Shift, Coinbase Debut Bitcoin Visa Card (Nov. 23, 2015)
Bitcoin may be a step closer to going mainstream now that Bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase is partnering with Shift Payments to launch a Visa-branded bitcoin debit card. The Shift Card connects a user’s Coinbase bitcoin wallet to the plastic card, which can be used to make in-store and online purchases at 38 billion merchants worldwide, along with ATM withdrawals, by converting bitcoin into local currency. The card, which does not accept loads in currencies other than bitcoin, currently is available in 24 U.S. states, with rollout to additional states in the works, Shift said.
The Shift Card could help overcome one of the main drawbacks of bitcoin and other virtual currencies; they’re difficult to spend in the real world. “Merchant adoption has come a long way over the past few years, but it’s still difficult for people to make regular purchases with bitcoin. Buying gas at a local gas station or groceries at a neighborhood grocery store with bitcoin has not been possible in most cities in the U.S.,” Coinbase said in a blog post announcing the card. “With the Shift Card, you can now spend bitcoin anywhere in the world that Visa is accepted.”
The Shift Card is available now, with a $10 issuance fee. There is no annual fee, and ATM withdrawals cost $2.50 in the U.S. and $3.50 abroad, and there is a 3 percent international transaction fee. While there currently is no fee to convert bitcoins to local currency when making a purchase, one may be added in the future to offset conversion costs, Shift said. Another potentially significant caveat is the daily transaction limit of $1,000 and a $200 daily ATM withdrawal cap.
The Shift Card is not the first attempt to merge bitcoin and plastic payment cards. Last year, California-based bitcoin wallet Xapo launched a bitcoin debit card of its own. However, some users complained about fees. Also last year, Shift Payments announced it was working with processor i2c Inc. on a debit card that would enable payments via digital currencies, but it’s unclear whether that project is related to the newly launched Shift Card. Meanwhile, Blade Financial late last year launched a B2B payments processing platform that connects traditional debit card programs to bitcoin businesses.