Bitcoiners may soon have a new way to use their cryptocurrency in the real world: the Cryptex Card, a new global bitcoin-to-cash ATM and debit card. The Hong-Kong based startup announced on Monday that it will begin shipping its cards in the next four to six weeks.
The Cryptex Card works like this: instead of buying products directly with bitcoin, the cardholder sends bitcoin to an address linked with the card, which converts it to cash. The card can then be used to withdraw money at more than 90 percent of U.S. ATMs or at certain ATMs in 80 countries. The cards are tied to Chinese card provider Union Pay, which lets the debit card work anywhere Discover cards are accepted.
Being able to exchange the currency for fast cash has been a problem for the bitcoin network. Another bitcoin debit card, BitPlastic, collects a 0.25 BTC deposit (which is refundable after $3500 worth of purchases) for one of its debit cards, which makes it hard for bitcoin owners who don’t have a lot invested to change it back into cash. Bitcoin ATM companies like Lamassu and Robocoin are now installing their machines throughout the world, but the Cryptex card might provide some liquidity for bitcoin holders that don’t live in a major city.
Since Cryptex does not charge for its card or the shipping, it makes its profits like a money transmitter on the exchange rate. It’ll likely be cheaper for bitcoin enthusiasts to just sell their coins on the market and receive the cash back into their bank accounts rather than placing it onto a debit card.
This article was updated on April 14 to reflect that the BitPlastic card collects a refundable deposit, not charges.