The era of easy bitcoin atm cards may already be over, as KYC regulators and banks have made this business increasingly difficult to operate in. Fortunately, there are still some solutions. Let’s go through the pros and cons. This list may change over time, but we will do our best to update it over time.
Why even use a bitcoin debit card?
In today’s environment one could ask, does using a bitcoin or cryptocurrency visa or mastercard even makes sense? You will have to go through the same KYC procedures as registering in a regular exchange, the days of being able to order an anonymous card are largely over, and even if you find a solution, the limits are going to be tiny and the risk of getting scammed fairly high. So what is even the point?
Well, if you’ve dealt with banks before, perhaps attempting to buy or sell bitcoin, you might have learned that many banks are not very friendly to this activity, depending on your relationship with the bank, your jurisdiction, and the bank itself. Many banks close accounts at will at the instant you utter the word “bitcoin”, even after the cryptocurrency has continued to evolve and become more normalized. The truth is though that bitcoin represents a threat to the banking sector as well as a security risk from the point of regulators who don’t still fully understand it, so most banks will be cautious about dealing with it.
Therefore, we’d argue that the biggest use case for bitcoin debit cards is being able to “cash out” of bitcoin without sacrificing your primary bank account. Of course, the card can also be used for regular purchases in locations where crypto isn’t accepted, which was probably the original idea – but as said, not having to sacrifice your main bank account is the key difference here. Knowing that, let’s look at our options.
Neo Banks and EMIs
There seems to be a theme with bitcoin debit card companies opening and closing like clockwork, likely for 2 reasons: Regulatory difficulties and competition. Companies that focus on cards only don’t tend to stay afloat for too long, so in order to reduce your risk of losing your remaining funds when a company inevitably shuts down, Neo Banks may be a better solution. These are fintech companies in the form of new age banks that mostly do business over the internet. They always come with prepaid debit cards, and funding can be done by sending a wire to your dedicated neo bank account through an exchange like Bitstamp or Bitfinex. The downside is that you add an extra step to the process, you’ll need to get verified both at the exchange and with the neo bank. Furthermore you’ll need to manually send funds from the exchange to your neo banking app, then send those funds to the card via their app. However, the effort should be worth it, for a couple of reasons. First, Neo Banks have a business model that is more diversified, not entirely reliant on bitcoin cards or transactions, so they will have less difficulty with regulators and less difficulty with funding – in other words, they are more likely to actually stay in business, so your funds are more safe. (We’ve lost enough money through failing card businesses to know the value of this). Secondly, with neo banks, you gain more control over your funds than a simple card. You’ll be able to send the funds regularly as a bank transaction as you please, just like a regular bank. Except that they’re less likely to close your account for mentioning the word bitcoin, and even if they do, other neo bank accounts are significantly easier to open than regular old fashioned bank accounts for almost all nationalities.
Our favorite Neo Banks to withdraw bitcoin
Currently only available to European residents, but if you fit the bill, this is the #1 solution to bitcoin debit cards and banking in general at the moment.
Neat doesn’t currently support a personalized IBAN except for business accounts, but this is a work in progress according to their represantives.
A reputable EMI that openly supports cryptocurrencies.
Direct Bitcoin debit card solutions
If you just want an easy solution and are comfortable with the risks mentioned above, there are still some solutions for these kind of cards. For a long time, Wirex was a great option, but currently we’d advise people to look elsewhere as regulation and mismanagement seems to have taken over this business. Here are a few alternatives that are viable in 2019:
- A new company with a backlog of 15000+ card orders, but good feedback. If you can wait a few months, this would be our current top recommendation.
- Available to north americans
- A new company currently available to residents of Singapore and Oceania, looking to expand in the near future.
We will update this space as the industry progresses, stay tuned.