Leading Brazil-based digital currency exchange BitInvest has launched the Coincard, a bitcoin-friendly prepaid MasterCard.
The concept is simple. The card can be topped up with bitcoins, but you can use it pretty much like any other MasterCard.
Similar concepts have been employed by Cryptex and BitPlastic. BitPlastic has been around for a while, though it has attracted plenty of criticism over its pricing scheme, among other issues.
Cryptex, on the other hand, is new to the game: it announced its AML/KYC compliant Cryptex Card earlier this week, which can be used in 80 countries.
Since it uses MasterCard's vast network, BitInvest is planning to make Coincard available globally.
However it should be noted that when you send your bitcoins to the charging address, your balance will increase, but it will do so in Brazilian Reals (BRL). BitInvest points out that before the transaction you will know what exchange rate you are about to get and what sort of fees to expect.
The cards can be ordered, registered and funded using the Coincard website. BitInvest will ship the card just about anywhere, though there is still no exact shipping date and do details about its fees have been released.
The concept of a bitcoin card that can be accepted worldwide seems promising indeed, but like most enticing ideas, it also has a number of potential problems.
Regulation might be an issue in some parts of the world, but fees and exchange rates are a bigger concern at this point.
BitInvest and Cryptex have not said much about fees, meaning it might be too early to evaluate either service, though the companies are expected to reveal more pricing info soon.
Whether or not we will get to see more crypto cards will likely depend on how these early entrants to the market perform in the long run. If Cryptex and Coincard gain traction in parts of the bitcoin community, we might see similar cards appear in different markets.
If on the other hand you fancy yourself as an early adopter, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil sounds like a good place to burn some bitcoins and reals, as long as you don't root for Messi's Argentina, of course.
Disclaimer: This article should not be viewed as an endorsement of any of the companies mentioned. Please do your own extensive research before considering investing any funds in these products.
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