Intervention by Visa spelled an end to European crypto debit cards for the majority of customers on Thursday. Around a dozen crypto companies were affected by the shutdown, which instantly wiped out their services across Europe. Issuers such as Bitwala, Tenx, Bitpay, and Xapo were left high and dry after a Visa subsidiary stopped processing payments. Two of the companies affected have since spoken to news.Bitcoin.com, revealing their plans to find an alternative solution.
Crypto Card Holders Are Locked Out
On Thursday, news.Bitcoin.com reported on a sudden crackdown on crypto cards within Europe, orchestrated by Visa subsidiary Wavecrest. The report explained how “the prepaid cards, which have become extremely popular in the crypto community, provide a means of indirectly paying for goods and services using cryptocurrency.”
Bridging the gap between fiat and crypto is one of the biggest challenges cryptocurrency platforms face. Hybrid cards, which allow a debit card to be funded with crypto and then used to make purchases in the local fiat currency, were seen as a smart solution. That all changed this week when hundreds of thousands of European crypto-holders found their cards had been rendered useless.
Tenx was one of those companies affected by the ban. The company’s co-founder, Dr. Julian Hosp, told news.Bitcoin.com that around 200,000 customers had been impacted, but signaled that a resolution is on the horizon:
Tenx was prepared for this, as the company has recently entered partnership with a new card issuing partner and is in the process of getting the new cards live to replace the old ones as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Tenx customers will be able to withdraw their funds from their accounts as of Monday evening (January 8), while they await developments.
Dr Hosp also appeared on a live Hangout on Saturday to explain more about the current situation. The company’s co-founder seems upbeat, telling news.Bitcoin.com of plans to introduce a “live virtual currencies card” and obtain a banking licence for better fiat currency integration.
The Hunt for a New Issuer
Wirex is another crypto card firm that finds itself without a payment processing partner after Visa slammed the door. The company claims to be Wavecrest’s largest client, with over one million customers – most of whom don’t use crypto cards, it should be noted. Nevertheless, the effects of the Visa veto were still dramatic: around 600,000 Wirex plastic or virtual card holders were left without service after the ban.
Interestingly, Wirex CEO Pavel Matveev asserts that Visa are blameless in this, insisting that the blame lies solely with Wavecrest. He told news.Bitcoin.com: “Wavecrest have been violating Visa rules for months…it’s 100% Wavecrest’s fault and they knew it was coming a couple of months ago.”
Like Tenx, Wirex is confident the situation won’t leave its European customers serviceless. Pavel says they have four alternative issuers to choose from, one of which is based in Europe. “For us,” he said, “it’s a question of switching issuer and re-issuing cards, so it’s just a temporary problem; but for a lot of companies it’s the end of their business – they don’t have an alternative issuer and finding one plus integration might take anyway from 6 to 18 months”.
Who’s to Blame?
Some in the cryptocurrency community were swift to point the finger at Visa in the aftermath of the ban, though there is no evidence as yet that the order came from up high. Given that it processes more than 100 billion transactions a year versus bitcoin’s circa 130 million, it’s premature to assert that Visa is feeling threatened by cryptocurrency. Whatever bitcoin is, be it a store of value or a medium of exchange, it is not, as yet, a Visa killer. Nor is Visa, or its subsidiary Wavecrest, a crypto killer.
It seems likely that the majority of European card issuers will be able to resume service in the near future. Customers will be wary, though, of putting all their faith in one crypto card, in the knowledge that a repeat of the Wavecrest incident could see service suspended at any time.
Do you think Visa are culpable, or was this matter none of their doing? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Author: Kai Sedgwick