If you’ve dipped your toe into the heady world of Bitcoin news, you’ve certainly heard of Xapo. After all, it’s made a lot of headlines. A few years back, Xapo raised $40 million from investors, setting a fundraising record for the most gathered by a startup focused on virtual currency.
It drew even more attention when several media outlets dubbed it the ‘Fort Knox of Bitcoin‘ and gave readers a peek into Xapo’s intense security measures, which include offline Bitcoin storage scattered across multiple continents in secret underground vaults, complete with armed guards and biometric sensors.
All this is made even more interesting thanks to the man behind Xapo, CEO Wences Casares, a self-made serial entrepreneur who grew up witnessing his parents lose everything in the constant financial fluctuations in his native Argentina – a personal history that no doubt, backs up his claims that digital currencies like Bitcoin can solve the “disjointed nature of our world economy.”
Add to this Xapo’s grassroots origin story – it all began when Casares bought his first Bitcoins and built a personal vault when he couldn’t find a better alternative to store them – as well as the more recent headlines of Casares’s Bitcoin evangelism and predictions that Bitcoin’s value will rise to $1 million within the next 10 years…and yea, Xapo is in the news a lot.
But still, you can’t help but wonder whether it’s all hype or if Xapo is worth trusting your hard-earned fiat with. Let’s get the details – here’s everything you need to know about Xapo!
What’s Special About Xapo?
It all started in 2011 when Wences Casares, the CEO of Xapo and an international entrepreneur with a lifetime of building and selling tech businesses under his belt, bought his very first Bitcoins. When he couldn’t find a safe enough way to store them, he built his own vault.
Pretty soon, friends and family came sniffing around, hoping to store their own Bitcoins in his vault – and thus began Xapo, which was officially founded in late 2013 by Casares and Federico Murrone and then opened to the public in spring of 2014.
Although Xapo began its life in Palo Alto, California, they’re now headquartered in Hong Kong and have been attempting to move their headquarters to Switzerland since 2015 for the country’s long history of financial privacy, neutrality and regulatory stability.
But it’s not the history of Xapo that you’re interested in. You want to know what’s so special about this particular Bitcoin company. In other words, how does it stack up against the numerous other ways to buy Bitcoin? Here’s what you need to know…
What is Xapo (and what it’s not)
The first thing you need to know is that Xapo is not a Bitcoin exchange like Coinbase or Kraken. Instead, it serves a pretty unique niche in the Bitcoin market, offering the services of a Bitcoin broker, an easy-to-use online wallet, a Bitcoin-linked Xapo Debit Card as well as a free, ultra-secure Vault.
So, to recap, a free Xapo account includes:
- Bitcoin broker. You can buy Bitcoin on Xapo with an array of payment options that depend on your country of residence. They offer Credit Card, Bank Transfer, Online Payment Processor, and Cash payment methods but not all of them are available for every region.
- Xapo Wallet. Available as a mobile app and online, offers a way to store multiple fiat currencies and transfer funds to and from the Xapo Vault.
- Xapo Debit Card. Linked to the Xapo Wallet and functions like a standard debit card, except that it’s backed by Bitcoins instead of fiat currency. It’s currently only available for residents of certain countries.
- Xapo Vault. Xapo’s famed cold-storage secure vault that safely stores Bitcoins.
So what can you do?
Since Xapo is not an exchange, you can buy Bitcoin here but you cannot sell or trade. What you can do is use their online wallet to hold Bitcoin as well as a huge array of currencies – from Argentine Pesos (ARS) to South African Rand (ZAR) and everything in between.
You can also easily transfer between any of the fiat currencies and Bitcoin or simply choose to safely store your Bitcoin in Xapo’s Vault.
But Xapo’s most lauded and innovative feature is the Xapo Debit Card, which is often described as the world’s first real Bitcoin debit card, combining the “convenience of an everyday Bitcoin wallet with the security of a deep cold storage vault.”
In short, the Xapo Debit Card allows you to seamlessly spend Bitcoin in the real world, using your Xapo Wallet to make convenient purchases and withdrawals.
What Countries are Supported?
Let’s get this one out of the way since the first thing you’ll want to know is if this Xapo even services your area. After all, it sucks to read through a full review only to find that your region isn’t even supported by the platform in question.
The good news is that Xapo is open globally and anyone from around the world can sign up to use Xapo’s services – their registration page even lists North Korea as an option.
Xapo’s global reach means that it supports a huge range of fiat currencies, from popular ones like USD, EUR, JPY, CAD, AUD, CNY and RUB to lesser-used currencies like Ethiopian Birrs (ETB) and Mozambican Meticals (MZN).
The bad news is that there are some US states that are restricted from purchasing Bitcoins through Xapo.
Also keep in mind that although Xapo operates globally, that doesn’t mean they’re able to offer the same services globally. Case in point, Xapo offers several payment methods but they’re subject to availability based on your country of residence.
As such, you’ll only be able to see the payment methods that Xapo currently offers in your country.
It’s not just the payment methods, however – the Xapo Debit Card is also only available to be shipped to select countries. As you can see from the list – USA, Canada, Australia, and any Asian countries are notably excluded but if you live in Europe, you’ll probably be able to get a card.
How to Buy Bitcoin on Xapo
Signing up for – and buying Bitcoin on – Xapo is a straightforward process. Before we go through it, step-by-step, here’s a look at the information you’ll be required to provide for the amount of fiat you’ll be spending:
Note: The above chart is not entirely accurate since when we went through the registration process, they also asked for a selfie. The chart also gives the impression that you won’t need to provide ID verification if you buy less than $300, but it doesn’t actually work like that – you’ll be asked to upload documents once you try to transfer funds into Xapo so make sure you have them ready before you begin.
Step #1. Download the App
#2. Enter Your Details
What are the Fees?
So you already know that Xapo offers several services. The good news is that signing up for Xapo and using some of their services is totally free. The bad news is that some services come with fees.
Here’s the breakdown of what you can expect!
- Xapo Vault: Totally free to use their secure vault to store your Bitcoins.
- Xapo Wallet: Totally free to create multiple fiat wallets to store various currencies. It’s also free to transfer funds internally between wallets held in different currencies. So, if you transfer USD to your EUR wallet, there’s no fee – just a conversion based on the current exchange rate.
- Deposit Fees: To buy Bitcoin, you’ll need to first deposit fiat currencies into your Xapo wallet. Fortunately, Xapo doesn’t charge any fee when you add funds – however, you may have to pay a processing fee which is simply the amount charged to Xapo by a bank or a service for an incoming wire, direct debit or cash deposit. Xapo doesn’t make a profit on these fees – they only cover the charge of the service.
- Transaction Fees: The fees for sending or receiving a transaction vary – you can find all the details in the chart below. As you can see, all internal Xapo transactions are free but you will be charged a fee when sending from or receiving into your Xapo account.
- Xapo Debit Card. The card may be convenient but it’s not free of charge. For starters, it’ll cost you $20 to order the card. If you use the card for purchases in your card spending currency, there are no fees. But if you purchase in other currencies, a 3% Foreign Exchange fee is applied. ATM withdrawals also have a fixed fee. You can see all the Xapo Debit Card fee details here.
Is Xapo Safe?
Xapo offers several features that make Bitcoin more convenient and easier to use for the average cryptocurrency user. And although features like the Xapo Wallet and the Xapo Debit Card get a lot of press, we think the best feature that Xapo has to offer is their security.
You already know that Xapo has been called the Fort Knox of Bitcoin – and this is not overstatement. Xapo really prides itself on how intensely fierce they are about safekeeping your Bitcoins. And to do this, they go to some pretty extreme measures, like:
- Deep Cold Storage. Xapo holds over 97% of customer Bitcoins in deep cold storage, which goes above and beyond simply holding Bitcoins offline to make them impossible to hack. Nope, Xapo goes to the extremes by holding even the private keeps that are necessary to move those Bitcoins in air-gapped servers that have never been online and will never be online.
- Physical Security. Those air-gapped servers are stored inside bunkered vaults with multiple access controls, mantraps, guards and surveillance systems.
- Multiple Locations. Xapo uses multi-signature technology so that every Bitcoin address has five corresponding private keys and any three of those keys are required to move those Bitcoins. These private keys are kept in different physical locations. That means that if a hacker wants to steal Bitcoin from Xapo’s Vaults, that hacker will need to physically break through the physical security described above in three locations in different continents.
Wait, but what about the other 3% of Xapo’s Bitcoins that are not stored in deep cold storage? Good question.
According to Xapo’s blog, if Xapo’s hot wallets were hacked – Xapo would cover the loss from its own reserve of Bitcoins. Since less than 3% of Bitcoin are kept in their hot wallets, their Bitcoin reserve would cover the full loss.
So are all my Bitcoins absolutely, positively secure? Well, on Xapo’s part – yes. But you still need to do your part. And that means setting up Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for an extra layer of security as well a staying on guard against phishing scams.
It may be difficult for a hacker to break into the Xapo Vault but if they gain access to your login information, it becomes a lot easier for them to simply log into your account and steal your Bitcoin. So always make sure you have 2FA turned on and double-check when logging onto Xapo.
How’s the Customer Service?
Here’s a sad truth that applies to the majority of cryptocurrency services out there: customer support leaves a lot to be desired. And we’re sorry to break it to you but Xapo is no exception. The customer support is sorely lacking.
If Xapo’s security is their biggest strength, their customer service is their greatest weakness.
As it stands right now, here are your options for Xapo customer support:
- Support. They call it Xapo Support – you type in what you need to know and then you can search their articles for answers. They also have a pretty extensive FAQ section that covers most general queries.
- Email. Emails sent to Xapo’s support email – firstname.lastname@example.org – are not monitored by the Xapo Support team. To get in touch with them, you’ll have to go to the Support page, type in a query, and then you’ll get the Contact Us button on the right. Click it, log into your account and then you can send them your question or comment.
- Tweet. If you want to go the social media route, you can find them on Twitter.
- Facebook. Another option is through Facebook.
- Reddit. Some users have had more luck by posting on r/Bitcoin.
The most common complaint against Xapo is how very long they take to respond to customer queries, which is annoying enough as is but can be particularly frustrating when you’ve been locked out of your account or you’re left waiting what seems like forever for them to finally approve your verification documents.
That being said, the slow customer service is unfortunately a common theme among cryptocurrency exchanges. And yes, Xapo’s customer support can definitely improve. But considering the overall quality of their services, this doesn’t make them a deal breaker.
Just heed our recommendation to sign up for more than one cryptocurrency exchange – the other accounts will come in handy if you ever find yourself being inconvenienced by one exchange when you desperately need to buy or sell Bitcoin.
Is Xapo Worth Signing Up For?
Despite their faults, we have to say that Xapo’s unique features and top-notch security make up for their less-than-satisfactory customer service. As of now, Xapo definitely serves as a unique bridge between Bitcoin and the real world – and that alone makes it worthwhile.
The Xapo Vault offers one of the strongest, most secure and convenient Bitcoin storage you’ll find on a cryptocurrency exchange and features like the multi-currency Xapo wallet and the Xapo Debit Card make it easy to hold, transfer and spend Bitcoin in your everyday life.