charging for Bitcoin– 9,291.45 US dollars– is actually very close to the current market price. However, the disclaimer depicted above gives Abra the right to charge you more during the transaction and profit from the price difference.
Unlike all the other exchanges covered in this article, Abra is not available on the web. You need a mobile device to use Abra, and all your financial data is contained on your phone– not on a website. If you lose your phone or upgrade it accidentally, retrieving your money may not be possible if you lose the code that you get when you create your account.
- 4% convenience fee.
To get started with Abra,just download the app from Apple’s App Store or from Google Play. Then, enter your name, email address and mobile phone number to create an account.
This is what Abra’s interface looks like:
To transfer money into Abra, click the Add Money button and then select American Express.
For more about Abra, read our full review.
CoinMama is similar to Changelly, only its fees are much higher. CoinMama charges a 5.9% commission fee, plus a 5% debit card transaction fee. Those fees mean that you’ll have to pay about $11 to buy $100 worth of Bitcoin through CoinMama (as of the time this article was published).
Besides the high fees, another issue with CoinMama is that you can’t sell your Bitcoin once you buy it. If you want to sell, you have to transfer your Bitcoin to a different exchange. In addition, CoinMama doesn’t offer a hosted wallet service. You have to set your wallet up through a 3rd party site, and then link your wallet to your CoinMama account.
Yet another downside to CoinMama is that it is only available in 23 US states.
The only clear benefit that CoinMama brings to the table is that it’s been around since 2013 and has never been hacked.
- 5.5% base fee (included in the price of Bitcoin displayed on the site).
- 5% debit card transaction fee.
As is the case with Changelly, creating a CoinMama account is quick and painless. All you need to do to create an account is fill in a simple form.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see the “my account” page, which gives you two options: Buy bitcoin and Buy ethereum.
You’ll see the price packages screen depicted below if you click one of the two blue buy buttons. The button on the top lets you switch between USD and EUR.
The slider on the bottom of the page lets you make your own purchase package. Using the slider, you can buy as much as 0.58 or as little as 0.012 BTC.
Follow the link below to find out more about CoinMama.
Paxful is very different from the two retail exchanges listed above. Unlike Changelly and CoinMama, Paxful is a peer-to-peer exchange. This exchange is similar to eBay or Craigslist, in that anyone can sign up for Paxful and start selling Bitcoin on the site. Because every merchant can set his or her own terms, there are many different payment options available. Some Paxful merchants accept debit card payments.
Paxful makes money through advertisements. If you want to create a buy offer that will appear on the Paxful site, you have to pay a 1% fee. But if you are willing to search through the sell ads to find a buyer, you don’t have to pay any fees at all.
Because Paxful sellers that accept credit and debit card payments have to pay processing fees, they typically charge a bit more compared to Paxful sellers that only accept bank transfers.
The Paxful website has a Buy Bitcoins Instantly box that you can use to pull up a list of Debit-Card-for-Bitcoin offers. Click Any Credit/Debit Card on the left side of the page and then type in the amount of money you want to spend. Then, click Buy Bitcoin Now to pull up the search results page.
This is what the search results page looks like. The current Bitcoin market price is listed on the top right corner of the page. Statistics about the sellers are displayed under the Seller column. Prices for offers are listed in the Rate per bitcoin column.
Currently, there’s only one Paxful seller that accepts debit card purchases.
It’s a good idea to click the ad to see how the Paxful seller wants to conduct the transaction before you buy. This particular Paxful seller doesn’t require identification, but the maximum amount of Bitcoin they will sell is the equivalent of $35 USD. In addition, they do not process more than one sale per user per 24 hour period.
Find out more about Paxful in our full review.
LocalBitcoins is similar to Paxful, but it’s older and has more users. Because competition is higher, Bitcoin prices are often lower compared to Paxful. However, the LocalBitcoins interface is somewhat dated and doesn’t have as many features. It is a good idea to check both sites before you make your purchase.
The way that LocalBitcoins works is almost identical to how Paxful works. LocalBitcoins users can use Paxful’s rating system to steer clear of unreliable sellers. There’s also an escrow system that holds Bitcoin in escrow until the buyer and seller are completely satisfied.
- LocalBitcoins only charges one blanket 1% fee.
- You only have to pay that fee if you use an advertisement to find a Bitcoin seller.
- Bitcoin sellers on LocalBitcoins usually charge extra for debit card sales.
LocalBitcoins’ fee structure is the same as Paxful’s, as well. There is a 1% fee, but you only have to pay that fee if you place an buy ad. If you don’t use an ad to find a seller, you don’t have to pay the fee.
The first step is filling in the account creation form. Provide your email and enter a password to proceed to the next step.
To buy Bitcoins, click the Buy Bitcoins tab. Then, pick a country, type in the amount you want to buy. Next, click the All online offers drop-down box and pick Other Pre-Paid Debit Card. Finally, click Search.
The results page will display a list of traders that are accepting pre-paid debit card payments for Bitcoin in the country you selected.
The first number next to the seller’s name indicates the number of successful transactions that her or she has processed. The second number is the seller’s reputation score. The colored circle shows the seller’s response time. If the circle is yellow, that means that this seller takes around 30 minutes to respond. A green circle means that the seller typically responds immediately.
Note: Because many LocalBitcoins sellers that accept credit card payments also accept debit card payments, the Credit Card search results page is worth looking at as well.
Follow the link below to read an in-depth review of LocalBitcoins.
Like Changelly and CoinMama, CEX.IO lets you buy Bitcoin using your debit card. However, CEX.IO looks entirely different compared to those two exchanges. Unlike Changelly and CoinMama, CEX.IO caters to advanced traders.
CEX.IO’s interface is equipped with real-time charts and it supports a variety of different altcoins that aren’t available through typical retail exchanges. In addition, transaction fees are much lower and discounts are available to high volume traders.
The main downside of CEX.IO is that it has limited availability in the US. This exchange is only officially available in 22 states. Some US banks are known to decline CEX.IO debit card purchases. In addition, some US-based CEX.IO users have had trouble making withdrawals.
- Transaction fees for BTC start at 0.25% taker / 0.16% maker. Fees change depending on your 30-day trading volume.
- Visa cards: 3.5% + 25¢ for deposits, $3.80 for withdrawals
- Master cards: 3.5% + 25¢ for deposits, 1.2% + $3.80 for withdrawals.
CEX.IO lets you create an account and log in right away. Enter your email or link one of your social media accounts to begin the account creation process.
CEX.IO’s main page id depicted below. To deposit USD using your debit card, click the blue deposit button.
Now, you will be able to add a credit card to your account. Select Payment card and then click Add a new card to continue. Once you complete the verification process, you’ll be able to deposit funds into your CEX.IO account using your debit card.
To buy some Bitcoin, click the Trade tab on the top of the page and select the BTC/USD currency pair.
Next, scroll down until you see three tabs labeled Limit, Market and Margin trading. Select the tab that corresponds to the type of order you want to place, then click Place order.
Read our comprehensive review to learn more about CEX.IO.
Bitstamp is similar to CEX.IO, but it has better US availability. Like CEX.IO, Bitstamp caters to experienced traders. It has real-time charts, multiple order types and fee discounts for high volume traders.
- Like CEX.IO, transaction fees vary depending on your trading volume. The base rate for all trading pairs is 0.25%.
- Flat 5% fee for all credit/debit card purchases on top of any fees that your bank applies.
In order to do anything on Bitstamp, you have to provide several forms of identification. Here’s what the interface looks like.
The signup page is just a simple form. Fill in the information and then click Register to proceed to the next step.
After you log in, Bitstamp will prompt you to change your password.
You have to answer some questions, fill in some forms and provide a picture ID to unlock your account.
After you complete the verification process, you’ll be able to use your debit/credit card to buy Bitcoin.
The trading interface depicted below gives advanced traders the ability to fine tune their orders. Type in the amount of Bitcoin you want to buy on the right side of the screen and click Buy to place an order.
Read our full Bitstamp review to learn more about this exchange before you sign up.
If all you want to do is buy a few hundred dollars worth of Bitcoin with a debit card, Changelly is your best option. Changelly supports Visa and Mastercard debit cards, plus its fees are reasonable. If you’re willing to try out a peer-to-peer exchange, LocalBitcoins and Paxful both have good anti-fraud features. For cryptocurrency enthusiasts looking for altcoin support and advanced features, CEX.IO and Bitstamp are two good advanced crypto exchanges that support debit card purchases.