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Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are legitimate stores of real-world value, if more volatile than risk-averse investors would like. But because they exist apart from the global financial system by design, cryptocurrency holders have long struggled to exercise that value in everyday transactions.
That’s slowly changing thanks to products like BitPay Mastercard, a reloadable prepaid debit card that seamlessly transforms crypto holdings into government-backed cash and enables real-time, real-world financial transactions in the bargain. BitPay Mastercard is nothing less than a bridge between the once-separate, still-antagonistic cryptocurrency and fiat currency domains.
With transaction limits, potentially high fees, and no rewards to speak of, BitPay Mastercard isn’t a perfect bridge. But it’s a big leap forward for crypto enthusiasts who want to spend their holdings like any other currency — now, not in two business days.
The BitPay Mastercard is part of an expanding BitPay ecosystem that allows consumers to freely convert their cryptocurrency holdings to fiat currency and spend them in the real world.
BitPay Mastercard is a crypto debit card that allows users to spend their cryptocurrency holdings in the real world. It’s accepted anywhere other Mastercard debit cards and credit cards are — at millions of digital and real-world points of sale worldwide via PIN or contactless transactions. It also works at ATMs, allowing users to convert crypto to hard cash that they can spend as they please.
The BitPay card instantly converts supported cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and Ethereum (ETH), into fiat currency (U.S. dollars). BitPay doesn’t charge a conversion fee for this privilege, although network fees may apply, and funds are ready to spend right away (subject to transaction and load limits).
The BitPay card does have some important limitations and restrictions that may impact high-volume users:
- A maximum ATM withdrawal value of $2,000 per withdrawal and three withdrawals per day
- A maximum single-load limit of $10,000 per day
- A maximum daily spend of $10,000
- A maximum balance of $25,000, including cash loads
BitPay offers competitive crypto exchange rates for BitPay Mastercard users. Each physical card has an EMV chip that provides an extra layer of security for in-person and ATM transactions.
BitPay Mobile App
The BitPay mobile app is the backbone of the BitPay Mastercard experience. It’s compatible with the Android and iOS mobile operating systems and built to facilitate account maintenance with ease. Its capabilities include:
- Scheduling and executing card loads
- Requesting a new PIN
- Replacing a lost card
- Viewing card balances
- Using a virtual BitPay Mastercard for online transactions
The BitPay mobile app is available at no charge at the iTunes store and the Google Play marketplace.
The BitPay Wallet is a cryptocurrency wallet that allows users to acquire and securely store cryptocurrencies out of reach of BitPay itself — and anyone else who might want to get their hands on what’s rightfully theirs.
A BitPay Mastercard isn’t required to create and use a BitPay Wallet. However, the reverse is true. If you want to turn crypto held with BitPay into cash to spend on your BitPay Mastercard, you must first have a BitPay Wallet.
BitPay Mastercard isn’t the only way to spend funds held in a BitPay Wallet. You can also purchase gift cards to load with fiat currency converted from your wallet-held crypto.
BitPay Browser Extension
The BitPay Browser Extension makes it even easier to spend crypto held in a BitPay Wallet, with no debit or gift card required. Simply download this Chrome extension and securely link your wallet to begin spending crypto (by purchasing store credit) with hundreds of online merchants, including Amazon.
BitPay Mastercard does carry fees. The card fees you’re most likely to encounter as a BitPay Mastercard user include:
- $10 per instance for card issue (initial) and card replacement
- $2.50 ATM fee
- 3% international transaction fee, including foreign-denominated point-of-sale purchases made outside the physical territory of the United States and foreign-denominated online purchases with merchants based outside the U.S.
- $5 per month inactivity fee after 90 consecutive days with no transaction activity
On the bright side, BitPay Mastercard has no load fees — other than possible network and miner fees that BitPay can’t control — and no monthly maintenance fees.
BitPay Mastercard is a user-friendly debit card that doesn’t require a credit check, can be used pretty much anywhere fiat-only Mastercard debit and credit cards are, and has a reasonable fee schedule.
- No Credit Check Required. BitPay Mastercard is a debit card. Accordingly, applicants aren’t required to submit to a credit check that could temporarily ding their credit.
- No Conversion Fees for Reloads. BitPay Mastercard cardholders don’t have to pay to convert funds from BTC to USD, although the process may incur network or miner fees that BitPay can’t control. Still, under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t have to pay for dollar-denominated transactions with U.S.-based merchants.
- Offers Direct Access to Fiat Cash Via ATM. BitPay Mastercard users can convert their crypto to hard cash at ATMs worldwide, subject to BitPay-charged ATM fees and third-party fees charged by machine operators. Even after accounting for these fees, this capability is incredibly convenient for crypto enthusiasts accustomed to two-stepping their crypto holdings into fiat.
- Accepted Anywhere Mastercard Is. BitPay Mastercard is accepted by millions of Mastercard-network merchants worldwide. With Mastercard rivaling Visa for global acceptance, this is no small feature.
- Instant Reloads Online. With a connected BitPay Wallet, BitPay Mastercard users can reload their cards with just a few taps in the BitPay app.
BitPay Mastercard lacks some key advantages of credit cards, such as the potential to build credit with responsible use. Moreover, some fees are inconvenient or onerous, and the lack of a rewards program weighs heavily.
- Doesn’t Build Credit for Users. Unlike legions of competing Visa, Mastercard, and American Express credit cards that run entirely on fiat currency, BitPay Mastercard doesn’t build credit for users. If your credit history is limited, or your credit score isn’t where you’d like it to be, you might want to use a secured credit card instead of or in addition to your BitPay card, at least until you’ve built a respectable credit base.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. BitPay Mastercard charges a 3% foreign currency conversion fee on transactions not denominated in USD. For cardholders who regularly patronize international merchants, this can significantly add to total transaction costs and may reduce the card’s appeal.
- Has a Steep Inactivity Fee. BitPay Mastercard is best used regularly. The $5 monthly inactivity fee is nothing to sneeze at, and it kicks in fairly quickly, after just 90 days of account inactivity.
- No Sign-Up Bonus or Ongoing Rewards Program. BitPay Mastercard has no sign-up bonus or ongoing rewards program. This is a major downside in comparison to fiat cash-back credit cards and other rewards credit cards, which can modestly reduce the net cost of spending through rewards.
BitPay Mastercard securely and seamlessly bridges the chasm between the realms of fiat currency and cryptocurrency. With potentially hefty fees and no rewards program, it’s by no means perfect, but it’s arguably the best tool available for crypto enthusiasts looking to spend their blockchain-based holdings in the real world.
Will BitPay Mastercard be the best such tool on the market for long? Probably not. As crypto goes mainstream, bridges between the two worlds are multiplying by the day. While that’s not a reason to wait for the next innovation, it’s certainly an argument for keeping one eye on the space and being ready to retire your BitPay Mastercard should a compelling alternative present itself.