Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange based on trading volume, will now let you spend money you don’t have after it added support for credit cards from Visa and Mastercard.
Credit card usage in crypto is controversial. Aside from the risk — ask anyone who bought crypto last year… — top exchanges have gone back and forth on support. Coinbase, for example, stopped allowing credit card purchases a year ago but, when it still allowed them, customers were found to have incurred additional charges.
With many crypto owners getting “rekt” by a slump that has seen the market crash by around 90 percent, with some tokens now effectively worthless, the winds of change in the bear market are interesting to observe.
Coinbase is abandoning its conservative approach to the coins that it lists, while Binance — which operates on the opposite scale with support for a glut of tokens — has moved from being crypto-only to offer fiat currency options to customers. Support for credit cards is a major part of that, and it brings Coinbase and Binance into direct competition for the first time.
The company, which is officially based in Malta, has opened fiat currency trading outposts in Uganda and Jersey, and it has plans to add similar ramps in Liechtenstein, Singapore and other places.
CEO Changpeng Zhao told TechCrunch last year that Binance plans to grow to 10 fiat exchanges in 2019, with “ideally two per continent.” Part of the strategy is to help larger, institutional investors bring money into the crypto ecosystem, a move that he believes will boost Binance and the crypto industry generally.
The credit card support has come via a partnership with crypto-focused payment company Simplex, but there are caveats.
Credit cards can only be used to purchase a limited set of tokens: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple’s XRP.
There are also geographical limitations. The Simplex service isn’t supported in some countries, while, in the U.S., it doesn’t cover the following states: New York, Georgia, Connecticut, New Mexico, Hawaii and Washington.
Finally, support for banks is not universal, which means that some users will not be able to buy on Binance using their credit card.
Those that can are charged a 3.5 percent fee and must wait 10-30 minutes for their tokens, a Binance spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. Once purchased, those tokens can be freely traded on Binance, which claims to list more than 150 cryptocurrencies.
Still, the move may bolster the exchange’s trading volume, which, while still the highest in the industry, has dropped below $1 billion per day in recent times.
At the time of writing, the exchange had traded some $666 million worth of crypto in the last 24 hours, according to data from CoinMarketCap. A lot of that depression is down to the market plummet, which has seen the overall value of that trading volume fall, and reduced consumer interest in trading, but giving more people the tools to buy might offset that somewhat.
“The crypto industry is still in its early stages and most of the world’s money is still in fiat. Building fiat gateways is what we need now to grow the ecosystem, increase adoption and introduce crypto to more users,” Zhao said in a canned statement.
Note: The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.