Japan’s largest bitcoin exchange, bitFlyer, announced on Friday that it has launched a yen-dominated bitcoin Visa prepaid card, bringing Japanese consumers one step closer to being able to use bitcoin for their daily purchases.
Users will be able to load their card with bitcoin via their bitFlyer accounts, and then use the card to purchase goods and services at any store that accepts Visa cards. This means that users will be able to use their cards for “more than 40 million merchants in more than 200 countries and regions.”
The introduction of the bitcoin Visa prepaid card was made possible by the partnering of bitFlyer with Vandle Card, which issues Visa prepaid cards and is a product of Kanmu Inc. and Orico Corporation.
Though there is neither a sign-up fee nor an annual fee to use the cards, there is a limit regarding exactly how much users can load onto their cards: users cannot load more than 30,000 yen (about $226.27) at a time, and no more than 120,000 yen ($905.10) a month. Furthermore, there is a lifetime load limit of 1 million yen ($7,542.48) per card, whose balance cannot exceed 100,000 yen ($754.25), and each card expires after only 5 years.
The application period for the card, however, is quite short, according to bitFlyer’s website. It began on October 6, 2017, and will end on October 22, 2017. Applications for the card must be submitted via the Vandle Card website.
The advent of bitFlyer’s bitcoin Visa prepaid card may signal a turning point in the East Asian bitcoin community: until now, cryptocurrency in East Asia has served less as a means of exchange and more as a trading asset, as previously reported by Bank Innovation.
Though purchases made using the bitcoin Visa prepaid card will technically be made with Japanese yen, and not with bitcoin, the card makes the act of translating bitcoin into a government-backed currency much easier.
This is not the first bitcoin Visa prepaid card in the global market. BitPay, an Atlanta-based bitcoin payment service company, announced earlier this year that its own bitcoin debit card will be able to be used in more than 131 countries around the world.
BitPay’s card has run into a number of problems since its introduction, however, including the delay of transactions. In May, it was reported that many transactions — more than a hundred thousand at one point — remained unconfirmed on the blockchain long after they had taken place.
It is possible for traders to pay a fee to avoid waiting in line to get their transactions verified on the blockchain, but these fees tend to be steep: the typical 400 byte transaction — that is, a transaction that takes 400 bytes — requires a fee of as much as $3 or $4 dollars, rendering the cost of such transactions too high for many traders to handle.
Whether or not these problems will affect users of bitFlyer’s new card to the same degree remains to be seen.