The Berlin startup Bitwala wants to combine traditional bank accounts with crypto money trading. Today, Tuesday, the company launched its “Blockchain Banking” offering, which includes a current account with a Mastercard debit card and a Bitcoinwallet integrated into online banking. As is customary with current accounts, customers can, for example, make SEPA credit transfers and set up standing orders, but they can also buy Bitcoins for their euro credit balances or have revenues from Bitcoin sales credited to their account via the platform.

Cash withdrawals at ATMs, transfers and the like as well as account management should be free of charge. Only for the purchase and sale of Bitcoins does Bitwala charge a percentage fee plus transaction fees for payments in the Bitcoin network. The current account is protected by statutory deposit insurance up to 100,000 euros, but the Bitcoinwallet is not. For the Bitcoinwallet, Bitwala relies on multi-signature wallets from the service provider Bitgo; the relevant private keys are to remain under user control. There should also be protection through two-factor authentication (mTan procedure).

Bitcoin trading capped at 15,000 euros per month
The trade is capped at 15,000 euros per person per month at the start. Bitwala probably does not operate its own trading platform, which brings buyers and sellers together. Upon request, a spokesperson said Bitwala had its own trading team and could thus ensure tight spreads and fast processing. Bitwala left it open to what extent other trading venues would be used. “The team buys and follows the market,” it said ambiguously.

In the beginning, interested customers will probably have to be patient. According to Bitwala’s announcement, accounts will initially be set up for 40,000 people who had registered in advance as interested parties for an account. Who wants to follow there now, can register here. The identification for the account opening runs then by video Ident, for which Bitwala falls back on the Dienstleister Idnow.

Solaris bank makes the accounts
Bitwala does not have a banking license of its own, but rather obtains these services through a partner, Solaris Bank, which was founded in 2016. Solaris Bank sees itself less as a traditional financial institution than as a “financial technology company with a full banking licence”. As a partner for the bank infrastructure, the company also cooperates with the Stuttgart Stock Exchange, which intends to set up its own crypto-money trading system that is due to start in 2019.

In Germany, the direct use of a current account for Bitcointrades was previously only possible for Bitcoin.de customers who also had a current account with the Fidor Bank. Both enterprises entered for it a partnership. As a rule, users of a Bitcoin exchange must first transfer money from their normal account to the local clearing account before they can buy coins. (axk)

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