Written By: Isha Goel | July 8 2021
As crypto-linked cards are becoming more popular, Visa announced on July 7 that a global total of more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency spending occurred in the first half of the year on goods and services on these cards. While exact numbers weren’t released, the payments giant did mention that the previous two years only had a fraction of that amount in the same period.
Why the Need for Crypto Credit Cards?
The importance of liquidity has always been prominent but up until recently, cryptocurrency owners could only hold long-term (HODL) or speculatively trade. Cashing out the crypto for fiat currency meant having to wait for the conversion and then the deposit into the bank account, a seemingly inefficient method to access funds. This is when crypto debit cards appeared on the scene, driving up interest and public adoption to allow cryptocurrency to be seen in a more real-world setting.
Just like a standard debit card is used, crypto rewards debit cards can be used at merchants. The only difference is that this card is backed by the individual’s crypto wallet as opposed to a bank account. When the user wants to load funds, the cryptocurrency is converted into the fiat currency of choice but rewards are often given as a specific digital coin depending on the debit card. Crypto credit cards, on the other hand, offer the benefit of purchasing on credit viz the credit line of the issuing institution.
Visa’s Efforts in Promoting Crypto
While cryptocurrency volatility remains an issue for owners, larger efforts to help it become more mainstream are being employed. Visa CFO Vasant Prabhu mentioned during an interview with CNBC that they ‘are doing a lot to create an ecosystem that makes cryptocurrency more usable and more like any other currency,” and that ‘people are exploring ways in which they can use cryptocurrencies for things they would use normal currencies for’. Emerging payment technologies such as biometrics, contactless, QR code systems, and cryptocurrency are becoming increasingly more popular, and recent research shows that 93% of North American consumers will adopt such technologies. Even 75% of millennials are open to cryptocurrency if they understood it better.
More than 50 crypto firms have launched cards with Visa and the program is part of a push to merge cryptocurrency with traditional banking. This allows customers to access stablecoins through Visa’s payment network and enable cryptocurrency buy and sell features through banks. The best part is that ‘Visa powers both cards that allow consumers to easily convert crypto to fiat and spend it as well as cards that allow them to spend fiat and earn crypto as rewards.’
Partnership Buds Between BlockFi and Visa
In conjunction with Visa, the cryptocurrency services company BlockFi launched its first-ever crypto rewards credit card on July 6. The plans for such a launch were initially disclosed in December 2020 and the firm released a waiting list for US-based clients. That list now includes over 400,000 people and the CEO of BlockFi, Zac Prince, believes that the distribution will be completed by the end of the month. The relationship is symbiotic: clients can acquire bitcoin without the complications of fees or onboarding and BlockFi now has a new customer acquisition channel and revenue stream from the card’s fees.
As with all credit cards, the perks on this new card provide unmatched benefits to users. Flori Marquez, the Co-Founder and SVP of Operations at BlockFi, mentioned that ‘this card will make it easier than ever for people to earn Bitcoin back while making day-to-day purchases’. The game-changer credit card will continue to push the efforts and important role that cryptocurrency is playing in reshaping the financial space. Specifically in regards to the Bitcoin rewards, ‘holders of BlockFi’s Rewards Visa Card will be able to earn 1.5% back in bitcoin on every purchase, with the payout increasing to 2% on every dollar spent over $50,000 annually. As an incentive to new users, they will receive a 3.5% bitcoin rewards rate for the first 90 days or until they receive $100 worth of bitcoin’. Other added benefits include a rebate on trading fees and no annual or foreign transaction fees.
A Worthy Competitor
Depending upon an individual’s spending habits, the cryptocurrency exchange Gemini may actually offer better perks. This exchange launched its own crypto rewards credit card this summer with Visa’s competitor Mastercard. The key difference between the two cards is that while BlockFi only offers rewards in Bitcoin, Gemini has the ability to provide rewards in any of the cryptocurrencies offered on the exchange. Clients receive 3% back on all dining purchases but only 2% on groceries and 1% on all other purchases. Other possible options include the SoFi Credit Card and Tomo Credit Card, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Regardless, it is evident that this emerging technology is here to stay. Established crypto traders will benefit from the rewards that are an addition to their current wallet and the relatively low risk of the credit card will provide newcomers an opportunity to dip their toe into the world of crypto as well.
DiCamillo, Nate. “Visa Crypto Cards Have Racked Up $1B in Spending in 2021.” CoinDesk, CoinDesk, 7 July 2021, www.coindesk.com/visa-crypto-cards-have-racked-up-1b-in-spending-in-2021.
Holland, Frank. “Visa Says Crypto-Linked Card Usage Tops $1 Billion in First Half of 2021.” CNBC, CNBC, 7 July 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/07/07/visa-says-crypto-linked-card-usage-tops-1-billion-in-first-half-of-2021.html.
Mason, Emily. “Visa And BlockFi Launch 2% Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 6 July 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/emilymason/2021/07/06/visa-and-blockfi-launch-2-bitcoin-rewards-credit-card/?sh=12989868795c.
Perkins-Southam, Toni. “Are Crypto Rewards Credit Cards A Good Idea?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 June 2021, www.forbes.com/advisor/credit-cards/are-crypto-rewards-credit-cards-a-good-idea/.