European cryptocurrency holders have reason to be cheerful. Slowly but surely it’s becoming easier to spend BTC, BCH, and a range of other cryptos throughout the continent, with payment services like Wirex and Paytomat leading the charge. It’s now possible to spend bitcoin in hundreds of restaurants and stores throughout Eastern Europe, as well as anywhere that accepts Visa in the whole of mainland Europe and the UK.
Wirex Rolls Out Its New Crypto Debit Cards
When crypto debit cards were cancelled in Europe last year, with a Visa subsidiary to blame, tens of thousands of cryptocurrency holders were left clutching worthless pieces of plastic. But as crypto companies have forged new alliances with payment processors, crypto debit cards have started to return, and hopefully this time they’re here to stay. In the past two weeks, Wirex has begun dispatching physical cards to UK and mainland European customers who were on its waiting list. News.Bitcoin.com had a chance to put one of the cards to the test, topping it up with BTC and then spending it in-store and online, and was impressed with the results.
A full review of the Wirex crypto debit card follows below, after a quick look at what Paytomat have been up to. The cryptocurrency payment system supports 11 cryptos including bitcoin cash and zencash, and has support from over 330 restaurants and stores at present, mostly in Eastern Europe. It’s since expanded into Western Europe, however, with a launch that took place in an Amsterdam soup kitchen earlier this month.
Paytomat CEO Yurii Olentir said: “Amsterdam is one of the most crypto-friendly places, so we chose it for our kick-off in Western Europe. With millions of tourists visiting every month, cryptocurrencies can be a very convenient payment method. For example, a transaction in Bitcoin Cash takes just a couple of seconds and the fee is miniscule.”
A Quick Look at the Wirex Crypto Card in Action
I applied for a Wirex card weeks ago, and succeeded after several failed attempts at address verification. At one point I feared I was never going to convince their KYC I lived where I claimed to live, but a stamped bank confirmation letter finally did the trick. The team’s customer support was helpful throughout, to their credit. Last week, Wirex announced that its cards were finally ready to ship. Mine arrived in a beautifully packaged sleeve that folds out to reveal the slogan “The most versatile payments card in the world” accompanied by a heart emoji face.
If I thought the presentation was good, the activation turned out to be even slicker. With the Wirex app already installed on my phone, all I had to do was hold the card in proximity to the device and the NFC chip automatically extracted the last four digits of the card and the CVV number. I clicked the verification email link and that was it: my card was good to go. Wirex accepts BTC and LTC, but no BCH or ETH unfortunately. Hopefully they’ll add more cryptocurrency support in due course. For now, I fired over some BTC, and not long afterward a notification informed me that my coins had arrived.
A Few Hiccups, But Otherwise Impressive
For users who don’t already have cryptocurrency to hand, Wirex enables you to top up your card using your existing bank account; transfers reportedly clear within a few hours. With my BTC loaded, I tried to transfer the balance to GBP so I could spend it, but accidentally swapped into LTC instead; the process is a little confusing. At the second time of asking, I worked out how to complete the swap, and within seconds my litecoin had been exchanged for British pounds. My daughter had been pestering me to buy more reading credits for her iOS app, and so my first £10 of crypto went on purchasing virtual gems.
I planned to test the card at a restaurant next, but when it came to pay the bill realized that I didn’t know the PIN for the Wirex card, and was forced to use an alternate method to settle up. Back home, I searched through every submenu of the Wirex mobile app and desktop platform to find where the PIN number was located. I got there, eventually, though it wasn’t intuitive at all. This minor grumble aside, the card works perfectly, and there’s even 0.5% in cashback to be earned on all purchases – paid in BTC.
Naturally, Wirex make their cut in terms of the exchange rate you’re offered every time you switch from fiat to crypto and vice-versa. This is still preferable to having to cash out crypto through Localbitcoins.com or similar every time you need to spend money in the “real world.” On first impressions, the Wirex card looks very good. My only concern is that now my kids and girlfriend have a direct line to my bitcoin, I fear for my crypto.
Do you use a crypto debit card and if so what’s your experience of it? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Wirex, and Paytomat.
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