Bitcoin is supposed to be about serving the “unbanked.” For many of the so-called unbanked around the world, credit and debit cards are still accessible, especially in the United States. However, there are only limited options that actually work in the US for people with prepaid debit cards but no bank accounts attached to them. This article discusses my personal experience with banks and how I finally managed to start buying Bitcoin using credit and debit cards in the US.
(skip to instructions on buying Bitcoin with credit or debit card)
Personally, I haven’t had a physical bank account since 2011. I opened it to cash checks from New York University, who were a client of my business at that time. I closed it when I no longer needed it.
I received regular deposits to an ING Direct account (a web bank) for about 4 years. In 2012, I received several deposits (which originated as cash) from Georgia and got them immediately into cash in California. This was considered suspicious by ING Direct, and they closed the account with only 7 days notice. I should probably mention that the transactions were, sum total, in excess of $75,000. I gave legitimate reasons for receiving them and identified my business partners, but it wasn’t enough for ING.
I was going through some serious transitions following the wrecking of my business due to alcholism, and I only had one form of ID, which was not sufficient to open a new account. I needed to have the new account open in time for my next pension payment, so I turned to Green Dot. The deposits have gone there every month since.
Unwittingly, I maintained an Ally bank account for years following that, without remembering that it had about $30.00 in it. It gained interest and didn’t come to my attention until they threatened to close the account unless I updated my information. The account was later closed as a result of some behavior by Paypal.
So again, I have no bank account. Nor much need of one. I do most of my contracting through Paypal or cryptos these days. Paypal allows people to pay me regardless if they have a Paypal account or not. I have the Paypal debit Mastercard, which offers me 1% cash back on signature transactions. The rest of my income still goes to Greendot. I don’t mind things this way, but I do eventually need to open a bank account when I get serious about retirement and all that again. Presently I’m engaged in the business of raising a family, and most funds find a way to be spent, no matter their amount.
Being that I am technically unbanked – I believe I qualify at least for a credit union account somewhere – buying cryptocurrencies and participating in markets is a bit difficult. If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably experienced some problems doing the same. So let’s talk about the two ways I found, as an American citizen, to acquire Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and other major cryptocurrencies using a credit card.
I’ve managed to buy from Simplex about four times, but the last time I tried, they no longer could do business with me and their business name had changed. I was only successfully able to buy from them through Binance. I don’t know what the deal is, but something’s wrong there. Therefore, I must recommend against Simplex for the purpose of this article – which is guaranteed purchases of cryptocurrency using a credit card in the US.
The second-best option you have, if you’re in my situation, is Coinbase. The trouble with Coinbase is their customer support. I’ve had an account since 2015. At that point, you didn’t have to verify your account to get started. When I later accessed it, I had to submit verification documents. Then I lost a cell phone that had the Authy app on it, and it took them about 80 days to help me reset my two-factor authentication.
For a time, I was successfully purchasing Ethereum through the Ethereum core client and Coinbase, but that stopped working at some point too. Coinbase uses a UK payment processor to do the transactions, and from time to time you may find a Green Dot card not working. But for me, I can safely report that for the past several months, since at least November 2018, I’ve been purchasing up to $100 per week on Coinbase with a Greendot prepaid card.
The fees are not too bad. I think they charge a minimum of $1.99. The other advantage of Coinbase is that their spot price is typically lower than other markets. Therefore, it’s a good option if you’re only looking to buy $100 per week. If you want to buy more through Coinbase, you have to attach and use a bank account. No way around that.
First, a disclaimer. Coinmama had a big hack problem recently. That can’t be ignored. It’s a matter of personal security. However, I signed up for an account after they went through all that. So presumably they’ve learned their lesson.
Coinmama allows you to buy up to $5000 at a time using a credit card. Their verification process, during business hours, is less than 20 minutes long. Their customer support is responsive. I use Firefox, obviously, being a free and open source type hippie, and I found that when I finally tried to use Chrome, everything worked fine. I uploaded one form of ID and a selfie, and I was in.
However, when I went to make the purchase using my Paypal debit Mastercard, I was told to contact Paypal. Paypal said they just wanted to do a security check. There was no problem with the transaction after that. I’ve made another purchase since then. I might have to contact Paypal from time to time, but the upshot is that I get 1% cash back. From an investment perspective, that’s not bad.
Coinmama recently expanded their offerings. Previously they were only doing Ethereum and Bitcoin, but now they have a growing range of products, just like Coinbase. As long as your card issuer approves the transactions, which they will assuming everything with your account is legitimate, Coinmama is definitely the way to go if you’re looking to get into crypto but don’t have or want to use your bank account to do so.
The other advantage to using credit cards is, well, using credit! If you happen to have credit accounts, and you understand the extreme volatility of cryptocurrency and how it can work to your advantage, then you can safely use a reasonable credit offer to make a lot of money. This is not investment advice, though. That would be poor advice. However, from a personal investment perspective, if I got a credit card offer in the mail right now, that would be my first thought: buy the maximum in cryptocurrency, pay the minimum payment, when the price doubles or triples in the coming years, eliminate the debt and keep the remainder in crypto. You end up making money instead of paying to service a debt. Again, not investment advice!