Wirex was launched in February 2016 but had previously been known as E-Coin – a virtual card provider. Founded by three friends — Pavel Matveev, Dmitry Lazarichev, and Georgy Sokolov — Wirex benefits from a combined 40 years of experience in the financial and blockchain sector, including the investment and banking industries. The team created E-Coin and turned it into a ready-to-use platform in just four months.
The Company is headquartered in London, U.K. with offices in Tokyo and Kiev in Ukraine. Wirex states ‘…. the E-Coin team is global. This is important to us, as we offer a global product. We are able to communicate with customers all over the world. Currently, we have team members in Europe, South East Asia, Africa, and South America.’ It also describes its offering as ‘……..the best personal finance platform for cryptocurrency in the solar system.’ So how exactly does it work?
Set-up and sign up
If you head over to the site everything is very pleasant and user-friendly. The service is available for over 130 countries but not the United States, although there are plans to offer the service there in the near future. You need to check if your country is supported. Wirex is trying to offer the convenience of a VISA debit card and seamlessly integrate it with Bitcoin and other altcoins so you have the immediate choice to spend in fiat or crypto. The platform also acts as storage for cryptos, at the moment wallets are available in BTC, XRP, and LTC but a number of supported cryptos can be transacted directly into your wallets and from there to fiat – all with no fee. Wirex describes this as a ‘two-way card’. They state you can deposit in excess of 50 altcoins but my app (iOS) only showed 40. If you add in BTC, XRP, and LTC then that makes 43, but they are adding coins on an ongoing basis, DASH is one of the new wallets in the pipeline. I believe Shapeshift is the integration that allows this transfer of altcoins, please read our review of Shapeshift so you are aware of how it works.
Opening the account is very straightforward. Simple email confirmations to get going and telephone number for the mobile apps. You can access the features using a web browser but you will definitely need to download the mobile app to get full use of the platform. It is available on iOS as well as Android. You will have to submit the usual KYC information to begin using the account, we found them to be a little picky about this but persevere and all should be fine. (more detail in ‘Using Wirex’ below)
To keep things simple the platform offers 6 main features:
- Wallet – 3 main cryptos are supported as wallets, BTC, XRP and LTC. Other altcoins can be transferred into the wallets
- Card – Virtual or physical cards are available in 3 currencies, USD, GBP and EUR
- Exchange – This feature allows you to purchase BTC through your app
- Send money – this is done as a bitcoin transfer by using the recipients BTC wallet address
- Security – a number of high-level security features are offered across the various features (more below)
- Cryptoback – this is Wirex’s trademarked answer to CashBack. You earn 0.5% on purchases, paid into your BTC wallet
Wirex utilises a number of security features across its various features.
As with any online wallet, users need to be aware that this is not the most secure method of storing cryptocurrency. We would always recommend the use of cold storage such as a hard wallet. Wirex does offer a cold storage vault option for higher deposit levels, we don’t have all the information on this so you would need to enquire further with Wirex.
Having said that these are the security features offered by Wirex:
- Multi-Sig – this feature ensures that no transfer of funds can be achieved without the consent of all parties involved. All wallets are multi-sig and access is only available by the user.
- SSL – Secured Sockets Layer provides an encrypted link between the server and the user’s browser. Wirex uses 256-bit SSL
- Device Authorisation – Each user device has to be confirmed and authenticated before access to the platform is allowed. Depending on the device ‘fingerprint’ recognition can also be activated.
- 2FA – This is available and we would highly recommend switching this option on. DO NOT USE SMS authentication, read this article to understand why.
- Verified by VISA – Online transactions require authorisation through the VISA 3D verification system adding an additional layer of security.
- Email Notifications – You will be notified of any and all transactions on your account by email.
- Card Disable – If you lose, or misplace your debit card then you can immediately disable it through the platform.
- Access to Card Details – No employees of Wirex have access to your card details.
If you already have BTC or any of the other supported altcoins you can immediately transfer those into your wallets on Wirex. To add fiat to your Wirex account you can send GBP by bank transfer or IBAN (a little limiting for International users) or use an existing debit or credit card which is issued by a traditional bank. Note that the card must be 3D secure, most VISA and Mastercards are anyway. To add fiat funds in this way you will also need to verify the account following Wirex’s verification process which is relatively straightforward and in line with other exchange requirements. The list of documents is fairly typical:
Although the process seems straightforward they were a little petty in their process when we verified. They requested the profile name on the app to be exactly as the photoID and suggested that once we adjusted this in the app all would be fine. When we did as requested all was not fine, we had to resubmit and start the verification process again from the beginning. This is the usual BS ‘no common sense’ approach we are used to from the banks so I hope they don’t go any further down that route – time will tell.
We are still unable to complete the KYC procedure. We were given written confirmation that a small change on our profile details within the platform would match their existing details and complete the verification process – this turned out not to be the case. We were forced to begin the complete process again and subsequently we were rejected. Our views have changed considerably since with our recent experience. We no longer feel this is a new, refreshing way to incorporate cryptocurrency into the mainstream but more of a jaded attempt for traditional banking to cash in on the popularity of cryptos. Our experience may not affect others, we can only report as we have found but we will not be using their service. Coming from a financial services and investment background I have spent over 20 years jumping through the KYC hoops indiscriminately imposed by financial institutions. I do not understand why they insist on halting the process at each point there is an issue instead of informing the customer of all that is required from the start of the process, especially when only 2 documents are being submitted.
The fees applied by Wirex seem very competitive, for most transactions the fee is actually zero! So where does Wirex make money you may ask? The simple answer is in the rates. Shapeshift, as an example does not charge fees either. They make their money on the rates they apply. Sometimes these rates are competitive but other times not so. You are paying for the convenience. The same will be true of Wirex. They will be offering rates that will be better on a traditional exchange such as Binance, but that’s not really the point here. The whole platform is designed to seamlessly offer the user a way of having a virtual (or physical) debit card which can switch from traditional fiat transactions to crypto transactions and vice versa. It is extremely convenient and it could well be one of the solutions to assist in the mass adoption of cryptos.
In addition, they will take a share of the merchant fees as with any traditional debit or credit card transaction.
I understand from their site that a physical card issued to an EU country has free delivery but I cannot find from the site if there is a charge for delivery to countries outside of the EU, please check and confirm if this applies to you. It may well be at this time that physical cards are only available to EU countries. I did have confirmation from their support that the account management fee applies from the moment you activate your account – regardless of whether you actually fund it or not, so please note.
I had 2 reasons to contact their support after the initial set-up of my account. The first issue was a peculiar ‘ghosting’ of code and other items on the account dashboard and the unavailability of options to navigate my account. After logging out and then back in and refreshing the page a few times this disappeared. I received a reply from their support within 18 hours and they are aware of this issue.
Secondly, I had a question about the account management fee which was again answered very quickly (within half a day), so I can say the support is very good. The site states it is 24/7.
Their support also contacted me with regard to the verification, and although the outcome resulted in me having to do a resubmission they were quick to respond.
Wirex seems to be offering a fantastic option to allow users to easily use cryptocurrency to spend in traditional ways. It doesn’t matter if the retailer doesn’t accept bitcoin or cryptos as you can switch to fiat and then continue with your payment. The user experience appears solid and pleasant. It does take a little time to familiarise yourself with the full platform because of the various features offered – as it’s not just a straightforward debit card!
Please read our important update above. Unfortunately following our experiences with the verification process and customer support not providing the correct advice we have canceled our account with Wirex. Please feel free to make your own judgment and we would love to hear of your experience with Wirex below.
Visit Wirex to see if it’s for you
Please leave your comments below if you have had any experiences with Wirex.
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