What Is Monaco?  Introduction to Crypto.com’s MCO Token Crypto.com has crypto-backed credit cards - can they compete with banks?

What Is Crypto.com?

Monaco (MCO) is the native ERC-20 cryptocurrency token of Crypto.com’s payment platform, while it also uses a proprietary Crypto.com Chain (CRO) coin too. The company offers a mobile wallet app and prepaid MCO Visa debit cards to let users buy, sell, trade, and spend cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum and fiat currencies like dollars and yen. Monaco spent an estimated $10 million in June 2018 to rebrand as Crypto.com.

This Hong Kong-based project may throw up red flags for marrying credit cards and cryptocurrencies because of the infamous Centra ICO. Both Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled were charged with fraud and fined nearly $800,000 between them for promoting a $32 million fraudulent ICO with a false Visa partnership.

It doesn’t help that the project is owned by Switzerland-based Monaco Technology GmbH while operating in Singapore and Hong Kong.

But Crypto.com isn’t Centra, and its Visa-branded prepaid cards are actually real, but they don’t use cryptocurrency for payment. Instead, you must meet certain MCO staking thresholds to access higher card levels. The cards are metal, which has a special connotation in the world of credit and debit cards (think American Express Centurion, colloquially known as “the Black Card” or “Amex Black”).

We’ll dive into the details a bit further in the next section, but all you need to know for now is that you’ll be spending fiat currency on legit prepaid Visa debit cards.

In fact, Crypto.com offers cash back rebates, access to LoungeKey airport lounges, and a slew of other services for its cardholders. It’s as legitimate as any other prepaid credit card, except it’s a lot more crypto-friendly.

As of the end of 2018, major credit card-issuing banks like Citibank, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase ban the purchase of cryptocurrencies with their cards. Online services like Paypal aren’t any friendlier – Peter Thiel’s fintech giant seems to fear cryptocurrency more than embrace it.

So how did Crypto.com CEO Kris Marszalek, CFO Rafael Melo, and CTO Gary Or navigate these muddy waters to create Crypto.com? And what are the odds of this high-profile domain name and crypto-friendly financial tools becoming the hottest bet in crypto?

We’ll start exploring that answer with a review of Monaco (MCO), the native cryptocurrency token of the Crypto.com Visa-branded debit cards.

MCO Cryptocurrency Summary

As of December 28, 2018, the circulating supply of Monaco is 15,793,831 out of a total supply of 31,587,682 MCO. The peak price of MCO so far was $24.22 on August 28, 2017.

The Monaco ICO crowdsale took place from May 18 through June 18, 2017, raising $26,700,000 worth of ETH and selling 9,476,400 MCO.  

Of the total supply of 31,587,682, 30 percent was sold in the ICO crowdsale, 25 percent was retained by the Monaco founders, 10 percent was held by the company, 5 percent was awarded to advisors, and 30 percent was held as reserve tokens.

MCO can not be mined, and it is instead issued in response to deposits into the Crypto.com Wallet & Card, which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section.

Monaco is accepted on a wide variety of popular cryptocurrency exchanges, including Bit-Z, Binance, Bithumb, Cashierest, OKEx, Upbit, Bittrex, ABBC, and Huobi. Over $15 million worth of MCO is traded on a daily basis, with trading pairs including BTC, ETH, and USDT.

As an ERC-20 token, MCO can be stored in any ERC20-compatible cryptocurrency wallet, including MyEtherWallet and Trezor and Ledger hardware wallets. 

However, only MCO stored in the official Crypto.com mobile wallet counts toward balance requirements for an MCO Visa card. The Crypto.com Wallet & Card App can be found on the Google Play store for Android and iTunes App store for iOS.

And the company recently launched its own blockchain with CRO. You can read more about it in our 2019 Crypto.com analysis and research guide.

Creating a Visa-Branded Prepaid Card

Although the Monaco Visa cards are the obvious selling point, it’s actually just one small feature of the Crypto.com Wallet. This multi-currency wallet currently supports 7 fiat and 6 cryptocurrencies, including ETH, BTC, and USD. 

You can buy, sell, and exchange cryptocurrencies, exchange fiat currencies, send payments to other internal and external addresses, track coins, and apply for a physical debit card using this one app.

It also has a referral program where you earn 10-25 percent of referred friends’ transactions, along with sign-up bonuses. The amount of the referral bonus is determined by your MCO balance tier.

The Monaco Card tiers are as follows: 

  • Midnight Blue – This Monaco Card doesn’t require MCO staking and functions as an entry-level prepaid Visa debit card. You can withdraw up to $200 or exchange $2000 using Interbank for free. After that, you’ll pay 2 percent ATM withdrawal fees and 0.5 percent Interbank fees.
  • Ruby Steel – With 50 MCO staked, you qualify for the first composite metal Monaco Visa, which is a prepaid debit card with one percent cashback, limits doubled to $400 and $4000, wallet cashback rewards of 0.2 percent, a 10 percent referral bonus plus $20 each for referring up to five friends, and 50 percent off investment fees.
  • Jade Green/Royal Indigo – With 500 MCO staked, your cashback reward increases to 1.5 percent (card) and 0.4 percent (wallet), limits increase to $800 and $10,000, and referral fees increase to 15 percent and $40 each for 10 friends. You also gain access to LoungeKey airport lounges.
  • Icy White – With 5000 MCO staked, cashback rewards increase to 1.75 percent (card) and 0.8 percent (wallet), referral bonuses increase to 20 percent and $80 each for 50 friends, and you can even bring a friend with you to the lounge.
  • Obsidian Black – Staking 50,000 MCO qualifies you for the top-tier black card, with cashback increased to 2 percent (card) and 1 percent (wallet), free transaction limits raised to $1000 for ATMs and unlimited Interbank, and referral bonuses maxed out at 25 percent and $100 each for 100 friends.

Balances must be held for a minimum of 6 months, and you must still deposit funds to be used by the card and wallet. Crypto.com accounts have no minimum balance requirements or monthly fees.
When using a Monaco Card or the Crypto.com Wallet to pay for purchases, you’re always actually using fiat currency. The exchanges are happening in the background, involving buy/sell orders, loans, escrow, and more. So really what the app is doing is streamlining the process of selling crypto on an exchange, cashing out, and using the fiat cash to make a purchase into one simple GUI interface.

Exchange rates are lowered, and it’s actually the merchant paying transaction fees when you make a purchase, as part of the Visa merchant card acceptance guidelines. I’ve actually written quite a bit on the subject of merchant card acceptance fees for Cardfellow if you’re really interested, but it’s a wonky (and quite frankly dry) subject.

Aside from Visa’s requirements, Crypto.com also has to comply with regulators in every country it hopes to be accepted. It recruited Gemalto to produce the physical cards, Thomson Reuters World-Check for KYC/AML verification, and Jumio for identity verification. It also uses a PCI DSS-compliant card processor to reduce transaction fees.

How Monaco Cards Stack Up

The metal cards issued by Crypto.com are in the vein of metal cards issued by traditional card issuers like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Platinum. Of course, high-ranking account holders with these banks get much deeper rewards, like personal shopping assistant, a private plane, priority tickets to prestigious events, etc. The concierge services offered by Crypto.com are low by comparison.

And the barrier to entry is rather high – at the low end, exchange rates of MCO are still $2 USD, which means you need to hold a minimum of $100 to take advantage of the rewards. 

That said, actually using the card is cheaper than other prepaid cards. Some, like those from Netspend and PayPal, charge a flat fee per purchases. Some charge a monthly fee, and others have ATM withdrawal fees. Typically these fees are all flat fees.

Crypto.com passes transaction fees over to the merchants like a regular credit or bank-linked debit card. And the ATM fees are mostly waived (you’ll still pay fees imposed by the ATM operator, which range from $1-$5 per transaction).

Of course, the actual cards are so far only approved and issued in Hong Kong. European customers have a waitlist, and we’re still twiddling our thumbs waiting for U.S. regulator approval.

If Crypto.com can penetrate major markets in Asia, Europe, and North America, it’ll be a strong-performing cryptocurrency investment for years to come.

Summary

Crypto.com created a multi-function wallet to support buys, sells, and trades of fiat and virtual currencies. It’s working to issue prepaid debit cards attached to wallet balances, which are converted to currency within the wallet before being spent at a merchant. The success of Crypto.com depends on these key ingredients:

  • Monaco is both the name of the company that owns Crypto.com and the ERC-20 token used by the Crypto.com platform.
  • The Crypto.com Wallet and Card App is available for Android and iOS and lets users monitor crypto markets, trade crypto coins, and exchange fiat currencies with minimal fees.
  • Crypto.com’s wallet is currently available everywhere, and prepaid debit cards are planned for Hong Kong, the U.S., and Europe in 2019 and beyond.

With these pieces in place, Crypto.com just needs to execute on its business plan to be successful. Of course that’s easier said than done, and it’ll need to survive intense regulatory scrutiny while somehow gaining mass acceptance in a market that still has no frontrunners. If it succeeds, the founders stand to make a lot of money.

Versability

Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: