However, the scene is still young in Australia and there are only a few options to choose from. This article will run through some of the considerations you might want to take into account when picking a cryptocurrency card and then offer some comparisons of the leading players.
What’s in a Bitcoin debit card?
The simplest way to think about cryptocurrency cards is that they allow you to spend cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum as if they were cash.
While earlier iterations of the crypto card generally required you to set up new accounts and preload your card with spendable crypto, more recent versions automate the process. Simply link it to an existing crypto wallet and your card provider will do the rest, allowing you to spend from the crypto account as if it were a regular bank account.
Most cards these days come with either Visa or Mastercard branding, allowing you to access those payment networks with your crypto. It’s also becoming more common for crypto cards to offer digital versions that take advantage of mobile device payment technology such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. However, most still offer a physical card option as well so that you can carry your cryptocurrency around in your wallet and even use it to withdraw cash from an ATM.
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How do Bitcoin debit or credit cards work?
These cards are often referred to as debit cards, but it’s more likely that they’re operating as prepaid cards. Basically what this means is that rather than an amount sitting on the card automatically, the required amount of crypto is converted to fiat currency (like AUD) by your card provider, transferred to the card and then used to execute the purchase. From a user experience point of view the difference is mostly semantic, but it’s good to understand exactly what’s happening with your money.
Things to consider before getting a Bitcoin debit card
It’s important to make sure that the card you choose has support for Australian dollars. If you start using non-AUD cards for everyday purchases you could find yourself racking up international transaction fees pretty quickly.
Most crypto cards also come with some sort of cashback or reward scheme, which will return a portion of your purchases or transaction fees in crypto or loyalty points. However, similarly to regular credit cards, it’s important to check how these are offset by administrative and issuing fees – the more generous the scheme, the more onerous the fees usually are.
Finally, as with all cryptocurrency transactions, converting your crypto to cash will likely trigger a CGT event and will need to be reported to the ATO at the end of the financial year. While there’s a lot of high quality crypto tax reporting software available these days, this still represents an administrative and tax burden you may not be keen to take on.
Related article: How to buy cryptocurrency in Australia
Bitcoin Debit cards to choose from
The first and (as of writing) only Australian crypto card, CoinJar Card offers customers of CoinJar, Australia’s longest-running cryptocurrency exchange, the ability to spend any of the 30 cryptocurrencies they offer as Australian dollars.
Arriving in partnership with Mastercard and with both Apple Pay and Google Pay integration. CoinJar Card’s M.O. is ease-of-use and everyday applicability. If you’re an existing CoinJar customer it only takes a few seconds to add the Card to your phone – simply pick which cryptocurrency you want to use as your spend account and you’re ready to go. (Physical cards are coming in September). It’s free to activate, has no monthly fees and the usual 1% transaction fees are returned to users in the form of an in-house loyalty program.
One of the earliest players in the crypto card space, Crypto.com is a physical, metal Visa card whose payment architecture is built on top of Crypto.com’s own cryptocurrency – CRO. Crypto.com cards are split into five tiers, each of which offers different rewards, exchange rates and amounts of crypto cashback.
While the entry level Midnight Blue card is free, you have to purchase and then stake for 180 days a certain value in CRO to access the upper tiers. This ranges from US$400 for the 2% crypto cashback Ruby Steel card through to US$400,000 for their top-of-the-line, private jet access, 8% crypto cashback Obsidian card. It’s a bit of a rigmarole, but with support for 20 currencies (including AUD) and 100+ cryptocurrencies, the flexibility and extra options could make it worthwhile.
Wirex is a subscription-based, multi-currency Visa card that lets you spend both fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies with the same ease. Wirex’s point of difference is the truly global reach of its payment network. Purchases are automatically converted to the local currency (with no exchange fees), ensuring you don’t have to pay any international transaction fees when you spend.
Wirex also offers up to 2% crypto cashback in the form of the native WXT token. The amount of cashback and other rewards you receive from your spending is dependent on your subscription plan. The plans come in three tiers and could set you back anywhere from $5 to $50 a month.
Before using a Bitcoin debit card make sure you thoroughly research how they work to decide if it is the right option for you.