There’s no doubt that cryptocurrency is gaining broader acceptance across the globe. In 2021, El Salvador became the first country to accept cryptocurrency as legal tender, and the market capitalization of all cryptocurrency broke $3 trillion in late 2021, before falling back to about $2 trillion in the early weeks of 2022.
Banks in the U.S. still don’t allow customers to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, though. Primarily, this is a regulatory issue, as cryptocurrencies are so volatile that they could upset the stability of the banking system. But banks also shy away from cryptocurrency because its success may devalue the very dollar-based banking that makes them profitable. Still, there are ways you can use banking institutions to acquire Bitcoin, and potentially other cryptos as well. Here are five of your best options.
As with other banks on this list, Ally Bank doesn’t allow customers to directly buy Bitcoin and keep it in their checking or savings accounts. However, there is somewhat of a loophole where you can use Ally Bank to acquire Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Ally Bank allows customers to link their accounts to Coinbase, a cryptocurrency exchange platform, in the same fashion they would link an outside bank account. Using your Ally Bank debit card, you can then purchase cryptocurrency at Coinbase. It may not be the same as buying cryptocurrency directly at the bank, but it’s clear that Ally is moving in a crypto-friendly direction by allowing customers to do this.
USAA, like all U.S. banks, doesn’t allow customers to buy cryptocurrency. However, if you have a USAA bank account, you can also link it to your Coinbase cryptocurrency account. While you still can’t physically buy crypto through your USAA account, you’ll be able to track your Bitcoin wallet at Coinbase once it’s linked. This will give you the ability to view your balances and monitor your transactions at Coinbase through your USAA account. This alone makes USAA one of the more crypto-friendly banks out there. Perhaps at some point it may be among the first to allow actual cryptocurrency transactions.
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Simple Bank was acquired by BBVA in early 2021. Prior to that, Simple allowed customers to make cryptocurrency purchases in the same manner as Ally Bank. In other words, Simple customers could use the fintech’s debit card to buy cryptocurrency. BBVA no longer allows this workaround, but there is some promise for the future. BBVA Switzerland has a digital investment account called New Gen that allows investments in cryptocurrencies. The account doesn’t have any net worth requirements and only requires a deposit of the Euro equivalent of about $10,000. If more international accounts such as this begin to pop up, they may eventually spread to the U.S., though it’s far from certain.
In the first quarter of 2021, Morgan Stanley became the first U.S. bank to offer Bitcoin to its clients. However, this doesn’t mean that any banking customer can simply buy Bitcoin with their accounts. For starters, this accessibility is limited to high net worth individuals, and only Bitcoin funds can be purchased, not the actual cryptocurrency. However, this is still a way that high net worth individuals can access an investment in cryptocurrency via a U.S.-based bank. If this “experiment” proves profitable for the bank, and if clients continue to clamor for the ability to buy cryptocurrency, it’s possible that access will be expanded to general banking customers someday.
Chime1 also doesn’t allow direct cryptocurrency purchases, but it’s crypto-friendly because you can still use it to indirectly access crypto. You can use your Chime account to make instant transfers to friends with its Pay Friends feature. Via the Pay Friends feature, you can access peer-to-peer Bitcoin network Paxful, so that your payment ultimately ends up in your friend’s account as Bitcoin. This may be a far cry from Chime allowing Bitcoin transactions, but the end result is that you can use your Chime account to affect a Bitcoin transaction. In today’s banking environment, that’s enough to make Chime “crypto-friendly” by way of comparison.
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1Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.