VISA and Mastercard make it harder to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Sometime in the last week Bitcoin investors started noticing additional fees on their bank statements. It turns out that VISA and Mastercard both decided (how convenient!) to reclassify the way Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency purchases are processed on their networks. Incidents like this pose several challenges for the cryptocurrency industry short-term, but also show just how scared the incumbents really are.

Currently, if you want to buy bitcoin, ethereum or any other alt-coin instantly, the only option is to use your debit or credit card. Transferring funds from your bank has lower fees, but takes several days. Coinbase has long accepted debit and credit cards for instant buys, however, passing on to the buyer the standard 4 percent credit card transaction fee.

Now, it seems VISA and Mastercard have quietly reclassified the way Coinbase credit card purchases are processed on their networks. Coinbase transactions (and presumably all other exchanges, as well) are now being labeled as a “cash advance” rather than a “purchase.” Fees will vary by institution, but what this means is that using a credit card will result in an additional 5 percent fee tacked on by your credit card merchant, in addition to the 4 percent credit card transaction fee already passed on by Coinbase.

Even worse is that cash advances do not fall under the standard interest-free grace period that consumers expect for other credit card purchases. The moment the Coinbase purchase goes through, the transaction accrues and compounds daily. If that isn’t bad enough, the interest rate is also higher for cash advances  —  an astonishing 25.99 percent in one case. Lastly, but equally as important for some consumers, these purchases will no longer qualify for earning credit card points.

For example, a $5,000 instant bitcoin purchase made on Coinbase using a VISA or Mastercard credit card will now result in roughly $500 in fees + interest too. For most people, losing 10 percent of your investment in fees means that the practice of using a credit card to buy cryptocurrency is effectively over…

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