Crypto is like the pumpkin spice of the finance world; it’s starting to permeate everything.
We have crypto trading apps, stocks, ETFs, and even crypto futures.
And now, there are officially crypto credit cards.
But wait. How does that work? Do they reward crypto, let you spend crypto or both? Do merchants even accept them? And what are the pros and cons?
Let’s investigate crypto credit cards and determine if one is right for you.
What is a crypto credit card?
A crypto credit card is essentially any rewards card that lets you spend and earn cryptocurrency.
There are two types of crypto credit cards: crypto “rewards” cards and crypto “debit” cards.
Crypto rewards cards let you earn crypto
The more common type of crypto credit card is the crypto rewards card, which lets you earn a trickle of Bitcoin or another crypto as rewards instead of cash.
The Gemini Credit CardTM, for example, has reward tiers that may look pretty familiar: 3% back on dining, 2% back on groceries, 1% back on all other purchases, etc.
However, that’s not 3% back in USD — instead, the card lets you choose from a list of over 50 cryptos to convert your points into.
How neat is that?
Crypto debit cards let you spend crypto
The crypto credit card’s less common but rapidly emerging variant is the crypto debit card. These cards let you spend crypto at everyday merchants — even if they don’t accept crypto.
At the time of the transaction, the way they work is that the card projects a pre-recorded hologram of El Salvador president Nayib Bukele, who sells the merchant on the merits of crypto until they accept it as a form of currency.
Well, not really. But there is a real-time conversion taking place. The card company simply converts some of your crypto into USD at the time of the transaction. So not quite a 100% fulfillment of Satoshi Nakamoto’s vision for universal acceptance, but it’s a commendable step closer.
How do crypto credit cards work?
Crypto credit cards work almost precisely as the rewards card you already have in your wallet. Visas and Mastercards offer perks like discounts on DoorDash and HelloFresh and are coated in consumer protections like 24/7 monitoring and fraud alert.
They add the ability to spend directly from your crypto holdings and earn crypto as points rewards.
What are some examples of popular crypto credit cards?
We’ve previously curated a list of the best crypto cards currently on the market — check out the Best crypto credit cards: earn crypto while you shop.
But here are some quick examples:
- The Coinbase Card lets you spend crypto directly from your Coinbase wallet and earn up to 4% back in crypto.
- The slick Wirex Card enables you to circumvent international transaction fees by converting up to 19 cryptos into 12 fiat currencies (USD, SGD, AUD, NZD, JPY, HKD, EUR, GBP, CZK, MXN, CAD, CHF) for free.
- Finally, worth celebrating for its sheer simplicity is the BlockFi Rewards Visa® Signature Credit Card, which lets you earn 3.5% back in Bitcoin on all purchases for three months, then 1.5% after that.
What are the advantages of using a crypto credit card?
A low-risk way to invest in crypto
Maybe you’ve considered adding a little crypto to your portfolio, but you’re also aware of the risks and thus aren’t super keen on investing part of your paycheck.
If so, spending a year with a crypto credit card might feel like a safer option. You won’t have to buy any cryptocurrency directly, but you’ll end up with a nice ~$1,000 portfolio by year’s end nonetheless.
Save on commission and conversion fees
On the flip side, if you’re already buying crypto frequently, you’re probably beyond tired of hemorrhaging part of your investment to commissions and fees.
A crypto credit card offers a nice reprieve since you’ll be earning cryptocurrency without worrying about flat fees, maker/taker fees, or the like.
Finally, you can spend crypto at Trader Joe’s
Provided your crypto card has debit features, the final chief advantage to having one is that you can finally spend your crypto at your favorite merchants.
Although it still requires a real-time conversion into fiat, it’s faster, safer, and more convenient than clunkily pre-convert some of your investment into USD before heading to Trader Joe’s.
What are the disadvantages of using a crypto credit card?
You can’t earn rewards in USD
One of the chief disadvantages to using a crypto credit card is hiding in plain sight: you can convert your points into all kinds of virtual currencies, but not the most widely accepted currency on earth: USD.
That’s a big problem for anyone who occasionally converts points into cash to cover bills, invests in other places, etc.
You can spend crypto at the wrong time
With debit functionality, your crypto card will let you spend any of your crypto at any time.
Now, if you want to be able to spend your crypto on a whim, that’s a good thing. But if you want to resist temptation and keep on hodling, the ability to leave your crypto at the register may be the last thing you want.
Lack of sign-up bonuses
One area where crypto credit cards fall significantly short of the competition is sign-up bonuses. Big banks like Chase can afford to give every new Chase Freedom Unlimited® customer an additional 1.5% on all purchases (up to $20,000 spent in the first year) just for signing up.
But the neobanks (read: small online-only banks) backing crypto credit cards typically don’t have that much capital on hand — so crypto card sign-up bonuses are tiny if they exist.
Finally, as of this writing in Q2 2022, most crypto credit cards have waitlists. Like the Playstation 5, crypto credit cards are a hot commodity with high demand and limited supply. You may have to wait months — even years — to get your first one.
Is a crypto credit card right for you?
You might want a crypto credit card if:
If you’re eager to add a trickle of crypto to your portfolio without buying any directly (and you don’t have a PC powerful enough to mine it), using a crypto credit card is a viable option.
Similarly, if you’re looking to earn and spend crypto more easily with fewer fees and barriers, a crypto credit card might be what you’re looking for.
Just remember that in either case, you’re giving up both a sign-up bonus and the ability to convert points to USD.
You can probably pass on a crypto credit card if:
If you’re not ready to take the plunge and pool all of your credit card rewards into crypto, you’re not missing out. You’ll be pleased using one of the Best credit cards of 2022.
Crypto cards are innovative products; the liquidity and versatility they lend crypto investors help Bitcoin’s OG mission as a fiat replacement.
However, with limited functionality and crypto rewards that can’t quite compete yet with today’s best cash back rewards cards, they’re a niche product for the moment.
But hey, so was crypto itself back in 2014. Maybe one day we’ll see crypto cards dominate the competitive landscape of credit cards.
Featured image: Cryptographer/Shutterstock.com