How to get your first crypto Visa card

Ever want to spend your crypto in the real world? A crypto Visa card allows you to spend crypto anywhere that accepts Visa.

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Dear Crypto Natives,

I’ve been searching for a crypto Visa card on and off for a while now. I shared thoughts on my ideal card with the Inner Circle recently:

my ideal: card holds stablecoin like DAI or cDAI in smart-contract (no custody), earns interest while it sits, converts to USD when used as a Debit card, safe to leave 1-3 month amount in card account, no unnecessary token

Also, easy export for taxes

Oh, and it has to be available in the U.S. where I live.

My ideal card isn’t available today of course, though some might be getting close. And I’m hopeful I won’t have to wait long—there are many cards coming to market in the coming months. In the classic crypto bank vs. money protocol dynamic you have some with custody by crypto banks & some self-custodied via smart contract wallets—all fighting to carve out their niche.

I decided to do a quick vetting of the cards available to me today, pick one that seemed decent, and gave it a whirl. It caused me to give some thought to questions like—when is a crypto card really useful? what are the risks and rewards? what are the tax implications?

Sound interesting? Ok! Let’s level up on crypto cards.

- RSA

P.S. I secured a deal for us on a crypto Visa card that I really like. Look for the 🎁 in this post.


TACTICS TUESDAY:

Tactic #12:
How to get your first crypto Visa card

Ever want to spend your crypto in the real world? A crypto Visa card allows you to spend crypto anywhere that accepts Visa. These are structured as debit cards not credit cards, so you can’t spend more than the value of the crypto in your account. This means no credit checks, but it generally does requires AML/KYC.

Today we’re going to learn how to get started with a crypto Visa card. I’ll draw on my experience with one card in particular so we can dig into the details.

  • Goal: Learn how to select and get started with your first crypto Visa card

  • Skill: Beginner

  • Effort: 1-2 hours

  • ROI: Spend crypto in the real world—card perks can generate ROI but do the math first

Before we begin—no, crypto Visa cards aren’t the full bankless revolution we signed up for. This is an interim step. It’s using crypto money as a value store (no central bank!) but wrapping it in a credit card payment networks so you can spend it in the real world. Partially bankless. Remember the early internet days when people uploaded pdfs of their magazine instead of using web native html? This is like that.


Why a crypto card?

Yes, a crypto card is useful for spending crypto in the real world. But, the deeper question—why would you want to spend your crypto in the first place?

I subscribe to the “hold your ETH spend your DAI” school of thought.

So generally I see store-of-value crypto reserve assets like ETH and BTC as investment assets. You hold these, you use them as collateral, you lend them out to accrue more—you don’t spend these unless you have to, and if you do spend them, you replace them with more.

Stablecoins? Different story. Spend away. These don’t appreciate in value over the long-run. These are meant for daily spending not long-term holding. (This is why I like DAI so much—backed by ETH so it’s still bankless but also perfect for daily spending).

So, I’d primarily use a crypto card to spend stablecoins rather than ETH or BTC.

That said I might also use a card to spend:

  • Interest earned from ETH/BTC I lend out

  • Small amounts of ETH/BTC I planned to sell anyway

  • Non-money crypto assets I didn’t have high enough conviction to hold

Ideally, a crypto card is somehow paired with a lending service. That way I could park some of my store-of-value crypto money in an interest-yielding account and spend only the interest proceeds. I’d be spending the house money. I’ll admit the difference between spending interest vs spending principle is purely psychological—but then again, good crypto investing is mainly a psychological game. Better to train your brain to HOLD your crypto money—holding is often the hardest part.

The last reason for a card is perks. Do I get cash back? Do I pick up rewards? Does spending with card provide a higher ROI than other options?

So card makes sense for some types of spending. Time to select one.

Selecting a crypto card

There are many crypto cards available. Here’s a list. Here’s another. As in traditional finance the availability of cards is geography dependent.

For Europe I hear most often about:

  • Wirexsupports DAI, monthly cost, cashback for in-store purchases, have heard fees are high for loading card and spending it

  • Monolithstill new, supports DAI, card charging fee 2% (less if you use token), smart contract wallet means self-custody! (I’d try this if it was available in U.S)

  • Coinbaseno DAI support, 2.49% fees domestic, good place to start if you’re a Coinbase user

In the U.S. I’ve checked out:

  • Blockcard—supports DAI, easy setup, not confident on their custody solution, their TERN token is Stellar not ERC20

  • Linen—uses Compound to generate interest while USD is idle, tested product, good UX, self custody on mobile (most bankless option in U.S. but still in beta)

  • Crypto.com—solid UX, custody by Ledger Vault, good compliance certifications, does not support DAI w/ card, use a speculative utility token (pros/cons to this)

I passed on Blockcard mostly because I didn’t have time to vet their custody solution. I’d love to try out Linen, though they are still in beta and their Wyre fiat on-boarding is not available in my state. And I’ll try Monolith and Coinbase when they become available in the U.S.

For me, Crypto.com was the best option to test.

The MCO Visa Card from Crypto.com

There were a few things about Crypto.com I had to get past.

First, they raised funds through an ICO token called MCO. The MCO token is a utility token used for perks within the Crypto.com economy. In the context of Visa cards, you can stake MCO (lock it up for a period of time) to receive better perks. The MCO token reminds me of Binance’s BNB, however MCO does not entitle holders to a share of Crypto.com profits as BNB tokens do for Binance. Think of MCO tokens as a membership points system of sorts.

Second, this is a crypto bank, so you have to give up custody of your crypto assets and trust both Crypto.com’s custody and risk management processes. While they don’t have the longevity and trust of a Coinbase or BitGo yet, they use Ledger Vault so they’re not rolling their own security, they’re audited by one of the Big Four accounting firms, and they’ve attained some hard to get ISO and PCI compliance. Enough good stuff here for me to risk loading a Visa card.

Third, their marketing is slick. So slick that it turned me off at first. But the best way to separate the substance from the sizzle of a product is to use it and when did so I was pleasantly surprised. Their mobile app is well put together, the process of ordering and activating a card straight-forward, and their packages and fees easy to understand—at least, once you wrap your head around the MCO token…we’ll get to that.

Picking an MCO Visa Card

You can see the five different options for a MCO Visa card here. The Blue card doesn’t require you to buy and stake MCO, the rest do. In exchange for staking MCO, these higher-tier cards rewarded your with additional perks like a free Spotify subscription and LoungeKey Airport lounge access.

With all of the cards you get a % of your spending back denominated in MCO.

Are the higher-tier cards worth it?

Here’s how I think about higher-tier cards—let’s take the Red card for example:

  • You need to buy 50 MCO tokens (at $4.30 per token that’s $215)

  • You need to lock up (e.g. stake) the 50 MCO tokens for at least 6 months

  • You can sell the MCO after lock up but if you do your perks will disappear

Essentially, you’re incurring opportunity cost on the $215 you invest in MCO tokens, which isn’t much. But you’re taking speculative risk on the value of MCO tokens themselves which at one point were valued over $22 per token but have also dropped below $2—your $215 investment could do very well or you could lose it all.

In return you’re getting an extra 1% reward on your spending, a free Spotify Premium account ($9.99 monthly), and LoungeKey access (worth ~$12.50 monthly). Back of the napkin, that’s about $300 in value assuming you spent about $3k on card.

If the MCO token dropped to the low of $1.80 they hit earlier in 2019, that’s a loss of about $125 on your $215. Of course, price could double too—but speculating on bank utility tokens isn’t part of the crypto money portfolio so don’t count on the upside.

Benefits worth $300, worst case cost loss of $215, less worse case loss of $125. Even if you ignore the upside potential it’s not bad. Of course, if MCO tokens were $10 instead of the $4.30 they are today, the Red card might not make sense.

You’ll want to run your own calculations, especially if you’re interested in the higher card tiers. But below is a deal that’ll help you get another $50 worth of benefits.


🎁Bankless Deal—Get $50 worth of MCO tokens

Get $50 worth of MCO tokens when you sign up for any of the Crypto.com metal cards. (Note: all cards listed here are metal aside from the Blue card).

👉Click here and use referral code “bankless”


If you don’t want to mess with MCO tokens just start with a Blue card. No cost, no hidden fees—that’s where I started.

Ordering & activating your card

After you determine the card you want the process of ordering it is simple:

  1. Download the Crypto.com app

  2. Complete AML/KYC via the in-app instructions

  3. Order your card in-app

You should receive your card a week or two later:

Above: packaging for crypto.com Blue card

Now, activate and top-up card:

  1. Active your card through the Crypto.com app

  2. Add BTC/ETH to Crypto.com wallet by depositing to the address provided in app

  3. Once BTC/ETH is in Crypto.com wallet top up your Card by converting it USD

Tax note: for U.S. tax purposes you are probably realized capital gains when you “top-up” your Visa card and your crypto is converted to USD not when you are depositing the BTC/ETH to the crypto.com wallet—talk to your tax advisor this is not tax advice.

Congrats! Once topped up your card is all set. Go buy some coffee with your crypto.

A few final thoughts…

The Crypto.com app does a good job notifying you when crypto deposits are received and money is spent. I do wish DAI was an option for spending on the Card, but since Crypto.com’s lending service now supports DAI I bet it’s coming soon.

Next I’ll be doing some due diligence on Crypto.com’s lending products. The rates look good and as with the card, they are amping up the benefits when you stake MCO tokens while you lend. This may be a good alternative to BlockFi for certain loans (10% for a 3-month DAI loan?), but requires more institutional trust in Crypto.com than a Visa card—lending and crypto cards do pair nicely though. There are a few other Crypto.com products I plan to try too—will report back soon.

For today’s tactic it’s just the Visa card. And from what I’ve seen so far, I’d say the Crypto.com cards are a solid option. There are others I intend to try in the future, ideally some of the more bankless options from teams like Monolith and Linen. But if you’ve used something good, share it with me. I’ll include any interesting feedback in Friday’s recap.

Action steps


Subscribe to the Bankless program. $12 per mo. Includes Inner Circle & Deal Sheet.


Filling out the skill cube

Learning about crypto Visa cards mean you’re leveling up on the banks & protocols layer of the skill cube. Awesome work!


👉Send Bankless a DAI tip for today’s issue


Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.


Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. I’ll always disclose when this is the case.

Weekly Action Recap (Nov 10th)

Your action recap for the week of November 10th, 2019

Level up your open finance game three times a week. Subscribe to the Bankless program below.


Dear Crypto Natives,

Bankless members leveling up on Etherscan this week, which came in handy for our tactic on creating ENS subdomains and selling them.

Speaking of ENS domains—did you add yours to your twitter handle yet?

If you don’t have an ENS domain, check this: i’m gifting Banked.eth subdomains to all Bankless subscribers—claim yours here 🎁. First come first served!

Some banked.eth names recently claimed:

  • rsa.banked.eth (that’s me)

  • ether.banked.eth

  • un.banked.eth (clever, clever)

  • chris.banked.eth

  • i.banked.eth

  • crypto.banked.eth

Remember privacy—best to register an ENS domain via a new ETH address you create. Either transfer ETH funds to the new address using an exchange or a mixing service.

From mastering ENS names to getting the scoop on DAI before it goes mainstream and becomes a major global currency. You feelin the level-ups?

-RSA


Recap for the week of November 10th, 2019


SCHEDULE RECAP:


ACTIONS RECAP:

  1. Execute any good market opportunities you saw in Market Monday

  2. Complete weekly assignment: Interact with smart-contracts on Etherscan 

  3. Grab an ENS name (if you don’t have one) & setup a subdomain

  4. Claim your banked.eth subdomain (full subscribers only)

  5. Consider: what do you think of Maker’s vision for bankless money & credit


Subscribe to the Bankless program. Inner CircleDeal SheetBonus content. Costs less than a coffee per week. Don’t invest in crypto until you invest in yourself.


Pay with cryptoyou can pay using ETH, BTC, or USDC. Annual subscription only.


Tag me on twitter when you subscribe & I’ll deliver 3 x 🔥.

Welcome to Nathan!

And thanks for the shout-out Micha.

We have 1 billion people to onboard.

Let’s get going!


Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.


Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. I’ll always disclose when this is the case

Growing DAI to trillions: RSA w/ Maker's Steven Becker (Lite)

DAI as an unbiased digital cash, the potential PurityDAI, and the inevitability of fiat

Level up your open finance game 3x per week. You’re on the free version of the program so you’re missing some the best parts of this chat. Become a paying subscriber to get full access!


Dear Crypto Natives,

Maker is releasing a major upgrade to DAI next Monday. A big deal. It’s not everyday that the worlds first decentralized central bank upgrades its money!

I caught up with Steve Becker COO of the Maker Foundation. Steven has a unique perspective—partially because he came to crypto in a different way. His crypto rabbit hole wasn’t BTC or ETH like most of us…for him the journey started with Maker.

Here’s what we discuss:

  • Why BTC and ETH doesn’t meet his definition of money

  • DAI as the world’s first unbiased digital cash

  • Potential of PurityDAI—a crypto-backed version of DAI

  • Thoughts on Libra vs. Maker

  • Steven’s panel w/ the central bankers (full subscribers)

  • How DAI grows to trillions with the help of central banks (full subscribers )

  • Why it might be inevitable that DAI becomes a fiat currency (full subscribers)

Since you’re on the free version of the program, you have partial access to the chat. Access the rest everything by becoming a full subscriber.

Lots of level ups in chat. Calibrate your thoughts around crypto money, tokenization, and Maker as a protocol.

- RSA


THURSDAY THOUGHT

Growing DAI to trillions:
RSA w/ Maker's Steven Becker

Note: this conversation has been edited for brevity. I put the 🔥 stuff in bold.

RSA: Steven, what’s you background? How’d you get involved in Maker?

SB: I have a background in diversified financial services. Everything from financial risk management all the way to derivatives trading. At one point I even had a statistical arbitrage hedge fund.

I’ve always been interested in the broader economic essence of how things work, granular things like interest rates and yield curves. After I moved to the U.S. and started looking after my own trading portfolio, the next thing you know I get a message that says:

”Are you interested in looking after the risk of a stablecoin project on the blockchain”

My first instinct, oh this is crypto—so no. I’ve got enough volatility in my life. (Laughing)

I was interested in blockchain, but not BTC as a currency. Interested in Ethereum, but not ETH as a currency. These didn’t fulfill my definition of a currency.

I got another message a couple weeks later. This time it said:

“Would you like to be part of a project that focuses on the risk of a decentralized stablecoin?”

I know how to create a centralized stablecoin, but when I heard decentralized I thought—I don’t know how that works. Let me have a look. So I went into research mode and it became clear to me that the most perfect decentralized stablecoin was a benchmark asset and that Maker’s protocol was really close to it. And I was sold. Completely sold. Every aspect of my traditional financial life this thing touched on.

RSA: Most people fall down the crypto rabbit hole with BTC or ETH first, you went straight to Maker?

SB: Yes. Completely. Bitcoin and Ethereum were interesting, especially the cryptographic components. But in terms of actual BTC and ETH token, I had no interest whatsoever. To me these were never going to become a currency. In my reading of financial history currencies function in a specific way and these weren’t hitting all the checkboxes.

And when I looked at centralized stablecoins, these are just a digital representation of a currency, but you still have central party risk, it doesn’t scale. Decentralized stablecoins, specifically Maker, in which you can input collateral of whatever you can possibly think of, this is something that can be a currency, an economic engine, and can scale. Central banks, commercial banks, community banks—DAI is something they can actually use.

RSA: You saw Maker as a bridge between legacy finance and crypto?

SB: That’s correct. Rune and the guys that put this protocol together created a complete system that touches on every facet of the financial system. And, I must be honest with you—I don’t think they were completely aware of it. They were solving for one thing, but inadvertently touched on everything.

That’s a game changer. An inflection point. If you think about it in terms of the dismantlement of Bretton-Woods that’s an inflection point. The creation of derivatives was an inflection point. In 10-15 years, people will talk about the DeFi movement and the Maker protocol as an major economic inflection point.

The DeFi space is the driving point that’s showing how the Maker protocol is useful and valuable.

RSA: Curious about your definition of money. Is BTC money, is ETH money, is DAI money?

SB: The definition of money is a wonderful thought-process everyone should be constantly challenged with. From my definition, DAI is the world’s first unbiased digital cash.

If you take a look at the characteristics of money, the one that sticks out—you need it to be widely accepted. It also has to have a nice stable store-of-value. You can use it to transact with. And if everything goes right, everyone starts pricing in it. Those are the three things you want to see happening to an asset in order for it to become money.

The biggest problem with Bitcoin is that it’s simply not accepted. It’s not a unit of account for anybody. Not a lot of folks are going to be pricing things in BTC. So it becomes very speculative.

To your question, is BTC and ETH money? My answer is no it’s not. Is DAI money, yes it is. Though this is a point of gradient as well. DAI is a lot closer to the perfect sense of what money is than BTC and ETH.

RSA: Viewing moneyness as a spectrum makes sense. In single collateral DAI, the collateral has been crypto native—ETH only. With multi-collateral DAI, you’re adding trusted assets. How does that change the project? Does it make it less pure?

SB: That’s a brilliant point. Let’s talk about tokenized real-world assets. In order for blockchain to take on its full potential, you need to create an economy on top of it. You need to show how this blockchain economy is going to dovetail and augment the traditional economy.

You’re going to see an exponential growth in economic activity because of blockchain. Centralized actors are going to create digital tokens that are based on-chain and they’re just going to represent something of a claim on a central asset. Then they’re going to put their processes on chain. Then their businesses on chain.

In supply chain finance for example there’s $6 trillion locked up in financial moats. Supply chain can use the Maker protocol to unlock that $6 trillion. DexFreight is a wonderful example of this.

The point—we’re showing the traditional market how they can use the blockchain to unlock more value rather than telling them how blockchain is going to come eat their lunch.

That’s why the Maker protocol is so powerful. You can use crypto native assets with their associated risk profiles. But you can also show the traditional world how to transform their assets into tokens and make the risks transparent. The transparency is the part that’s missing. By doing that, you’re creating a way for the analog world to join the blockchain world.

And eventually blockchain becomes the native platform on which everything is built. It’s not going to be substituting or killing, it’s going to be a transitioning.

RSA: So crypto native or trusted assets, you’re saying—hey, why not both. What about the idea of a purity DAI that’s only backed by crypto native assets? Does that split up liquidity?

SB: Let me put it this way. I like the fact that we’re having these conversations. Because it’s about consumers. It’s about what they want.

It’s possible to have a purity DAI that serves a subset of crypto-native hardcore types—and that’s fine, we’ll have users that want different things. So I think purity DAI could become a reality along with a tokenized real world asset DAI as reality. A collection of possibilities that together in aggregate will diversify the whole ecosystem and make the ecosystem it more robust.

I like that people are questioning the philosophy of blockchain. At the same time, if you want to make this thing a source of value for everybody then the analog world needs to be included. So you need to have that spectrum. The DNA of the protocol has to be able support this granularity.

But is purity DAI forthcoming? That’s up to governance.

RSA: In multi-collateral DAI the governance gets a bit thicker. The risk decisions get more complicated. Does this impact decentralization of the protocol? Do these decisions turn Maker into more of a bank?

SB: I want to see ecosystem development around the four stakeholders. DAI suppliers, Maker governance, DAI users, and liquidity providers.

Remember governance decisions by these stakeholders aren’t completely open in spectrum. Scientific governance does have a certain constraint in terms of what you want to decide on. You can’t just turn Maker into an ice cream factory.

And yes, governance is going to become a lot more complex. There’s talk of liquid democracy, delegated voting. What’s that construct going to look like? It’s up to Maker governance to self-organize and determine.

The decentralized risk function will self-organize too. The complexity get diversified through the entire Maker community. What you’ll find is teams of subject matter experts. For crypto native collateral types that are highly illiquid—there may be a risk team that’s brilliant at figuring out the parameters. For tokenized real-world assets—there may be a risk and legal team that’s exceptional at parameterizing that. The ecosystem around decentralized risk is going to naturally form.

So complexity with the right DNA can be a good thing. Because it can create the right ecosystem. And I think scientific governance gives us the right DNA.

RSA: So how does DAI grow from $100 million to $100 billion. How about trillions? Will the new DAI Savings Rate (DSR) help?

SB: In order for DAI to become the world’s first unbiased currency it has to grow to the levels where central banks are. That means it has to be in the hundreds of billions if not trillions.

How does it get there? Tokenized real-world assets. When municipalities like Berkeley start issuing their bonds on chain and Maker governance takes those bonds as collateral. The more you induce assets to come on chain or be created on chain, the quicker you’ll see the supply of DAI expand.

But the challenge is not so much DAI supply—trillions in supply is the easy part. It’s the demand side. That’s the hard part. You can create $1 trillion in DAI supply but where’s the demand coming from?

I think demand comes from interbank financing—that’s already a driving factor for currency demand around the world. A bigger source? Central Banks. They’re now developing their own centralized digital currencies. But what if they used the decentralized Maker protocol as their tool instead? Central banks using Maker would mean massive demand.

Thinking about how to get demand isn’t the problem. Implementing it is the kicker. And the DAI savings rate (DSR) is a start. It’s going to allow an interbank infrastructure to more easily grow on the Maker layer.

RSA: Maker vs. Libra?

SB: So I was on a panel at the OECD in Paris. I was listening to the head of compliance at Libra discussing Libra. The thing he kept saying is that Libra is just a payments mechanism. They don’t expect to have hundreds of billions of Libra created. Not a currency, but a payments mechanism.

Maybe that’s just the position they’re taking because of events that led up to that point. I can’t comment on that.

DAI is different. DAI is going to be the world’s first unbiased digital cash. DAI is going to be a digital currency. The Maker protocol provides a credit generation mechanism to create and facilitate an economy—and strangely enough the byproduct of that is this digital currency called DAI.

Above was part our chat. To get access to the rest just subscribe.
In the the next section you’ll learn about:

  • Unbiased digital cash. What do you mean by unbiased?

  • How does Maker compete with crypto banks vs work with them?

  • Is there a world where use of DAI will require KYC?

  • Can Maker be stopped?

  • Will crypto be the only money with uncensorable cash like properties left?

  • what’s next in the pipeline for additional Maker synthetics?

  • Is this all in vein? (Laughing…nervously)

RSA: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about Maker or the launch of Multi-Collateral DAI on Monday?

SB: Please get involved with governance, check out MakerDao.com, looks at the tools, get involved in social media. The more you’re involved the more you create the robustness to this protocol.

To the Bankless community and readers, I really appreciate their contribution. 🔥

RSA: Good luck with the launch!

Actions

  • Consider: what do you think of Maker’s vision for bankless money & credit


Subscribe to the Bankless program. $12 per mo. Includes Inner Circle & Deal Sheet.


👉Send Bankless a DAI tip for today’s issue


Filling out the skill cube

By learning about the Maker system and its approach to money you’re leveling up on the protocols layer of the skill cube. Important stuff.


Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.


Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. I’ll always disclose when this is the case.

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