When we start combining new and disruptive technology with an existing and outdated financial infrastructure, there is a chance to create something great. The implementation of that opportunity decides whether your product or service stands or falls and, in the case of E-Coin’s Bitcoin debit card, they have done a tremendous job.
Bitcoin Debit Card
Bringing together debit cards, a widely accepted traditional form of payment both in the online and offline space, and Bitcoin, a new breed of hybrid digital currency debit card comes to life. In the world of Bitcoin, these cards are known as Bitcoin debit cards, because that is exactly what they are: a debit card sent to you by a company that lets you fund this card with Bitcoin.
The way E-Coin goes about this is relatively simple; sign up for an account, fund the balance with enough BTC to order your card and wait for it to arrive. Once your E-Coin Bitcoin debit card has arrived, call the phone number on the sticker to activate the card and create your pin code, after which you can load Bitcoin funds onto the card through the E-Coin website.
As you would come to expect from such a service, there are certain limits as to what you can and cannot do with these cards. First of all, even though the card is registered in your name, or any name you want it registered to depending on what you plan to do with it, there is no bank account in your name tied to the E-Coin Bitcoin debit card.
However, if you do not enter a valid name when signing up, you will not be able to lift the usage limits of the card once you reach the US$2,500 mark. In saying that, I mean that you can obtain a card without verification and use it for a maximum of US$2,500. Once that limit has been reached, you will either have to verify your identity – a scan of your ID and proof of address – or order a new card.
Another limitation of the card is that, even though it is available to customers in over 170 countries in the world, it can not be sent to US citizens. This may seem strange to you but it is a common issue with sending any card to the United States, unfortunately. As things stand right now, it is not known whether or not the situation will change anytime soon.
Using Your Bitcoin Debit Card
The beautiful part of [Bitcoin] debit cards is the fact they can be used both online and offline, wherever debit cards are accepted. According to the E-Coin representative I spoke to a while ago, their Bitcoin debit card can be used to verify a Paypal account, sign up for Netflix and even buy things from Amazon. So, I ventured out to try it in the real world, to great success.
Bitcoin debit cards could prove to be extremely useful once we start using them for everyday purchases such as groceries. On my quest to find a supermarket accepting debit cards here in Belgium, it took a while to find a shop set up to process credit/debit card payments. Most of the citizens here in Belgium use a bank card to pay for goods through Bancontact/MrCash, and even though these terminals are exactly the same as the credit card ones, not all of them are equipped to process Visa or Mastercard.
However, luck was on my side when I visited my local Delhaize – a chain of supermarkets in many countries around the world – and saw their “Visa accepted here” sign. After filling up the shopping cart, I headed to the checkout, kindly asked whether or not I could pay with Visa, and slid my card in the terminal.
Whenever you try such a revolutionary payment method for the first time, you never know what to expect. Maybe the terminal won’t even read the card chip properly, as it is issued from a foreign bank, or maybe the E-Coin backend is down for maintenance and the payment won’t go through. You hardly worry about these things when whipping out your “normal” Visa or Mastercard, though.
To my great delight, the card’s chip was read properly, the terminal asked me to enter my PIN code, and after a few seconds the transaction was completed successfully. One of the things you have to take into account is that the current batch of E-Coin Bitcoin debit cards has a USD balance, and if your local currency is different, the conversion will take a few seconds to complete.
Speaking of currency conversion, there is a small fee associated with every payment that is not made in USD. However, that is a bank “issue”, and something that can not be avoided until the EUR and GBP cards are made available. According to E-Coin, this will happen in the next few months and I am looking forward to getting an EUR card.
All images courtesy of E-Coin