WageCan debit card - review

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Leo Treasure invited me to try out the new WageCan bitcoin debit card. So I did.

A while back the very aptly-named Leo Treasure came out with the CoolWallet, a neat little hardware wallet. He’s now involved with WageCan, a Taiwan-based team dedicated to making spending bitcoins in the real world easier, and asked me to test-drive their new bitcoin debit card. I threw caution to the wind and did exactly that.

Read also: The CoolWallet - super-safe and convenient bitcoin storage 

Signing up to the site is straightforward: the usual round of email and password, email verification and an OTP sent to your phone. Then login and apply for the card. So far, so easy.

You’ll need Passport or driving licence, and a utility bill, as per usual. I don’t like KYC - one of the things I appreciate about bitcoin is you don’t need any documents to send money around the world - but it’s required anywhere crypto interfaces with conventional finance. You just have to roll with it, like you’re taking a facepunch, and accept that this is the price of doing business.

Now, wait for '1-3 business days' for verification. (It actually takes 12 hours, which pleases me.)

Once that’s done, Leo sends me an invitation code, saving me the card’s 0.08 BTC purchase fee (0.06 BTC for the virtual card). I could get my name printed on it, but choose not to because I might want to do something nefarious with it (though not too nefarious, because their KYC is quite extensive). To get me into the mood I lie by telling the website I’ve read its terms and conditions, and it believes me.


A stock version of me, holding my card the wrong way round

There’s now a 5-13 day wait for delivery, after which I’ll need to activate my card. It’s towards the lower end of that timescale, which once again pleases me. So now I have the card and a 6-digit pin number. You have to activate the card on the site, which is fair enough. You then need to charge the card - it requires a minimum 0.1 BTC, though there are rewards if you send more (0.15 BTC cashback if you charge with 10 BTC). You can do that through your integrated WageCan wallet, or directly via a QR code. 2 confirmations later and the bitcoins are registered.

An hour and a half later (yeah, it was a really long block), I get a notification email. ‘0.1 BTC was received. $37.28 (1 BTC : $372.83) is being loaded to your bitcoin debit card, and it will be done within 2 business days. We will notify you once your debit card is successfully loaded.’

This is not so good if you need to skip town in a hurry, but I suppose it’s just part of the ‘this will take xxx working days’ fairytale the banks tell you. I wait, make some coffee, take up crochet as a hobby to pass the time. Chinese new year happens to be right about now, so 2 working days is actually quite a lot longer. Finally, I get the email.

So now I have a bitcoin card with 0.1 BTC or around $37 loaded onto it. What kind of mischief can I get up to with it?

Think I’ll go and buy a sandwich.

So I head off to my local Eat outlet, via a cashpoint, just to check I can take out money from an ATM as well as pay directly at a PoS terminal. It takes me a minute to figure out the hologram goes at the back, but otherwise we’re good. I enter the first four digits of my 6-digit pin and take out £10.

At Eat, I decide against a sandwich and instead opt for a hummus and falafel wrap, a ‘super-green’ and feta salad, and a coffee. The PoS terminal initially presents a problem; it keeps telling me to remove the card (there’s no ‘touch’ chip) and I end up swiping it instead. This goes much better after I realise the magnetic strip goes inwards. It requires a signature instead of a pin number, which is a little like a poor man's version of being in Back to the Future.

And that’s it, success. It’s a convenient system that basically enables you to spend bitcoin anywhere you find a MasterCard symbol - which is a lot of places. The two-day delay on transfers means it’s probably worth keeping a little on there, and thinking ahead if you need to emigrate quickly. But otherwise, I’m impressed and happy, and will likely use it again and again.

Note: for the sake of completeness, the super-green and feta salad contains only token amounts of feta. The mint dressing was unexpected but, in the event, not unpleasant.

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