I have used the Bitstamp exchange for years, and I have been mostly pleased with their services. With one exception though. In April I received an email that said:
"[We] would like to inform you that we are discontinuing our debit card service. Unfortunately, Bitstamp will no longer support this feature. We have not been issuing new debit cards for some time and are now slowly shutting down the entire service." This was very upsetting because I was used to selling bitcoin via Bitstamp and loading the proceeds directly on the debit card. The process was reasonably fast and the card (a MasterCard issued by Intercash) was accepted everywhere.
I looked for alternatives and found that the two alternatives that looked more serious - Bitwala and Wirex - were not available yet to European consumers but "coming soon."
See also: Wirex relaunch bitcoin debit card following VISA crackdown
Bitwala isn't available yet but a post published yesterday on their website says: "[We] are quickly approaching our launch date of the all-new Bitwala blockchain banking experience." They plan to start rolling out their services in the summer, German residents first.
Wirex cards are now available in Europe. In May, the company announced that the Wirex card is available for residents of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association.
Wirex, headquartered in London, wants to build "the best personal finance platform for cryptocurrency in the solar system." According to the company, Wirex combines cutting-edge cryptocurrency features with traditional currency accounts and globally accepted debit cards.
On paper, Wirex seems able to dramatically simplify the life of bitcoin users like me, who don't "hodl" but use bitcoin to pay bills and put food on the table, like Satoshi intended. Wirex offers a bitcoin wallet, a built-in mini exchange, the possibility to hold funds in crypto and fiat (USD, GBP and EUR), and a debit card that can be loaded with bitcoin. So I opened a Wirex account.
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Of course, customers have to go through all that KYC nonsense on which the authorities insist. "Before you can get your hands on the card you will have to verify your Wirex account," says the Wirex website. "Click here to login and complete a few simple verification steps. Get your photo ID ready - it only takes a few minutes."
The process takes only a few minutes indeed. After opening my Wirex account, I downloaded the iPhone app, completed my profile, verified my phone number, and started the identity and address verification process. I took a picture of my passport, a selfie, and a picture of a document that (I thought) constituted a valid proof of address.
Proving the address was a bit of a problem: I try to do everything online and therefore I don't receive utility bills and bank statement in paper form, which is the address proof recommended by Wirex. The first alternative proof of address that I provided was rejected.
Five stars to Wirex support
But Wirex support was responsive and efficient, and eventually my account was verified with a combination of documents. My first experience with Wirex support has been very positive, and I give them five stars. I talked to other users, who have also been positively impressed by Wirex support.
Though the website says that the proof of address should be in English, support clarified that it must be in Latin characters, but not necessarily in English. In fact, they accepted my documents in another language.
After getting my identity and address veried, I ordered a Wirex debit card, which I'll be able to load with bitcoin. I look forward to reporting on my Wirex card experience in future Crypto Insider posts. In the meantime, I can use the Wirex app as a bitcoin wallet.
By Giulio Prisco via Crypto Insider
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