All About BTC, LTC, ETH mining as well as other alternative crypto currencies
Blockchain, along with other big names in the Bitcoin industry have just released a public letter in support the implementation of BIP101 and larger Bitcoin blocks. Other companies that have signed the document include BitPay, Circle, Kncminer, Bitnet, Xapo and Bitgo and other companies are encouraged to join. Below is the document quoted and you can also find a link to the contents and signatures of the presidents and CEOs of the companies that have signed it:
Our community stands at a crossroads. The debate about which path to take has, by and large, been a healthy one, and we have not interposed our own positions or interfered in the discourse. Until today, our involvement has consisted of listening, researching and testing. We believe that work is complete, and it is time to communicate our view in a clear and transparent manner.
After lengthy conversations with core developers, miners, our own technical teams, and other industry participants, we believe it is imperative that we plan for success by raising the maximum block size.
We support the implementation of BIP101. We have found Gavin’s arguments on both the need for larger blocks and the feasibility of their implementation – while safeguarding Bitcoin’s decentralization – to be convincing. BIP101 and 8MB blocks are already supported by a majority of the miners and we feel it is time for the industry to unite behind this proposal.
Our companies will be ready for larger blocks by December 2015 and we will run code that supports this.
As our community grows, it is essential – now more than ever that we seek strong consensus to ensure network reliability. We pledge to support BIP101 in our software and systems by December 2015, and we encourage others to join us.
Note that the companies that have signed the letter are pledging that they will be ready for larger blocks by December 2015. Some of the large Bitcoin mining pools have already implemented support for larger Bitcoin blocks, but there is still no consensus among all players in the Bitcoin ecosystem about the matter. We too believe that Bitcoin needs to start using larger blocks in the future in order to be able to scale up with the increased usage, but as to how this should be implement is a different story however.
We’ve received our International Bitcoin Debit Card that is linked to the free Xapo online Bitcoin wallet and Vault and we were very eager to test it out. Earlier this month we’ve tried out the Xapo Online Bitcoin Wallet service and you can read our first impressions here, though the thing that we were most interested in was the ability to link your Bitcoin wallet to an International Debit Card and use the card as any normal debit card, but when you pay with it or withdraw money they are converted instantly from your Bitcoins in the wallet. Xapo has apparently partnered with My Choice as a physical card provider and the card we’ve got is not yet a Xapo branded one as apparently all of the earlier cards are, though in the future they should come as Xapo-branded International Bitcoin Debit Card and not as you see on the photo above a generic debit card with a VISA logo on it. The card we’ve got is with 3 years validity and comes with both magnetic stripe and a chip, but no contactless payment option is supported.
Do note that Xapo is still in beta testing with their debit cards and have not yet launched the card publicly. You can currently pre-order your card and thus get in the list for an invitation to get it when it becomes officially available, though there may be some options to get is faster such as the one available for EU users if they purchase some BTCs from Xapo via a bank transfer. Once you receive your Bitcoin debit card you need to activate it first via a special website or by calling a dedicated phone number and also get your PIN code (can be done over the phone only!). This is done through the My Choice’s website, though once you activate the card it will be automatically linked to your Xapo wallet, so don’t worry when you see that you have 0 balance in your My Choice account. It is completely normal to see a zero balance in USD or EUR as you actually do not have anything inside the card, when there is a request for a transaction it automatically converts Bitcoins from your Xapo wallet to cover the needed amount. This happens instantly, so there are no additional delays or things that you need to do in order to use the card, you can use it as easy as like any other debit card. There is also no difference to the merchant you are paying when you use a normal debit card or the Xapo debit card linked to your online Bitcoin wallet as the merchant gets the requested amount in the local currency in both cases.
The Xapo Bitcoin Debit Cards are available in either USD, EUR or GBP currency (you can choose the currency when you fill the form for your card to be sent to you). Here ate the standard fees associated with the international debit card that you will get and that will be linked to your Xapo online Bitcoin wallet. Do note that while there is a monthly service fee included in the chart with the fees, this fee is going to be covered by Xapo, so for the end user there will be no such monthly fee included. Also note that currently Xapo is not charging the planned, one-time ordering fee of $15 USD for the card, while the card is in beta. In the future however this amount will be debited from your Xapo Wallet in Bitcoins when you request to get a debit card linked to your account. As you can see there is a 3% foreign currency conversion fee, so make sure you have the card set to use the main currency you will be using in order to avoid paying that extra fee unless you go abroad and want to pay with the card.
This table shows what are your Xapo Bitcoin debit card limits, by default once you get your card it will be with the Standard limits applied and these are a bit restricting for the total of both POS terminal purchases and ATM withdraws. After you get the card you can upgrade your status to increase limits, and to do so you need to contact Xapo. This is recommended mostly because it removes the relatively small total limits to the lifetime purchases and ATM withdraws you can do via the card. When you make a purchase or withdraw cash via the Xapo Bitcoin debit card you will immediately see the transaction in your online Bitcoin wallet at Xapo, but that transaction will pretty much list that a certain amount of BTC was sent from your wallet. In order to get extra transaction details about the merchant, how much you’ve paid in a local currency and in the card’s currency you would need to login to your My Choice account that you created when you activated your card.
So our first impressions from the International Debit Card provided by Xapo that is linked to your free online Bitcoin wallet at Xapo are very positive. The card is as easy to be used as any other debit or credit card as long as it is not empty in terms of balance, or in this case if you have some BTC in your wallet. Everything runs smooth and problem free when you pay on a POS terminal or withdraw cash from ATM, what you just need to make sure is that you are familiar with the limits and fees associated with the card to save yourself some possible issues in the future, so make sure you read them carefully. We are going to continue using our Bitcoin debit card for different payments to make sure that there will really be no problems doing various payments with it as we expect it to be. This card is really convenient thing to have in your wallet as it saves you the time and extra trouble of sending Bitcoins from your wallet to an exchange to convert them to USD, EUR or GBP for example and then withdraw them to your bank account that might be linked to a debit card that you can use.
There are already quite a few services out there offering you free online Bitcoin wallet service, but we’ve decided to try out Xapo as it supposedly offers something more than the other popular alternatives such as Coinbase for example. Xapo is an free online Bitcoin wallet and a Vault, meaning that you have access to some coins for daily use in your wallet as well as you can securely store coins “offline” in the Vault. The Vault feature however is not the one that we were most interested in, the thing that we wanted to check out was the fact that the service offers an International Debit Card that is linked to your wallet. This supposedly allows you to spend Bitcoins that you already have in your Xapo wallet through your Debit Card as you would normally use a card with actual money in it for payments – withdraw cash on ATMs or pay in a store via a POS terminal for example. This pretty much saves you the trouble to move Bitcoins from your standard wallet software running on your computer to an exchange, selling them for cash and then withdrawing them to a bank account that also may be linked to a debit card. The Xapo debit card is supposed to greatly simplify and speed up this process, or at least that is expected in theory, but we wanted to try it out ourselves.
So we registered our Xapo wallet, a quick and relatively easy process and we’ve got our free online wallet and vault available or almost available. We even got a welcome bonus of 5000 satoshi (50 bits) when we have completed the registration process, not much if you convert it to USD, but then again it is free. However, in order to unlock the full features of the Wallet and Vault we’ve had to confirm our mobile phone number, address and provide an ID number as well to unlock the full wallet functionality. After verifying your identity you will be able to buy Bitcoins, send Bitcoins to other account and transfer your Bitcoins to your vault for secure storage or move them from the Vault to the wallet. The nice thing about the wallet is that besides a standard Bitcoin wallet address that you get you can also use your email address for receiving Bitcoins from services that have been integrated with Xapo with instant transactions and no waiting for confirmations – the ease of use that PayPal provides. This is especially useful when you are using mobile applications where you need to enter your Bitcoin wallet code and cannot just copy and paste the whole hard to remember string of “random” letters and numbers.
So now we come to the part with requesting to get an International Xapo Debit Card that is linked to your wallet. It seems that you need to send a request to get in line for the people waiting for such a card and the weird thing is that you need to link your Facebook and Twitter account in order to successfully complete the card request. There is no way to just go for either Twitter or Facebook, you need to have both and link them to your Xapo account and allow Xapo to post something that you are in the waiting list for their debit card. Now, this is not nice, because not everyone has both Facebook and Twitter accounts, meaning that you need to create accounts at these social media sites just to be able to get in the waiting list for a Xapo debit card. So the getting “early access” is a weird process and according to the service “it can take up to several months to receive the card”.
Apparently if you are an European user you have an alternative to get the so desired Xapo Debit Card linked to your online Bitcoin wallet ahead of “the competition”, all you need to do is to purchase some Bitcoins with Xapo. And in order to purchase Bitcoins from Xapo you need to send a SEPA wire transfer directly from your bank account to the bank account provided by the service. There is no information on how much you need to purchase to qualify, only that additional information will be provided once you do a purchase of coins. Since the first option for getting a Debit Card will take a while apparently, we are going to try the second option to see if it will get us closer to our goal faster – receiving and actually trying the Xapo card. So stay tuned for more details in the next days when we get things moving, meanwhile you can check Xapo yourself if you are interested.