Wirex in Brief
With its own crypto debit cards, a clean security record and credit card processing fees as low as 2.82%, Wirex provides a cheap, convenient and safe way to buy Bitcoin. The main caveat is that key Wirex features are not yet available in the US. If you live in Canada or Europe, though, Wirex is worth a look.
- Easy-to-use interface.
- Has never been hacked.
- Many different funding options are available.
- Converts almost any altcoin to Bitcoin.
- Litecoin functionality and contactless crypto cards are in development.
- Features are limited in the US.
- No support for WaveCrest-powered Visa cards.
- No way to purchase altcoins.
What is Wirex?
Wirex is an unusual type of digital currency exchange because it offers credit card services in addition to exchange services.
The Wirex system is designed to make it easy for people to use cryptocurrency in everyday situations, like buying food at the grocery store. Because Wirex’s crypto debit cards are powered by Visa, they can be used at ATMs and in ordinary stores.
A key feature is currently not available
At publication, all of Wirex’s Visa-powered crypto debit cards were suspended due to a compliance issue with WaveCrest– Wirex’s payment processor. The WaveCrest issue affected many cryptocurrency services, but it hit Wirex particularly hard because the exchange had issued all of its cards through WaveCrest.
However, if you live in the UK, you can get a Wirex “virtual card.” A virtual card is like an ordinary credit card, only there is no physical card. All the information about the card (number, expiration date, 3-digit security code, etc.) is sent out via email. Virtual cards can be used for making online purchases.
Ideal for altcoin miners
Despite the fact that Wirex’s physical debit cards are not available at the moment, Wirex is still a viable way to store and buy Bitcoin. Amateur altcoin miners will appreciate the fact that Wirex can convert nearly any altcoin into Bitcoin. If you use your computer to mine Litecoin or nearly any other altcoin, you can easily send it to Wirex and convert it into fiat money.
Cryptocurrency newbies that just want to buy some Bitcoin will also like Wirex. Many different funding options are available, including bank transfers and credit card purchases. Wirex’s interface is intuitive and easy-to-use and its fees are quite low compared to other beginner-level digital currency exchanges.
In an interview with BitBiteCoin, Wirex Co-founder Pavel Mateev shared that he was born in a small city in northern Russia. After finishing university, he left for Moscow and started his first business. He moved to London five years later and helped fine tune Morgan Stanley’s trading algorithms. He also met the other Wirex co-founder, Dmitry Lazarichev.
“I started with my co-founder Dmitry. We were really fascinated with technology and Bitcoin and we believe and we still believe that Bitcoin can bring a lot of benefits to different countries, to people in different countries and to the unbanked population.”
Though Wirex made headlines in 2016 for releasing the first two-way Bitcoin debit card, the company ran into a major stumbling block earlier this year when Visa suspended many of its crypto debit cards.
The mass card suspension wasn’t Wirex’s fault. The Daily Beast reporter Joseph Cox tweeted that Visa made the move after the credit card giant’s payment processor WaveCrest failed to comply with Visa’s membership regulations. Because Wirex gave its customers WaveCrest-powered Visa cards, Wirex was caught in the fallout of the decision.
Update: Visa says they’ve terminated WaveCrest’s services due to non-compliance w/ Visa membership regulations. “We can confirm that WaveCrest’s Visa membership is being terminated and that all of its Visa card programmes will be closed as a result.” – Joseph Cox
Apparently, Wirex is still working on a solution for the problem. The exchange has decided to suspend all WaveCrest-powered Visa cards.
Despite this setback, the exchange has been teasing new features on social media. A recent tweet from Wirex suggests that Wirex may be on the verge of integrating Litecoin. In addition, a new contactless payment card is on the way as well.
Leadership and investors
- Dmitry Lazarichev – Co-founder, Co-CEO. Before Wirex, Lazarichev founded a decentralized insurance platform that’s based on Ethereum smart contracts called Inchain.
- Pavel Matveev – Co-founder, Co-CEO. Matveev designed algorithmic trading systems at Morgan Stanley and other financial firms before starting Wirex with Lazarichev.
- Wataru Kojima – Japan CEO. After scoring $3 million in venture capital funds in 2017, Wirex hired Kojima to run Wirex in Japan. Kojima has 10 years of experience leading online trading platform Saxo Bank Securities.
- Vroon Modgill – Global CFO. Modgill was the Finance Director at Borro, a UK-US-based online lender that offers loans secured on luxury assets. Before that, he was the Senior Financial Controller at BLME, the largest Islamic bank in Europe.
- Tomas Barkus – Head of Risk. Barkus was an Interpol Inspector before becoming the Head of Financial Crime at PaySera.
- Agata Palma – Risk and Compliance Manager. Prior to coming to Wirex, Palma was the ALMA Manager at financial services provider Divisa Capital and Western Union.
In March of 2017, Wirex reeled in $3 million in venture capital funding from Japanese financial services company SBI Holdings. Wirex plans on using the funds to develop new features and expand into new markets including Japan and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Protecting customers’ coins
Legal and regulatory compliance
Though cryptocurrencies aren’t officially regulated yet, Wirex has taken steps to come into compliance with typical money service standards. Meeting regulatory standards lets cryptocurrency exchanges enhance their reputations and add credit card integration, direct bank transfers and other fiat banking features.
“Although bitcoin transactions are not (yet) regulated as such, bank card transactions are, therefore, we at Wirex must fully respect KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) policies.” – Wirex knowledge base
According to Wirex Community Manager Raphael Shalaby, Wirex is e-KYC (Know Your Customer) complaint. Wirex’s partner Onfido processes ID information for the company.
Coin listing policies
At the moment, Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that Wirex supports. A recent tweet from Wirex has led some to speculate that Wirex may be on the verge of integrating Litecoin. However, no further information about this is available on any of Wirex’s official sites.
In a podcast interview, Wirex CEO Pavel Matveev revealed that Wirex has never been successfully hacked.
“We’ve been in the industry for four years and there is no single issue in our security system. It kind of proves that our system is stable and secure.”
He went on to say that one reason why Wirex has stayed secure is that the exchange is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) qualified. The security system is periodically subjected to penetration testing and independent auditors.
Unlike most digital exchanges, Wirex accounts are protected by more than just standard two-factor authentication. In addition to Google Authenticator, Wirex users can switch on fingerprint scanning and device identification. A facial recognition security feature is in the works as well, according to comments made by Matveev during the podcast.
Wirex offers support through a ticketing system on the Wirex website. In addition, Wirex staff responds to general questions via the Wirex page on Facebook. Phone and chat support are not available.
Some of Wirex’s knowledge base articles use vague or unclear terms. For example, many of the articles use the term “local card” to refer to traditional debit and credit cards. Unless you find the knowledge base article that describes what they mean by that, you may get confused.
Another problem with the Wirex site is that it contains conflicting information. A blog post published in April of this year indicates that US residents can deposit dollars using their credit or debit card. However, this availability chart shows that the ID verification feature is not available in the US. There’s no way to unlock the credit card feature without going through the verification process.
Wirex clarified the contradiction over Facebook:
In addition to a blog and a knowledge base, Wirex also has video podcasts. Topics include investment basics, new feature walkthroughs and other helpful information. The Wirex blog features thought pieces on Bitcoin mining, price fluctuations, regulation and other cryptocurrency related topics.
Wirex made headlines in 2016 for releasing the first two-way Bitcoin debit card. When Wirex pulled in $3 million in venture capital funding in March of 2017, the exchange gained even more credibility.
Unlike most cryptocurrency exchanges, Wirex has made a considerable effort to engage with the press. CEO Pavel Matveev has guest posted on CoinDesk and the Wirex team has contributed to CoinTelegraph. In addition, Wirex has an active YouTube channel, where it posts lengthy podcast interviews and in-depth tutorials. The Wirex Community forum has four subareas and around 100 threads.
The constant media outreach seems to have helped generate a significant amount of buzz on Reddit. The top Reddit threads about Wirex are mostly positive. The most common type of complaint is about lack of feature availability. Those complaints are primarily generated by Wirex users in the US and in other limited regions where Wirex limits features.
How to Join Wirex
Who can join?
Though Wirex is available pretty much everywhere, residents of some countries get fewer features. In the United States, for example, Wirex is so limited that all it basically does is store digital funds. Wirex users in other parts of the world can take advantage of more Wirex features. Canadian residents, for example, have access to all Wirex features except virtual cards. Most European residents have all four core Wirex features.
- Wirex account. The “Wirex account” feature lets you buy Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
- Verification. You can’t do much on Wirex without verification. Verification unlocks Wirex’s USD/EUR/GBP functionality and allows users to buy BBitcoinand virtual cards.
- Top up with local card. Wirex defines “local card” as debit or credit cards. Mastercard and Visa are the available local card options.
- Virtual cards. Wirex’s virtual cards contain all the typical information that a normal credit has (a number, CVV, etc.) only there is no actual card. Virtual cards are used to buy things online.
“When we refer to a ‘local card’ we are talking about cards which have been issued by another financial institution other than Wirex (usually your local bank). This is your regular bank debit or credit card (Visa or MasterCard).” – Wirex support
In order to verify your Wirex account, you have to provide two different identity documents: proof of identity (a government-issued picture ID) and proof of address (a utility bill, bank statement, etc.). If your proof of address is written in a language other than English, you have to provide a certified translation.
Wirex does not offer business accounts.
What Can You Trade on Wirex?
You can only store Bitcoin in your Wirex wallet. However, Wirex uses a cryptocurrency exchange service called ShapeShift to convert hundreds of different altcoins into Bitcoin. This conversion service is convenient because if you’re using your computer’s GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to mine altcoins, you can easily turn those mined altcoins into Bitcoin using Wirex.
Amateur miners have started processing Litecoin and other altcoins that use the scrypt proof-of-work algorithm because they are much easier to mine compared to Bitcoin. Due to the fact that competition for Bitcoin mining rewards is now very intense, only expensive server farms can mine Bitcoin profitably. Much less hardware is needed to mine altcoins.
ShapeShift supports hundreds of different altcoins. Visit ShapeShift.io to find out which altcoins you can convert into Bitcoin with Wirex.
Wirex supports three fiat currencies: USD, GBP and EUR.
Currently, Wirex only supports SWIFT bank transfers and Faster Payments in the UK. However, expanded support is coming, according to a knowledge base article. In addition, Wirex accepts Visa and Mastercard purchases.
As mentioned above, a blog post published in April of this year indicates that US residents can deposit dollars using their credit or debit card. However, this availability chart shows that verification is not available in the US.
In Canada and most of Europe, Wirex users can buy Bitcoin with US dollars, British pounds or Euros. Wirex users that reside in the US can only deposit and send Bitcoin.
Wirex doesn’t have any advanced features. Margin trading is not available and there is only one type of order on the menu: market orders. There aren’t any real-time charts, either.
Wirex uses the ShapeShift API to get Bitcoin pricing information and information about altcoins. Detailed information about how to use the API to set up advanced trading systems is available on the ShapeShift website.
Trading Tools and Fees
Once you create your Wirex account and verify your identity, you’ll see this screen when you open the Wirex app:
The blue plus button brings up four options: Add funds, Exchange, Send and Copy address.
When you’re ready to buy Bitcoin, click Add funds.
Now you’ll be able to add funds from a credit or debit card. Alternatively, you can add funds from a digital currency exchange.
Wirex supports Visa and Mastercard debit and credit cards that are 3D secure.
Enter in your credit card number, the expiration date and the 3-digit CVV (Card Verification Value). If your phone has an NFC reader, you can click the icon in the top right part of the screen instead.
The screen depicted below shows you your limits and how much Bitcoin you’ll get.
Finally, you’ll see the fees that you’ll pay when you make your purchase.
That’s all there is to it. For a deeper look at the interface, watch the Wirex tutorial embedded below.
Mobile app support
Wirex has an iTunes app and an Android app. The Android app has a 4/5 star rating. The iTunes app has 3.5/5 stars. On both platforms, complaints center around the fact that some Wirex services are not available in certain regions.
Deposits and withdrawals
Wirex accepts Euros, US dollars and British pounds.
Though Wirex cards are free, there are a variety of fees that Wirex users have to pay for using its services. The highest fees are those for chargebacks, traces and recalls.
Wirex’s recall service lets you get your money back in certain situations, like if you used a Wirex card to pay for accommodation on Airbnb and then the host canceled the reservation with no explanation. The chargeback service lets you recover money from unauthorized transactions.
Read this knowledge base article to learn more about Wirex’s chargeback, trace and recall payment policies.
There are limits to how often you can buy cryptocurrency on Wirex. The smallest fiat transaction you can make on the site is 25 British pounds, Euros or US dollars.
Wirex only supports one digital currency: Bitcoin. However, because Wirex links into ShapeShift, it can convert many different kinds of altcoins into Bitcoin. The list of altcoins that Wirex can convert into Bitcoin changes frequently. Visit ShapeShift.io to see what’s available.
There are no deposit or withdrawal fees for cryptocurrencies.
Fees for buying digital currency with a credit or debit card vary depending on your region. Fees are higher outside the EEA (European Economic Area). The EEA is a group of European countries that encompasses the entire EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
If Wirex keeps innovating, expanding, and complying with security best practices, it will probably continue to be an important international retail exchange. However, until the regulatory situation around cryptocurrency in the US comes into focus, Wirex probably won’t enter the US market anytime soon.
For cryptocurrency miners
Cryptocurrency miners can take advantage of the fact that Wirex’s wallet will convert every major altcoin into Bitcoin. Wirex links into ShapeShift, which supports hundreds of different altcoin platforms.
For new traders
If you’re totally new to cryptocurrency, Wirex is one of the best options out there. Few other digital currency exchanges offer both low fees and an easy-to-use interface. Wirex’s knowledge base articles are sometimes vague and confusing, though.
For advanced traders
Even though Wirex doesn’t have real-time charts, margin trading or limit orders, the Wirex-ShapeShift partnership gives cryptocurrency addicts a quick and easy way to turn altcoins into Bitcoin. Cutting edge features like pre-paid crypto cards and virtual credit cards are hard to find anywhere else.