Posted by: Kyle Severance
March 9, 2015
What are your real options for a Bitcoin-loaded debit card? How anonymous are these cards you find on the internet? Many people have grown restless waiting for their pre-ordered debit cards from sites such as Xapo. Others face financial restrictions as clients in the US due to bank restrictions. This article lists the status of all your major options.
Bitcoin debit cards. They promised a card that would not be riddled with fees – only a single issuance fee. They promised after receiving a backlash from the beta cardholder community; they promised to refund the fees incurred. Bitcoin is a currency that makes reversing charges almost impossible, so this has many people timid to order the Xapo card. The company recently revamped its site, and it is user friendly as well as aesthetically pleasing. The site at the moment offers a virtual wallet and a vault. They have the option to pre-order their debit card, but have only shipped one round of cards.
ANX is a considered the first Bitcoin debit card to be readily available to consumers accepting ten different fiat currency types. There are no trading or transfer fees attached to the card, and it provides instant fund processing – big pluses compared to other cards. Their site also claims to trade Altcoins as well, though they lack any information regarding using Altcoins instead of BItcoins. Their mobile app provides world market data and allows you to order or recharge your debit card directly from your phone. The card has a difficult application progress; following the easy login details there is a rigorous ID verification progress which requires the user to have multiple government issued forms of identification. This is a real downside to users who wish to stay anonymous whatsoever.
There is also the Coinkite “debit card”. The company behind it refers to this card as a debit card, but this card is far from your normal point of sale and ATM withdrawal card. It is also considered a “client card” on their website. It requires use of their terminals to make exchanges and payments; this gives it quite a disadvantage over the standard debit card seeing as there aren’t many locations to use this physical card. The card offers multisignature transactions and accepts Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Blackcoin.
They also provide a web wallet software in conjunction with the card and do not require any type of verification – they have no governmental restrictions in any of their countries of operation – yet. Similarly the Nuovocard performs the same type of transactions with a new twist. The merchant will need the Nuovocard app and either scan the QR code printed on the card or obtain a special swiping mechanism. This card is a little different from any of the other cards because you have the option of identity verification if you choose. The network transactions will cost you 1% if you are unidentified and 0.5% if you choose to be. This is the only card on the market or near release that offers this choice.
The OKPAY card is a virtual and physical MasterCard. Their services are unfortunately not available in the US due to bank restrictions, but you can opt in to be notified if they are ever able to provide the service. There are numerous ways to fund the card, but the most relevant to this article is the “various electronic currencies” – it is fundable through Bitcoin. The service offers banking features as well as the ability to transfer money without opening a bank account; they also provide business payment solutions. They have very few fees and 0% transfer fees when using Bitcoin. They have built in escrow services and their site makes all their features easy to use. This is an excellent service for those outside of the US.
A very shady, but fully functioning Bitcoin debit card is the Bitplastic Bitcoin debit card. The site looks like a scam and requires a minimum of .3 BTC to even request a debit card. The site offers one of the best anonymous techniques to gain customers; they never require any documentation or ID identification to make an account or request a card. It can make online and POS transactions as well as allow the cardholder to withdraw cash anonymously. The drawback to using Bitplastic is its security; it has been hacked in the past and users making transactions over 1 BTC report a loss and the site refuses to reimburse such a hefty amount. The legitimacy of these complaints is unknown, but there are multiple instances of this happening. Also, some people complained about receiving a card that was not in fact the same as the image on their website they reported receiving a Visa instead of the pictured MasterCard (seen to the right).
For those who try to get extreme anonymity with a debit card, they usually turn to debit card resellers. These merchants offer debit cards under a random identity or provide prepaid debit card services. Some also provide prepaid credit cards. The first site I explored was PrePaidvCard, which provides either a prepaid credit card through MasterCard and Visa; the site sells them in certain CAD denominations. They do not require any information besides the basic shipping info and a login. They accept Bitcoin and Litecoin as virtual currencies. There site seems to be riddled with error, so placing an order for a card is more difficult than it should be. The next site was Second Card. They offer an anonymous prepaid Visa debit card issued by Bank Zachodni WBK S.A. or mBANK S.A. The card does not require any verification and allows for online and POS transaction.
The only fees associated with the card are the initial purchase of the card and ATM transactions. They accept bitcoin as a method for payment, but you must pay the initial card fee before you can apply to have the card shipped – two separate applications. I emailed the company for more information about the process, but they never replied to any of my emails.
So why is it so hard to obtain an anonymous debit card? In reality a real debit card, by international law requires all cards to have an identity associated with them. These companies require documents to distribute anonymous cards for their security. The name on the card will not be yours in most cases, so whoever actually signed up for the card on your behalf is responsible for all possible crimes you could commit with the card – they want something to prove it is not them. These cards are perfectly legal, but they could get you in trouble when the name on the card does not match yours. It may insinuate a stolen card. No card service is perfect, but many of these services can provide you with a modest amount of anonymity.