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Crypto Debit Cards: What They Are and How They Work

Crypto Debit Cards Explained
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated April 6, 2022
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The rise of cryptocurrencies has been dramatic, but their practical use in day-to-day life has struggled to catch up. One of the ways that you can use your cryptocurrency assets to make purchases, however, is with a crypto debit card. Rather than paying with dollars when you swipe your crypto debit card, you’ll pay with your crypto that is then sold and exchanged into a fiat currency like U.S. dollars.While this offers a convenient way to use your cryptocurrency, among other perks, there are downsides of crypto debit cards to consider as well. Read on to learn more.

What Is a Crypto Debit Card?

A crypto debit card is a payment card that allows you to make purchases. It works just like any other debit card, but it uses funds from a digital currency that you choose. When you use your crypto debit card to make a purchase, your cryptocurrency is converted to U.S. dollars, which is what’s used to pay the merchant.

How Crypto Debit Cards Work

While cryptocurrency is becoming increasingly popular, most retailers do not yet accept crypto directly for purchases. But with a crypto debit card, you can use your crypto to make purchases anywhere that other kinds of payment cards are accepted, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover cards. Crypto debit cards are issued by exchange platforms like Crypto.com, Coinbase, BlockFi, and BitPay. You can then attach the card to any cryptocurrency the platform supports. 

Crypto Debit Cards as the Future of Debit Cards

You can also use crypto debit cards to access cash at crypto ATMs, which are expanding rapidly and could indicate a big future for crypto debit cards. According to the website PYMNTS.com, there are “36,082 machines currently available around the world,” which is “double the number available at this time last year and nearly six times as many as in 2020.”  And per Adroit Market Research, “over 80 nations have Bitcoin ATMs, and the number is expected to soar further as fiat-based cryptocurrency exchange becomes more inclusive.” Further, Adroit estimates that the global Bitcoin ATM market is “likely to surpass USD 2.5 billion by 2026, expanding at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 52%.”With this kind of phenomenal growth, it’s certainly possible that crypto debit cards represent the future of debit cards. 

Types of Crypto Debit Cards

Just like there are different types of credit cards, like cards for good credit and credit building cards, there are different types of crypto debit cards. You’ll want to assess your options to determine which type is right for you.

Anonymous Crypto Debit Card

An anonymous crypto debit card is an untraceable card, which means that the payments can’t be tracked by governments or individuals. However, banking laws require that crypto card issuers obtain identity information about users, making anonymous crypto debit cards unavailable at this time.

Prepaid Crypto Debit Card

A prepaid crypto debit card is one that’s loaded with a specific amount of cryptocurrency. You can then use the funds you’ve loaded onto the card to make in-store and online purchases.

Crypto Exchange Debit Card

Crypto exchange debit cards are crypto debit cards linked to a specific crypto exchange platform. For instance, you may get a Crpyto.com debit card, or a BlockCard crypto debit card.

Pros and Cons of Crypto Debit Cards

As with any financial instrument, crypto debit cards have their advantages and drawbacks. 

Pros of Crypto Debit Cards 

There are several advantages of a crypto debit card, including:
  • Crypto debit cards allow you to spend your cryptocurrency just like you would fiat currency, such as U.S. dollars. 
  • A crypto debit card can offer reduced or waived foreign conversion fees when used outside of the U.S. 
  • Most cryptocurrency debit cards also offer multi-currency support, allowing you to diversify your spending over multiple types of coins. 
  • Unlike most debit cards, crypto debit cards can offer rewards for your spending in the form of additional crypto.
  • Some crypto debit cards will waive ATM withdrawal fees. 

Cons of Crypto Debit Cards

There are downsides to crypto debit cards to consider as well:
  • Using a crypto debit card is a taxable event. 
  • There can be some geographical restrictions to their use. 
  • You must have the funds available in your crypto wallet to use your card, as crypto debit cards aren’t credit cards. 
  • Fees could apply, such as ATM and monthly fees and an exchange fee for converting crypto to dollars.
  • Accessing some of the best rewards may require you to stake coins.

Considerations for Crypto Debit Cards

When selecting a crypto debit card, there are several things to consider.

Service

You want to make sure that you can use your crypto debit card where you want to. There are an increasing number of countries that have banned or restricted the use of cryptocurrencies, such as Turkey, China, and India.

Taxes

When considering using a crypto debit card, you also want to think about the tax implications. The IRS considers cryptocurrency to be capital assets, just like bonds and stocks, rather than a currency. As such, when you’re selling your currency and converting it to dollars, you may create a capital gain or loss if the value of your crypto has changed since purchase. You’ll need to keep track of this in order to report it on your taxes.

Supported Cryptocurrencies 

You’ll also want to consider what type of crypto your crypto debit card will support. Crypto debit cards can support dozens of different cryptocurrencies, in addition to major fiat currencies like the Euro and the U.S. dollar. You’ll want to make sure the card you select supports your preferred coin.

Fees and Exchange Rates

Just like regular debit cards, crypto debit cards can have numerous fees. These can include card issuance fees, domestic transaction fees, foreign transaction fees, ATM fees, and inactivity fees. Make sure to know and compare all of the fees that will apply before choosing a card. 

How to Get a Crypto Debit Card

To get a crypto debit card, you must first download the card issuer’s app and create an account. Then, you can easily apply for a card, with no credit check required. This means that, unlike credit cards, you won’t be restricted to cards for fair credit or cards for bad credit.You may have to meet some requirements when applying, however, such as validating your identity using the Know Your Customer (KYC) verification process.

Alternatives to Crypto Debit Cards

While crypto debit cards are becoming a popular form of payment, there are still plenty of other choices available. If you're concerned about the tax implications of crypto debit cards or their potential restrictions, or you simply want to compare them against your other options, here are some alternatives to consider.

Personal Loans 

A personal loan is an unsecured loan that consumers can apply for based on their personal credit history and credit score. Some personal loans can include payment cards, but they aren’t cash cards. Rather, most personal loans are installment loans that require the payment of a fixed amount, over a set period of time, including interest charges. Personal loans can also have fees. 

Cash  

Cash is a very simple form of payment that’s almost universally accepted for in-person transactions. While some retailers and other service providers prefer cash over debit cards and credit cards, there are an increasing number that don’t accept cash. 

Credit Cards

Credit cards are payment cards but they aren’t cash cards. Every charge you make with a credit card is a loan based on a revolving line of credit. Because a credit card is a loan, you must apply for a credit card by providing your personal credit history and credit score. If you choose not to pay your statement balance in full, you will incur interest charges.And while you can get cash from a credit card at an ATM, you’ll usually incur costly fees and a higher cash advance interest rate to do so. And with credit cards, your balance and payment information is reported to the major consumer credit bureaus. Depending on how responsibly you manage your credit card accounts, your use can help or hurt your credit score.You can, however, buy bitcoin with a credit card if you want to do so. 

The Takeaway

Crypto debit cards are quickly becoming a popular way to use your crypto assets to make purchases, but they’re not for everyone. Some may prefer to earn passive income from crypto, for instance. There are upsides to crypto debit cards though, such as being able to use them like you would dollars, and earning potential rewards for your spending. You’ll also want to consider the downsides as well.For some, an alternative may be preferable, whether that’s cash or a credit card. If you’re looking for a new credit card, Lantern’s credit card marketplace makes it easy to compare credit cards. You can easily see different cards’ APRs and see what score you may need to qualify.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Is a crypto card a debit card?
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About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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