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Visa Cracks Down on Bitcoin Debit Cards in Europe, Providers Say

Visa, the payments giant, ordered cryptocurrency debit card providers to suspend their services on Friday, according to three of the affected companies.

Bitcoin payments processor BitPay announced in a statement that its European card issuer, Wave Crest Holdings, Ltd., had been told by Visa to close its bitcoin accounts. The company will refund any remaining balances, as well as card order fees for anyone who purchased a card after Dec. 1, 2017.

According to BitPay:

“Yesterday our European BitPay Card issuer Wave Crest Holdings, Ltd. received direction from Visa® to immediately close all accounts of its prepaid Visa® debit card programs. The BitPay Card (non-US) is one of these programs, along with other cryptocurrency-related and standard prepaid Visa® debit cards. Unfortunately, Wave Crest was unable to provide us or cardholders with more time to prepare for this change.”

Similarly, payment providers Cryptopay and Bitwala announced they would be ceasing their services and returning remaining funds.

Berlin-based Bitwala said on Twitter that its team was holding an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. However, London-based Cryptopay announced in a subsequent tweet that it had already begun negotiating with another card issuer.

Similarly, BitPay said in its statement that it was “already in discussions with potential alternative issuers.”

Notably, the shutdowns appear limited to European consumers. BitPay stated that U.S. customers would not experience any disruptions.

Less than a year ago, BitPay announced it was expanding to 131 countries at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2017 conference. Its cards allow users to fill their balances with cryptocurrencies, but spend in euros, British pounds, or U.S. dollars.

Visa did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in BitPay.

App image via BitPay

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Fiat-like Convenience for Crypto Users Has Arrived

The saying goes that “cash is king,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case any longer. The mobile payment industry is projected to grow to over $1 trln in 2019,  rising to $3 trln by 2022, according to research firm Statista.

Even more promising for mobile payments is the demographics of that growth. India already has 98% of economic transactions being conducted electronically and China has a similarly high percentage. With the increase in economic development in these countries, the demand for effective mobile solutions is going to be substantial.

Add to this the huge demand for cryptocurrency in many parts of the world. Not only in the West has crypto grabbed headlines, but also in Asia (notably China, where enthusiasm for mining and ICOs has taken hold despite government efforts to curb crypto activity).

But as anyone who uses crypto regularly will tell you, this is not the full story. Complete consumer adoption would require mainstream satisfaction with all aspects of cryptocurrency payments. That would enable cryptocurrencies to constitute a viable alternative to cash.

There are certainly obstacles to getting the cryptosphere to the point where mainstream users consider it as a viable alternative to fiat for day-to-day transactions.

Obstacles to universal crypto use

Anyone who has bought and sold crypto or used it to make purchases knows that it is not without its inefficiencies. Purchasing, storing, transferring, and spending digital currency can be a hassle. While this might seem insignificant to an early adopter, it would likely be a dealbreaker for those with less confidence in the platform.

This reality is in stark contrast with standard financial transactions. Consider how easy it is to swipe a credit or debit card at a register, use Google Pay or PayPal to order something online, or withdraw cash at an ATM. In most countries, any hassles regarding payment are a distant concern. Imagine the shock that the uninitiated would encounter when trying to use crypto for the first time versus using a credit card.

First, many online merchants do not accept crypto payments. Second, despite the proliferation of crypto ATMs (particularly Bitcoin), this is a drop in the ocean compared to regular ATM penetration rate. Third, crypto transactions usually incur fees and waiting times, not to mention the need for identification in some cases.

Major developments in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, like the upcoming Bitcoin fork, the Bitcoin lightning network and Ethereum’s Raiden network, are set up to specifically deal with these issues. There are also projects aimed at making digital currency easier for everyone. One such solution looking to gain widespread adoption is Bonpay. The Bonpay team are releasing what they hope will be the first crypto-oriented payment system and card to truly gain mainstream uptake.

Mainstream crypto payments

Bonpay offers users cards that can increase the convenience of using cryptocurrencies, which might be their biggest selling point. The cards will store Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, and will be used wherever credit or debit cards are accepted. They can be electronic cards on your phone or you can get a plastic Bonpay card that functions just like a regular debit card.

The Bonpay card had similar offerings before, but these were saddled with problems that made the cards quite inefficient. The first issue was reliability, with many criticisms of the support they offered.

The second problem was with the high fees that came with them. Bonpay is aiming to resolve both problems by offering lower or non-existent fees in most cases. Registering and opening a wallet is free. The company also has big plans for its customer base, so it is not surprising that they are also prioritising the support offered.

In fact, versatility seems to be an area that Bonpay hopes will resonate with the customer. US dollars and euros can be loaded onto the cards, and the funds in your wallet can be kept separate from those on the card. Bonpay also offers the ability to buy digital currency with Paypal, which at the moment is a terrible hassle on p2p exchanges.

Most important, the Bonpay solution is already live. This will go a long way with users and investors, since many crypto projects offer ambitious plans without delivering. The Bonpay solution is already up and running.

Furthermore, the DLN system that the Bonpay team is set to release could bring the platform to the next level of convenience. According to the company,

“DLN is a flexible mechanism which uses the available resources of its network. With its help, users will be able to exchange or purchase a currency of their choice without giving a thought about the underlying mechanism. Another step towards the aim of usability is the transparent rates system. This feature will be realized by the DLN implementation and will let users escape rapid exchange movements, avoid hidden conversion fees and execute future transfers reasonably. Any fees charged during the transaction will be paid directly to DLN participants, with Bonpay charging not even a single penny.”

So after their DLN implementation, the Bonpay network will only increase in potential for both users and investors.

Ramping up crypto convenience

The Bonpay BON token will be on sale from the 24th of October, and the company has structured the sale so that both short-term and long-term investor interests are looked after. 85% is being offered to the public, with the first 51% being sold initially and the remaining 34% being reserved for future development.

The first project to become the king of crypto will definitely place themselves at the crossroads of an ongoing digital currency revolution.