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Industry Analysis
Summary:
Monaco is trying to position itself in an industry with a great potential. The main aim is to help consumers use digital coins for day-to-day expenses.

I. INTRODUCTION

Although it can be said that cryptocurrency is a hot commodity these days, the technology has still yet to go mainstream and achieve widespread adoption. Most average users still use it primarily to save or trade.

It is not necessarily difficult to use cryptocurrency, however, there are still people who get confused when using Skype. Therefore, asking them to keep track of private and public keys, as well as long wallet addresses can be a real pain.

Moreover, high price volatility of digital currencies, as well as all the rather negative media reports are part of the problem as well.

Perhaps the biggest barriers to widespread cryptocurrency adoption are convincing average Joe to see cryptocurrency as real money. Until recently, we could not go to the nearest grocery store and pay for our shopping list with Bitcoins or any other cryptocurrency.

Yes, we can exchange cryptocurrencies to fiat money, but it’s rather inconvenient to always have to take this additional step before we can actually start shopping with digital coins.

This is where cryptocurrency debit cards, a relatively recent development in the Blockchain world, might help newbies make the leap of faith. One might say they were invented to solve the problem of using digital coins for day-to-day expenses.

Cryptocurrency debit cards look exactly like traditional debit cards. The only difference is that cryptocurrencies can be stored on them. These cards are also issued by already existing international payment systems, such as Visa or MasterCard, which makes it possible to use them with any point-of-sale terminal around the world.

The actual transactions can be possible only through converting cryptocurrencies into a corresponding fiat currency. This has been done primarily because there are currently no effective POS systems that would support digital currency payments, nor there are enough businesses that would be interested in providing their ventures with those systems.

II. KEY PLAYERS

In this chapter, we will take a look and analyze existing players who are proposing solutions for cryptocurrency spending. We will look at emerging companies, that also have their own tokens, such as Monaco and TenX, electronic/cryptocurrency wallet companies, such as Bitwala, BitPay, and CryptoPay, as well as large traditional players, such as Visa and Mastercard.

It is important to acknowledge that although companies such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club are not born in the digital coins era, the vast majority of the world’s transactions are handled through them. Therefore, it crucial to include them in the present study. 

A. CRYPTO COMPANIES WITH OWN TOKEN

2.1. Monaco (MCO)

  • Monaco Technology GmbH has a declared mission of putting Cryptocurrency in every wallet. 
  • It allows its users to hold multiple fiat and cryptocurrencies in an account that is always free
  • Provides access to VISA payment cards which can be used to spend currencies at any retailer that accepts these debit cards. The bank will always conduct exchanges at the real rate, so no money will be lost when converting various currencies. 
  • A big plus comes from the fact that Monaco is an approved VISA Program Manager.
  • Being a Program Manager makes Monaco the owner of the card program which enables the company to manage the marketing, distribution, customer support and all other operational aspects of the card program, including working with a processor on transaction authorization and processing.
  • Being a Program Manager is different from being a Card Issuer as the latter is responsible for meeting local regulatory requirements and settlements to VISA. 
  • Creating a Monaco account is completely free. There are no monthly fees and minimum balance requirements typically found at banks.
  • Anyone who does transactions in multiple currencies will save on each transaction involving an exchange rate since the company does not adjust the exchange rate to work in its favor (it offers the real exchange rate). 
  • Moreover, Monaco offers as much as 2 percent cashback in the form of their MCO cryptocurrency on all purchases. 

 Monaco MCO 

  • Monaco has it’s own Cryptocurrency token named MCO, based on Ethereum.
  • It can be bough on exchanges, such as Bittrex, Binance, LiveCoin, and Liqui.
  • MCO tokens can also be earned every time the user pays with his/hers Monaco card. Each transaction lets the user earn as much as 2 percent MCO cashback.

Target market: 

Monaco is specifically designed to appeal to a few groups of people: 

  • first of all, there are those who travel frequently. Since there are no fees, the Monaco card always acts like local currency, delivering the best interbank exchange.
  • secondly, there are those who buy, earn, or spend cryptocurrency. 

Monaco Cards 

a. Midnight Blue: 

  • does not require any purchase of MCO 
  • zero annual and monthly fee
  • free shipping 
  • $200 limit for free ATM withdrawals  
  • interbank exchange rate limit of $2,000 
  • the card is made out of plastic. 

 b. Ruby steel: 

  • requires 50 MCO purchase and hold for 6 months 
  • 1% Cashback on all purchases 
  • No monthly or annual fees
  • $400 free ATM withdrawal limit (per month, 2% thereafter) 
  • $4000 Interbank Exchange Rates Limit (per month, 0.5% thereafter) 

c. Precious metal: 

  • requires 500 MCO purchase and hold for 6 months 
  • 1.5% Cashback on all purchases 
  • LoungeKey™ Airport Lounge Access 
  • No monthly or annual fees 
  • Free shipping 
  • $800 free ATM withdrawal limit (per month, 2% thereafter) 
  • $10,000 Interbank Exchange Rates Limit (per month, 0.5% thereafter) 

d. Obsidian Black 

  • requires 50,000 MCO purchase and hold for 6 months 
  • 2% Cashback on all purchases 
  • LoungeKey™ Airport Lounge Access + 1 guest 
  • Rare - supply limited to 999 cards 
  • No monthly or annual fees 
  • Free shipping 
  • $1000 free ATM withdrawal limit (per month, 2% thereafter) 
  • Unlimited Interbank Exchange Rates Limit 

2.2. TEN X

  • TenX is one of Monaco’s competitors from the cryptocurrency arena. It allows spending currencies at many merchants around the globe, just like spending local currencies. 
  • It allows its users to spend crypto-assets without incurring forex or transaction fees.
  • The card can be used anywhere where VISA is accepted *(please see Chapter 3 - Visa and Wave Crest Scandal). 
  • Currently, TenX does not accept or store fiat. 

Fees: 

- Issuing Fees: 

  • There is a $15 issuing fee for new physical cards that covers issuing and shipping costs. 
  • For the virtual card, there is $1.50 issuing fee 

- Annual Fees: 

  • There is a $10 annual fee associated with the physical card and a $10 annual fee for the virtual card. 
  • These fees are waived for users who spend $1,000 or more during the year. 

- Foreign Exchange Fees: 

  • TenX does not charge any forex fees. 

- ATM Fee: 

  • A $2.75 transaction fee will be levied for every ATM transaction. 

Currently supported currencies for all users: 

• Bitcoin (BTC) 

• ETH 

Currencies currently on the roadmap to be added and in closed-beta for some users: 

• ERC20 

• Dash (DASH) 

TenX Cards: 

- Issuing cards is currently on hold until a new issue comes onboard. This is slated latest end of Q1, 2018 according to TenX *(please see Chapter 3 - Visa and Wave Crest Scandal). 


2.3. CENTRA 

  • Centra is a cryptocurrency wallet linked with a debit card. It was founded by Sam Sharma. 
  • The debit card can be loaded with cryptocurrencies from the mobile wallet. 
  • Depending on the country of use, funds can be added by converting bitcoin into fiat, from bank transfer, or using the app’s digital currency exchange features. 
  • Centra has partnered with Visa*, MasterCard, and a number of banks to allow them to issue cards worldwide. They officially support 100+ countries. 
  • After downloading the Centra wallet, the Centra Card can be used to spend blockchain assets in real-time around the world. 
  • The cryptocurrencies supported by Centra are Bitcoin, ERC20 tokens, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Dash, Monero, and ZCash. 

Fees 

  • Sending or receiving money using the Centra Card is free. 
  • The virtual card is issued at a fee of $1.25 and has a zero annual fee. 
  • The physical card comes with a cost of $10, payable annually. 

Cards 

- Centra Gold Card: 

  • The Centra Gold Card has a daily and monthly withdrawal limit of $20,000. The annual withdrawal limit is $80,000.

- Centra Blue Card: 

  • It can be ordered from a virtual card or through the wallet app. It is the most common card among the users. 
  • It has a daily withdrawal limit of $500 and a monthly limit of $10,000. The yearly limit is $80,000. 

- EMV Centra Black Card: 

  • It is issued to contributors of more than 100 ETH. It has a higher transaction limit and programs. With it, users get additional rental coverage, the ability to purchase travel protection, and a bonus rewards program. 
  • The daily limit for this card is $100,000 with a limit of $3,000 daily ATM withdrawal. 
  • The maximum for monthly and yearly withdrawals is $200,000. 

Centra Coin Bay

- Centra is set to launch a platform, Coin Bay. It will be designed to accept cryptocurrencies as a mode of payment. 

- Coin Bay will be the first cryptocurrency marketplace that takes crypto as a form of payment. 

If we take a look at the first three players mentioned above, who also own tokens we can see that TenX has the largest market capitalization, followed by Monaco and then Centra. Important to note that Monaco has the largest unit price, followed by TenX and Centra.  

Market Caps


B. CRYPTO WALLETS

2.4. Wirex

  • It is one of the most popular cryptocurrency wallets on the market, being linked to physical and virtual VISA debit cards. 
  • It allows the conversion of bitcoins, as well as adding traditional currencies like dollars, euros, and pounds. 
  • With Wirex funds can be instantly converted from the user’s Bitсoin Wallet for use on Virtual or Plastic debit Cards. 
  • The wallet is Fully secured by Multi-Sig technology, SSL encryption, and 2-Factor Authentication.  

Cards

- Virtual cards:

  •  are issued instantly 
  • the first one is free, while the second one costs $3 
  • Available in multiple traditional currencies (USD, EUR, GDP) 
  • No ID needed to get started 

- Plastic cards:

  • are available internationally and are currently issuable in the EEA area o free standard delivery or expedited for a small additional cost 

* Currencies are converted at wholesale rate ** Blockchain fee might be applied if recipient doesn't have account with Wirex 




Fees



2.5. Bitwala

  • Bitwala offers a debit card and payments service available in 45 European countries. 
  • It allows its users to convert bitcoin to pay bills and send money in 20+ local currencies to over 200 countries. 
  • For payments, Bitwala has a 0.5% fee. 
  • Physical cards costs 8 EUR and virtual prepaid cards cost 2 EUR 
  • Bitcoins can be converted to Euros. 

 2.6.  Shift Card 

  • The Shift Card works like any debit card today 
  • Card issuance costs $10 
  • Domestic ATM Withdrawals fees of $2.50 
  • International Transaction Fee 3% 
  • International ATM Withdrawal $3.50 

2.7. Xapo

  •  Xapo is a digital wallet allowing its users to spend, invest or trade in Bitcoin and more than 150 currencies 
  • Ordering a Xapo card costs $20 
  • Fees are not clear – they seem to be based on a proprietary hidden algorithm. 

 2.8. BitPay 

  • Enables it users to load dollars onto their BitPay Card using a bitcoin wallet. Funds are ready to spend in minutes. 
  • The BitPay Card can be used for online shopping and at any brick and mortar retailer that accepts Visa® debit cards. 
  • There are three pricing options: 

o Starter: 

♣ Free 

♣ 30 transactions/month 

♣ up to $1000 daily and $10,000 annually 

♣ 1% applied to additional transactions 

o Business 

♣ 1% transaction fee 

♣ unlimited transactions 

o Enterprise Plan 

♣ For businesses processing more than $10 million per month 

 C. LARGE TRADITIONAL PLAYERS 

Unsurprising, none of the cards mentioned above appear to have caught on beyond a handful of hyper-niche users.

For ordinary consumers, a bitcoin-Visa card has an obvious drawback in that it doesn’t offer rewards points like any regular Visa card worth its salt will do. And for merchants, the “2% cut” TenX plans to take is no better than what they must pay out already. 

We will look at Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club. We will group together the analysis of Visa and MasterCard on one hand and Diners Club and American Express on the other since they operate in a very similar way. 

  • While Visa claims to have 2.4 billion cards issued, across more than 200 countries, MasterCard avoids direct comparison by saying it processes over 18 billion payments per year.
  • It is difficult to find any difference in the number of locations worldwide that accept the cards, which is now estimated at close to thirty million. 
  • For the vast majority of consumers, there is no real difference between MasterCard and Visa. The two are both widely accepted in over two hundred countries. 
  • However, neither Visa nor MasterCard actually issue any credit cards themselves. They are both simply methods of payment. 
  • They rely on banks in various countries to issue credit cards that utilize these payment methods. 
  • Therefore, the interest rates, rewards, annual fees, and all other charges are issued by a bank and when paying a bill, the bank or institution that issued the card is receiving the money, not Visa or MasterCard. 
  • Unlike Visa and MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club are payment systems that also issue cards directly to the consumer, finance payments, and process the transfers. 
  • Since they lend money to customers while the transfer is going through, they make most of their money from interest and fees. 
  • Diners Club has partnered with MasterCard for wider universal acceptance so that 38 million MasterCard locations worldwide will now also accept Diners Club cards.  
  • In contrast, AMEX by around 15 million merchants worldwide. 
  • Both American Express and Diners Club emphasize their exclusive rewards schemes. 
  • They tend to aim for the higher end of the credit card rewards market, such as luxury concierge services, rare tickets to concerts and sporting events, fine dining, etc. 
  • They are also generous with their rewards points, typically issuing three points per dollar spent. 


D. POTENTIAL UPCOMING PLAYERS 

Metal - https://www.metalpay.com 

Token - http://tokencard.io/company/ 


Chapter 3 - Visa and Wave Crest Scandal 

Visa, recently terminated its partnership with Wave Crest, a Gibraltar-based digital payment processing company, effectively disabling bitcoin and cryptocurrency debit cards. 

Bitcoin and cryptocurrency debit card service providers including TenX, Xapo, Bitwala, BitPay have been affected by the crackdown of Visa on Wave Crest. Cryptocurrency debit card service providers have been relying on Wave Crest and its Visa partnership to process cryptocurrency payments. 

Important to note that Monaco is NOT in the same situation since it is an approved VISA Program Manager.  

CONCLUSION

From our point of view, there are still a few years left of turbulence in the cryptocurrency market. However, companies such as Monaco, TenX, and Bitwala are well positioned and if they play their cards right, they could be the pioneers to create the link between fiat currency and digital coins.

Partnering with large companies such as VISA and MasterCard seems to be the best approach to reach a large audience and gain people’s trust. Monaco has a bonus in this area, being an approved VISA Program Manager.

References:

  • http://1stminingrig.com/monaco-card-review-the-visa-card-revolution/
  • https://blockonomi.com/monaco-guide/
  • https://captainaltcoin.com/what-is-monaco-coin/
  • https://getcrypto.info/monaco/
  • https://medium.com/@monaco_card/monaco-mco-token-to-be-listed-on-four-cryptocurrency-exchanges-on-december-5-c3c1360ef1cb
  • https://mona.co https://themerkle.com/monacos-cryptocurrency-debit-card-gets-visa-approval-in-singapore/
  • https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-02/cryptocurrency-gained-695-on-deal-with-visa-that-didn-t-happen
  • https://www.canstar.com.au/credit-cards/american-express-vs-diners/
  • https://www.canstar.com.au/credit-cards/visa-or-mastercard/
  • https://www.coinstaker.com/initial-coin-offering/monaco
  • https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/monaco-mco-token-to-be-listed-on-four-cryptocurrency-exchanges-on-december-5-661785493.html
  • https://www.reddit.com/r/MonacoCard/comments/7d1hbr/a_serious_look_into_monaco_card/

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