Much has been written about the MCO Visa Card in recent weeks and months–cue possibly sponsored reviews by The Travel Intern and The Vulcan Post. What is the MCO Visa Card all about, and should you even consider getting one?
What is the MCO Visa Card?
The MCO Visa Card is a VISA platinum prepaid debit card issued by Crypto.com, a company mainly based in Hong Kong. As with other prepaid debit cards such as YouTrip, you have to top up monies into the card to use it, as opposed to a credit card where you settle the bill only at the end of the month.
What sets this card apart from other prepaid debit cards is the rewards that you potentially enjoy if you’re willing to assume some level of cryptocurrency risk, and the convoluted method in which you top up the card (which, can be a boon or a bane).
There are five different tiers of MCO Visa Cards. The most basic of these, the Midnight Blue card, is available free-of-charge and offers 1% unlimited cashback on any purchase, the ability to withdraw up to US$200 at any overseas ATM or a local atm5-compatible ATM without added transaction fees, and to spend up to US$2,000 in foreign (i.e. other than SGD) currencies in VISA transactions at the VISA interbank rate without added transaction fees. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Obsidian Black card offering 5% unlimited cashback, US$1,000 of ATM withdrawals without added transaction fees and unlimited amount of foreign-denominated VISA transactions at the VISA interbank rate. You also get free reimbursement on your Spotify and Netflix subscriptions, 10% off Airbnb and Expedia bookings and unlimited LoungeKey airport lounge access for yourself a companion. The catch? You have to lock-in, or “stake”, 50,000 MCO coins for at least a period of six months, and in perpetuity if you wish to continue enjoying most of the benefits. At the current time of writing, 50,000 MCO is equivalent to about S$357,000. Whew.
If you have a medium risk appetite and have some funds set aside which you are ready to lose, the Jade Green/ Royal Indigo (you can choose either colour) card is a good place to start. You have to stake 500 MCOs for a period of at least six months, which is equivalent to about S$3,570 at present. In exchange for the lock-in, you enjoy 3% cash rebate on your purchases, reimbursement on your Spotify and Netflix transactions and unlimited LoungeKey access for yourself. You get to withdraw up to US$400 at overseas ATMs with no added transaction fees and spend up to US$4,000 in foreign VISA transactions at the VISA interbank rate. An additional bragging right which some may appreciate is that the card is fashioned out of metal. I, for one, do not appreciate this due to its added weight and thickness.
More information on the various cards and rewards are available here.
You have to download the Crypto.com Wallet app from the Google Play Store or the App Store to sign up. You have to complete some verification checks (for regulatory compliance purposes), which includes submitting a copy of your NRIC and a utilities bill, which takes about a day to process. If you’re opting for a card other than the Midnight Blue, you have to lock in the necessary coins before you can get the card.
Buying Coins, Topping Up and Cashback
This is where things get a little convoluted. To get funds into the MCO Visa Card, you have to carry out the following steps:
- Top up funds in Euro into a Crypto.com Wallet using either a credit/ debit card (currently, only certain VISA cards are supported, and this incurs a 3.5% transaction fee and the possibility that your card issuer may impose a cash advance fee if you use a credit card), or through an overseas remittance service such as TransferWise or DBS Remit
- Convert the Euro funds which you have deposited into the Crypto.com Wallet to purchase MCO coins
- Convert the MCO coins into Singapore dollars (or JPY, HKD, AUD, Euro or GBP) for use with the MCO Visa Card.
As you can imagine, you will be exposed to foreign exchange and cryptocurrency risk simply by the act of depositing funds into your MCO Visa Card. As such, this card can only be recommended to those who are interested in investing or trading in cryptocurrency.
Just a little tip about the first point: at present, it makes the most sense to use TransferWise (note: referral code) to deposit funds into your account. The transaction fee charged is about 0.4% as opposed to 3.5% when using a credit card. The catch is that the funds typically take about a day or two to be processed, so if you need to pump in funds urgently (e.g. to take advantage of an emerging trend), a credit/ debit card may be the better option. If you want to use a credit card, be sure to “top it up” in advance (i.e. get into a debit balance); otherwise, you may be charged a cash advance fee. Based on information I’ve found (note: please do not rely on this as bank policies may be updated at any time), OCBC and Standard Chartered does not seem to charge a cash advance fee. Do note that MasterCard top-ups are currently not supported in Singapore (despite the app claiming otherwise). If you use a debit card, certain banks like DBS and OCBC have some issue in processing the transaction; I’ve tried UOB and it works just fine, though.
If you play your cards properly, you can take advantage of this convoluted process to get a little more out of your dollar. If you anticipate the Euro appreciating against SGD in the near future, top up some EUR funds into your Crypto.com Wallet now to lock in your Euros at a preferential rate. Once your Euros are in, wait for the Euro to appreciate against MCO to convert them into MCO. Then, wait again until the MCO appreciates against the SGD to get the most SGD possible for each MCO. Of course, you can do away with all these if you can’t be bothered and take comfort in the fact that the 3% cashback that you get on the Jade Green or Indigo Blue card should be more than sufficient to cover your forex spread.
A small note about cashback: cashback, as well as Spotify and Netflix reimbursements, are paid in the MCO equivalent at the point of transaction. So the actual cashback you get, when converted back into SGD, could potentially be more or less than 3%.
Of course, if you’re interested in this card in the first place, you are assuming that the value of MCO will rise over time.
An Overseas Test Run
I applied for an Indigo Blue card a few weeks back and had the opportunity to use it overseas in Bangkok. I used it mainly for making payments for Grab rides, and the exchange rate was pretty close to what is quoted on Google. Do note that the VISA interbank rate is slightly worst than the Google rate due to VISA commission fees.
Disappointingly, withdrawing Thai baht at an overseas ATM proved less favourable. While Crypto.com or VISA does not charge a transaction fee for overseas ATM withdrawals within the stipulated limit, the ATM provider can still impose a charge on such withdrawals. A Siam Commercial Bank ATM I tried imposed a 220 baht (slightly less than S$10) transaction fee on a 1,000 baht withdrawal.
So… it is still wise to get your money changed at one of the money changers at the Arcade before going overseas.
In addition to the benefits above, one byproduct of holding MCO in your Crypto.com wallet is that you are entitled to monthly CRO airdrops. In simple terms, CRO is a derivative coin of MCO awarded to MCO coin holders at the start of every month. The amount of CRO you get is proportional to the number of MCO coins you hold at a point in time, and is redeemable only after twelve months and provided certain rather stringent conditions are met. More information here.
The MCO Visa card is a great ‘starter card’ to have if you’re ‘crypto-curious’ or interested in cryptocurrency. It also provides some added perks such as free lounge access and reimbursements to your Spotify and Netflix subscriptions on higher plans.
But, if you’re looking just for a travel card and unwilling to take risks, this card is not for you (as what other reviews imply). You’d be better off with the YouTrip card instead.
Remember: this card is only useful as long as MCO retains its value or appreciates over time. This is no guarantee given the volatility of cryptocurrencies over time. But if you’re in for the ride and have the appetite to stomach some risk, the MCO Visa card is worth checking out.
If you’d like to get a US$40 sign-up bonus, you can sign up using my referral code here.