Uphold debit card review 2022

Spend crypto, national currencies and commodities wherever Mastercard is accepted and earn “cryptoback” (like cashback but with crypto) along the way.

  • Set your funding source in the app (choosing from any asset Uphold supports) and that’ll be used for purchases until you change it.
  • For this card to succeed, Uphold will need to persuade users that “buy and hold” isn’t the only strategy.
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Already available across the pond and soon to launch in the UK, the revolutionary Uphold debit card is all about making it easier to dip into assets you hold as and when it suits you.

Crypto is unregulated in the UK; there's no consumer protection; value can rise or fall; tax on profits may apply.

How does the Uphold debit card work?

The card works in tandem with the app. You’ll need to set your funding source in the app, choosing from any asset you own on Uphold. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do this everytime you want to use the card – your funding source will stay the same until you change it again (which you can do as often as you like, without fee). You can also use the app to freeze or unfreeze your card, see virtual cards, receive instant alerts, browse statements broken down by funding source and manage notifications.

Then actually using the Mastercard online or at a physical merchant is just the same as any other card. All transactions are actually settled in the local fiat currency, so you won’t have to deal with your barista asking you why on earth you’re trying to pay for your latte in Dogecoin or Gold. Uphold does all the complex stuff behind the scenes – shielding both you and the merchant from seeing market orders being executed to liquidate assets.

You’ll earn cryptoback as you go, with the earn-rate varying according to what funding source you use.

In time, Uphold plans to extend this anything-to-anything approach even further. The US platform supports stock trading for example, and Uphold’s COO Simon McLoughlin has stated that Uphold is aiming to reach a point where ‘You can “spend” Tesla stock and gold’. Part of that vision is shielding the user from multiple sets of fees (when converting Tesla stock to USD, then USD to Bitcoin, for example) although it’s unclear yet how much this is simply about presenting several fees as one single fee.

How much does the Uphold debit card cost?

Let’s start with funding the account: Uphold doesn’t charge you a deposit fee when you fund your Uphold account by bank transfer. There are no trading commissions when you buy or sell assets either, so we’re doing well so far. Then assuming a similar pricing model to the US version of the card is adopted, you won’t pay to make purchases online or at merchants either – even merchants overseas. Withdrawing cash is likely to come with a percentage-based fee attached though, and withdrawing cash at an ATM overseas could come with a higher percentage-based fee. There may also be an “issuance” fee – a small one off fee to receive your physical card.

But if you don’t plan to use the Uphold debit card to withdraw cash, then aside from any issuance fee, what’s the catch? The catch could be “spreads”. A spread is a small difference between the “bid” price (the highest price at which a buyer is willing to buy an asset) and the “ask price” (the lowest price at which a seller is willing to sell an asset). When you see that a particular asset is worth say, $1, you’re probably seeing the “mid-market rate”. In reality, market orders are executing slightly above and below this price, so that the buyer is paying perhaps $1.01 and the seller is receiving perhaps $0.99, with the $0.02 covering the exchange’s costs.

Spreads can be a bit of a moving target – chaging over time depending on liquidity, and varying from asset to asset. Uphold’s spreads for UK consumers max-out at 1.25%.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Access the value in your assets easily and switch funding source as often as you like (probably to whatever asset is doing well at the time!). Unlike some ofther crypto cards, no manual conversion into fiat currency is required.
  • Uphold doesn’t charge deposit, withdrawal (excludes cash) or transaction fees at home or abroad.
  • Earn crypto-back as you spend.
  • Get a virtual card so you don’t have to wait for the physical card to arrive. Hook your virtual card up to Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Cons

  • The jury’s out on whether selling-off assets for day-to-day spending is a good thing!
  • You’re likely to pay a spread if your funding source is not the same as the fiat currency Uphold will use to settle the transaction with the merchant.
  • Getting issued with your physical card (and any replacement physical cards) may incur a fee.
  • Cash withdrawals at ATMs may incur a fee.

Our verdict: Is the Uphold crypto card any good?

There aren’t many different fees involved with Uphold (both the trading platform and the card), which is great. Some exchanges have all sorts of fees and aren’t always upfront about them. But there are spreads involved everytime you exchange one aset for another. Don’t forget that all card transactions will be settled in fiat currency, so if you’ve set your funding source to Bitcoin, for example, then that will actually need to be converted to fiat currency in order to settle the transaction. The spreads may be more-or-less offset by the crypto-back however.

There’s little doubt that this is set to become a really innovative product. It encourages users to think of their investments as being relatively fluid, which is in stark contrast to the traditional “buy and hold” advice. For the card to really take off, a change in midset may be required. For most of us who aren’t Wall Street pros, the reality of jumping between assets all the time and blurring the lines between investments and day-to-day spending money, means introducing a greater degree of chance into the value of what’s in our wallet.

Cryptocurrencies aren't regulated in the UK and there's no protection from the Financial Ombudsman or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Your capital is at risk. Capital gains tax on profits may apply.

Cryptocurrencies are speculative and investing in them involves significant risks - they're highly volatile, vulnerable to hacking and sensitive to secondary activity. The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. This content shouldn't be interpreted as a recommendation to invest. Before you invest, you should get advice and decide whether the potential return outweighs the risks. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

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