Coinbase has launched a debit card that enables US users to spend bitcoins anywhere Visa is accepted.
The launch of a debit card – and the recognition of the currency by the Visa card system – is further evidence that the new generation cryptocurrency is building momentum globally.
The card is a result of a partnership between Shift Payments and Coinbase. The former aims to integrate multiple currencies into a single card, while the latter provides digital ‘wallets’ where 2.8 million users across the world go to for their bitcoin transactions. With a Shift Card, users can link their Coinbase account to a physical Visa debit card, which they can use to pay at participating stores in real life or online, wherever Visa is accepted (the team is also working on incorporating airline miles and other loyalty points.)
For now, apart from the US$10 card issuance charge, there are small fees – domestic transactions fees from BTC to USD are charged at zero per cent, and ATM withdrawals are US$2.50.
The Shift Card could make bitcoin more accessible, and counter its lack of usage, which is caused largely by the misconception among consumers that not many businesses accept it. (They’re wrong: 38 million merchants worldwide do).
Unlike conventional currencies, cryptocurrency is an open network not controlled by any bank or government, but managed by its users. It is hoped that the system will provide a more democratic, transparent, and cheaper way to trade, upgrading the status quo, which some argue were not designed for the digital era.