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Bitwala’s bank account is actually made for crypto-nerds. You can buy and sell Bitcoin & Ether, but the free (without monthly fees) bank account with a debit Mastercard is also very useful for traveling. There are no fees for transactions in foreign currency and Bitwala also doesn’t charge any fees for withdrawing cash, worldwide.
Bitwala doesn’t have a banking license and is cooperating with the German Solaris Bank, which is a service platform for many start-ups, e.g. Kontist & Tomorrow. That’s why you’ll get a German DE-IBAN, so there shouldn’t be any problems when trying to use this account for direct debit payments.
Pros & Cons
Here are Bitwala’s pros, when thinking about traveling:
- Permanently free: You don’t have to pay any monthly or yearly fees for the account, incl. Mastercard. Opening the account is also free.
- Mastercard included: You’ll also get a debit Mastercard, with which you can pay and withdraw money worldwide. Payments and withdrawals will directly be debited from your account.
- No foreign transaction fee: Payments in foreign currencies (everything except Euro) can be made without any additional fees. The foreign currencies will be changed to Euro with Mastercard’s published exchange rates.
- No withdrawal fee: You can withdraw cash with the Mastercard worldwide without there being any fee from Bitwala (or Solaris Bank). However, the ATM operator might charge a fee – these fees will not be refunded.
- Buy & sell cryptocurrencies: Besides the bank account, Bitwala will also give you a wallet for cryptocurrencies. You can anytime buy and sell Bitcoin
ETH. Bitwala will charge a 1% fee + a variable network-fee (e.g. €1 for buying Bitcoin). There are no further fees. It’s very cheap and comfortable, but there are other companies that are even cheaper.
- No credit check needed: Since Bitwala doesn’t give you a line of credit, there is no need for credit checks or entries in any kind of register. For the moment it doesn’t matter how much money you earn or if you have good or bad credit.
- Video-Ident: Bitwala promises to open your account within 5 minutes. The verification is fast and simple through Video-Ident.
- For all of Europe: Often banks don’t think outside their county’s border. A Bitwala account, however, can be opened by a resident of any European country, and even many other worldwide countries.
As always, there are also some cons which one should be aware of:
- No real credit card: The Mastercard is only a debit card. Car rental companies usually expect you to have a real credit card.
- No refund of third-party fees: The ATM operator can charge a fee for cash withdrawals. These fees will not be refunded by Bitwala. Sadly, this is seems to be the case for all providers nowadays.
- Negative interest rate: If you have more than €50,000 on your bank account, Bitwala will charge a fee according to the current interest rate of the European Central Bank, if this happens to be a negative interest rate. This is currently the case.
- You can only charge by bank transfer: Your Bitwala account can only be charged via bank transfer. Revolut & Boon Planet also allow charging the account using Visa & Mastercard, which is far easier (and could even get you some miles).
- No Apple & Google Pay: Currently, Bitwala still doesn’t offer Apple or Google Pay.
- Start-up: The terms & conditions are very generous. While Bitwala’s target audience is Cryptocurrency dealers and thus earns money when they buy & sell, you still have to ask yourself how long Bitwala will be able to hold those conditions. Especially cash withdrawals have been limited after a short amount of time by other start-ups, such as N26.
Bitwala isn’t as young as you would think when hearing the word start-up. Bitwala already launched a prepaid credit card in 2015, with which you could pay with cryptocurrencies.
2018 the worst case happened for such a young company. Its banking partner WaveCrest lost its license to issue Visa credit cards, and so their business plan broke apart.
End of 2018, Bitwala restarted with help from the Whitelabel-bank Solaris from Berlin and has since then increased its Venture Capital.
Even if you don’t hold any cryptocurrencies, Bitwala’s account is very interesting. The conditions are very generous and thanks to the German IBAN you could really use this account as your main bank account. The unanswered question that remains is if these conditions will be able to last over time.
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