Online bitcoin wallet provider Xapo caught the attention of the cryptocurrency community back in April when it announced plans to debut a credit-card system compatible debit card. After the initial buzz, however, Xapo was relatively quiet about the project. In early June, Xapo founder Wences Casares said that the project was still being actively developed, but added that technical challenges and difficulties finding institutional partners had slowed progress.
In a email sent yesterday, Xapo explained the delay in the project, noting that “Since this is the first true bitcoin debit card that is designed as a seamless extension of your bitcoin wallet, we and our card partner have had a lot of work to do!”
Xapo’s cards differ significantly from currently available bitcoin-purchased debit cards. Instead of pre-loading a debit card with local funds traded for BTC at the time of purchase, Xapo’s system is designed to allow a real-time exchange of BTC to local currency from a hot wallet balance, using the current exchange rate. Should it work as advertised, a Xapo wallet balance could be used much the same as any bank-issued debit card. Although no card partner has been announced, the early version of Xapo’s system used MasterCard’s network. Unlike bitcoin-based transactions, however, standard card-transaction fees still apply.
According to the email, those problems have been resolved, and the Xapo Debit Cards are currently in the final stages of testing. The email also claimed that the first batch of cards will ship “in a few weeks.” Xapo claims that all pre-ordered cards will be sent to customers, although not every user will be in the first wave of deliveries.