Bitcoin debit cards help bridge the gap between cryptocurrency and the real world, making it possible to buy just about anything with your crypto assets.
This guide takes a closer look at how cryptocurrency debit cards work and how you can compare the available options to find a card that’s right for your needs.
Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific
provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade.
Compare Bitcoin debit and credit cards at a glance
Looking to load your crypto card? Check out our guide to crypto exchanges.
How do I choose a Bitcoin debit or credit card?
If you want to know how to choose the best Bitcoin debit card for your needs, you’ll need to thoroughly research the cards available and compare the features they have to offer.
The full breakdown: Features to consider when choosing your Bitcoin debit card
|Type of card||Does the provider offer a physical Bitcoin debit card, a virtual Bitcoin debit card or both? Not only will this affect where you can use the card, for example, you can’t use a virtual card at an ATM, but also the fees that apply. If a provider offers both physical and virtual cards, make sure you’re comparing fees and features for the type of card you want.|
|Prepaid vs non-prepaid cards||Next, check whether the card is prepaid or not. Prepaid cards allow you to load cryptocurrency onto your card and have it converted to fiat currency straight away, so you have a balance of GBP ready to go. Meanwhile, non-prepaid cards are connected to a Bitcoin wallet, allowing your Bitcoin to be converted to fiat currency on the spot when you make a purchase.|
|Supported currencies||Check which fiat currencies the card supports. Only a quite limited range of cards allow you to convert your crypto to GBP, with USD and EUR much more widely accepted. In terms of cryptocurrencies, most cards accept Bitcoin only, but some also allow you to top up your balance using other digital currencies.|
|Card issuance cost||Most Bitcoin debit cards don’t come free, so you’ll need to check how much the provider charges for ordering, delivering and activating your card. Prices vary depending on whether you choose a plastic or virtual card, though plastic cards usually cost more upfront and can be US$50 or more in some cases.|
|Loading fees||Many providers will charge a fee when you load your card with crypto coins or tokens. This may be a flat fee or a percentage of your transaction amount, so check the fine print to find out how much it’ll cost you.|
|Additional fees||Next, make sure you’re aware of any other fees that apply to the card. These may include:|
- Monthly service fee. Some card providers charge a monthly service fee for the use of the card. This fee is generally minimal (around US$1–$2) but make sure you include it in your calculations.
- Annual fee. Alternatively, your provider may charge an annual fee to all cardholders.
- Currency conversion fee. Check the fine print to see whether you’re charged a fee for converting crypto into fiat currency, for converting one fiat currency to another or for converting one cryptocurrency to another. You could be charged a flat amount or a fee calculated as a percentage of each transaction.
- ATM withdrawal fee. How much will it cost you to make an ATM withdrawal using your card? Does the fee vary between domestic and international ATMs?
- International transaction fee. Check what fee the provider will charge you for international transactions on your card. Fees of 3% are not uncommon.
- Inactivity fee. Some providers will charge a fee if your card is inactive for a specified period of time.
- Third-party fees. Additional fees may also be charged at the point of sale, usually by whichever merchant is accepting the card. Depending on your country and the type of purchase, this will often be around 1.5–3% to cover the portion of profits taken by Visa, Mastercard or other providers.
|Exchange rate||What exchange rate will you get when the provider converts your crypto into fiat currency? Check to see how the provider calculates its exchange rates and how it compares to market rates. Please note that crypto debit card exchange rates will typically be noticeably lower than mid-market rates.|
|App available?||Does the debit card also come with a linked smartphone app and wallet you can use to manage your funds? For example, you may be able to use the app to check your balance, top up your card and convert funds from one currency to another.Also check whether you need to use the wallet offered by the card provider or whether you have the option of linking your card to your own secure wallet.|
|Transaction limits||Most card providers impose limits on the amount you can spend on your card. Make sure you check for:|
- Loading limits
- Daily and per-transaction spending limits
- ATM withdrawal limits
|Other loading methods||Some card providers will require you to already own cryptocurrency which you can then use to load your card. However, many providers allow you to purchase cryptocurrency directly through their app/wallet platform. If this is the case, check which payment methods you can use to exchange your fiat currency for digital coins, such as bank transfer, BPAY and credit or debit card payment.|
Some Bitcoin debit cards are available almost globally, but others are only offered to customers in specific countries. Check the provider’s terms and conditions to make sure their card is available where you live.
|Payment network||Check which payment network the crypto debit card is issued on, such as Visa or Mastercard. This will help you work out exactly where the card is accepted all around the world.|
|Verification requirements||Find out what sort of personal details and ID you’ll need to provide when you sign up for a card. Will completing an ID verification process allow you to access higher transaction limits? Is it possible to register anonymously if you wish?|
|Company background||Finally, don’t forget to take some time to consider the background of the company behind the card. How long have they been in business? Where are they based? What sort of reputation do they have? Has their card been linked to any scams?|
By comparing cards based on the above factors, you’ll be well placed to decide which cryptocurrency debit card is the right fit for you.
How do Bitcoin debit and credit cards work?
A Bitcoin debit card is a debit card linked to your cryptocurrency balance. These cards aim to make it quick and easy to spend your crypto coins in the real world, allowing you to pay with digital currency anywhere that regular debit and credit cards are accepted and to use your crypto balance to withdraw cash at an ATM.
How they work is actually quite simple:
- Prepaid cards allow you to load your card with coins from your crypto wallet, which are automatically converted into your fiat currency of choice (ie British pound) so that you have an GBP balance on your card ready to spend.
- Non-prepaid cards are linked to your Bitcoin wallet so that whenever you swipe them at a payment terminal or enter your card details to make an online payment, the card provider converts your digital coins into fiat currency at the current exchange rate to complete the transaction.
Crypto debit cards usually run on existing card networks like Visa, Mastercard or EFTPOS and can be used anywhere in the world where those cards are accepted. Bitcoin is far and away the most widely supported cryptocurrency across debit card providers, but some providers around the world also allow you to load your card using other currencies, such as Ethereum and Litecoin.
Finally, make sure you’re aware that cryptocurrency debit cards come in two forms:
- Physical cards that you can carry around in your wallet, swipe at payment terminals and use at ATMs
- Virtual cards that allow you to enter your card details for online purchases
How would I use a Bitcoin debit card?
Buying a GoPro with cryptocurrency
Jim wants to buy a new GoPro camera. But thanks to a spate of unexpected bills, he’s a little short of cash at the moment and doesn’t have the exact money necessary to complete the purchase.
However, Jim does have a crypto wallet where he is storing some BTC, so he decides to buy the camera with some of his Bitcoin balance. He decides the easiest way to do that is to use a Bitcoin debit card. How does he go about doing this?
Jim signs up for a physical Bitcoin debit card that allows him to convert his BTC into GBP and pay at any EFTPOS terminal around the country. Once his card arrives, he uses the card provider’s app to load enough BTC onto his card. The provider converts his BTC into GBP as it gets loaded onto the card.
Jim then uses the card to pay for his GoPro at the local electronics store. All he has to do is swipe the card at the EFTPOS payment terminal and enter his PIN.
What are the benefits and risks?
If you’re considering getting a cryptocurrency debit card, make sure you consider the pros and cons first.
Benefits of Bitcoin debit cards
- Convenient access to your crypto coins
- Allow you to spend your cryptocurrency in the real world
- A quick and easy way to convert your crypto into fiat currency
Risks of Bitcoin debit cards
- Rates and fees vary between cards but can significantly increase costs when spending Bitcoin
- Limited card options available
- Regulatory uncertainty as some banks and payment networks have imposed restrictions on these types of cards
- Centralisation, you need to entrust control of your digital currency to a third party
If you’d like to sign up for a Bitcoin debit card and spend your crypto on everyday purchases, compare the available cards in the comparison table above to get started.
Compare crypto debit cards
Frequently asked questions
Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly
volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of
future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information.
You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory
requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may
have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.