Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies, including ethereum, Ripple’s XRP, and litecoin, have long struggled against accusations they are harder to spend and use in the real world than their traditional fiat counterparts.
The bitcoin price, which leaped higher last week to trade around $5,000 per bitcoin, has been called too unstable and volatile to be used as a means of payment, resulting in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies being used more of a store of value, like gold, than traditional means-of-exchange currency.
Now, major bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has teamed up with global payments processor Visa to try to change that, launching the Coinbase Card which allows users to “spend crypto as effortlessly as the money in their bank.”
The Visa debit card, which has a £4.95 ($6.50) card issuance fee, can be used to spend Coinbase bitcoin, ethereum, Ripple’s XRP, and litecoin balances “in millions of locations around the world,” by converting the cryptocurrency to fiat when the card is used—the merchant or store gets paid in traditional fiat currency.
Coinbase users can choose which cryptocurrency is used on the card through a new app which supports all crypto assets available to buy and sell on the Coinbase platform. The app also offers instant receipts, transaction summaries, and spending categories, to help people keep track of their spending.
“This is the first debit card to link directly with a major cryptocurrency exchange, allowing people to spend their crypto balances direct from their Coinbase account,” Coinbase said in a statement, announcing the launch of the card. “Previously available crypto cards required users to pre-load a specified amount of crypto onto their card, adding a point of friction to the process.”
The Coinbase Card is currently only available in the U.K. but the San Francisco-based exchange, which was valued at $8 billion in October, plans to roll out support in other European countries in the “oncoming months.” There are no plans yet for support outside of Europe.
Apto Payments, previously known as Shift Payments, is providing the technology for Coinbase after discontinuing its own Shift Card, allowing U.S. Coinbase users to spend crypto from their accounts, in February.
PaySafe, a U.K. payment processor, is issuing the cards.
Meanwhile, in a win for institutional support for bitcoin and cryptocurrency, Fidelity Digital Assets, an institutional provider of custody and trade services for digital assets, has poached Christine Sandler from Coinbase as its new head of sales and marketing.
“We’re excited for Christine to join our growing team,” said Tom Jessop, president of Fidelity Digital Assets. “We look forward to her leadership in support of the strong interest we’re seeing from investors who are looking for a trusted provider to take an increasing role in this market.”
Fidelity is one of the world’s largest providers of retirement savings and mutual funds and wants to win over institutional customers keen on digital currency trading.
The company hired Jessop from Chain, which offers blockchain technology to financial companies, a year ago.