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Back into the Fold: A Bitcoin rewards debit card deep dive

Most credit card rewards programs suck, but debit card rewards programs? Those don’t really exist. That is.. with the exception of a killer new payments stack and prepaid debit card by the name of Fold.

Not only does Fold exist, it might turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Sign up, transfer some cash into your account, spend money like you normally would, spin a wheel, and get free bitcoin. It’s that simple.

Let’s take a deep look at why you might want to make Fold your bank.

What is Fold?

Fold is a company that believes in an inevitable Bitcoin-first or Bitcoin-powered global economy, and they’re creating human-friendly products to on-ramp normal people like us into the Bitcoin world. Their foremost product is an app and debit card duo that lets you buy gift cards and do your every day purchases.

As an incentive to use their product to live your financial life, they’re willing to pay you some sats (short for satoshi, the name for a 100 millionth fractional piece of a single bitcoin). In fact, just signing up for their app as of this writing gets you 5,000 sats, which is equal to 0.00005 bitcoin. Sounds like maybe… not much. But keep in mind that the denominator in Bitcoin is always 21 million.

A modern day Bitcoin faucet

Have you been around long enough to remember Bitcoin faucets? Probably not. These were little websites that gave out free bitcoin at the press of a button. It seems crazy in hindsight, but you could seriously just paste your Bitcoin address into a text field on freebitcoinfaucet.com (not a real URL) and you’d get lots of bitcoin for free.

A ye olde Bitcoin faucet circa 2010

The only benefit for the person giving away the bitcoin was the traffic and notoriety of running a Bitcoin faucet website. Some of these sites had sponsorship deals or ran banner advertisements to make up the difference.

Fold is similar — sort of like a modern bitcoin faucet. Unlike those days when you could click a button and get 1 or 10 whole bitcoin, Fold is giving away tiny fractions of a coin with daily wheel spins and every purchase. Just like when people couldn’t imagine that a single bitcoin would one day be worth $50,000, today’s fractions of a bitcoin could one day be worth substantially more than they are today.

With a lot more fun

If you navigate to Fold’s site you’ll immediately notice that the Fold team have designed the app and overall experience to be as fun as possible. You’ll notice this immediately when you open the app and do your first spins, and what’s great is that the team is actively engaged with the community and constantly changing the spinwheel to optimize it for maximum fun-ness.

I mean, just head to the Fold blog and check out all the different monthly spinwheel changes. It’s almost as much fun keeping up with the monthly updates as it is using the app itself. I love seeing how the company is balancing different reward tiers and statistical chances of landing on different wins every time you spin, and taking into account live community feedback over on Discord.

It’s notable that rewards seem to vaguely be tuning down as the service hits is stride, but I guess that’s to be expected. For instance, a spin had a 0.01% chance of landing you a full bitcoin back in January, but now that number is 0.0001%. Such is the life of startups incentivizing early adoption.

How to maximize your sats rewards with Fold

Just signing up for Fold is going to snag you some precious sats that could be worth a small fortune one day, but actually using the app is how you’re going to really build your stash. Some ways to maximize your sats rewards in my experience over the last couple months:

Spin the daily wheel every day

You don’t even have to deposit a dime into your Fold account to spin the daily wheel. The current Daily Spin lets you win anywhere between zero and 1 million sats with every spin. Most of the time you’re going to land on one of the 10 or 25 sats spots, but still… this is your daily opportunity for a free no-strings-attached slice of the scarce 21 million total BTC that will ever exist. Like I said, modern day Bitcoin faucet.

Use Lightning to buy gift cards

Another thing you can do to maximize your rewards with Fold is use the Lightning Network to buy gift cards in the app.

For those that aren’t aware, Lightning is a second layer technology built on the Bitcoin blockchain that allows fast and cheap transactions conducted over “channels” that ultimately settle to the primary Bitcoin blockchain. Being the good Bitcoin-first product that it is, Fold takes full advantage of this.

Buying gift cards in the fold app using Lightning earns you a higher percentage of sats back with every purchase. The only way to get a higher rate than this is to use the Premium Fold debit card…

Use the Fold debit card as your primary debit

And that brings us to the next major way to earn sats. You can sign up for the Fold debit card, transfer funds directly from your primary bank account, and do every single one of your day-to-day transactions using that card. There’s two tiers, each offering different levels of rewards for each purchase and some other perks.

On the free card, you have a rewards wheel that can give you up to 25% back on every purchase. Like the daily wheel, rewards can vary from basically nothing to a substantial chunk of sats that might be worth a lot one day.

As mentioned, you really want to upgrade to the Premium card if you know you’re going to be using your Fold card for all your daily purchases. It’s $150 a year, and it gives you a much better rewards wheel that offers up to 100% back on each purchase (although on average it’ll be in the single digits), and a much higher sats back rate when you use your Premium card to purchase gift cards.

Refer some friends

Another way to earn sats is to refer people to Fold, like I’m doing right here. You’ll earn sats in various ways by doing this, including with special slots on the daily and purchase spinwheels. The more people you refer, the more sats you’ll earn when you land on these (if you haven’t referred anyone, they’re 0 by default).

So how well does it work?

Everything you’ve read so far in this post you could have just learned by hitting up Fold’s own website. But how does Fold actually work in practice? I’ve been using it for a couple months now as a Premium card holder, and I can indeed confirm that it does indeed do what it says on the tin. Here are some thoughts I’ve had in my time with the app and card:

Daily spins are hard to remember

One thing I’ve noticed is that it can be difficult to remember to do those daily spins. This seems by design, and it makes sense — if you want the free sats, you have to at the bare minimum remember to open up the app. And it’s definitely easier to remember to do those daily spins when you’re actively using the card, something else I’m sure Fold has a vested interest in you doing.

Spins themselves can be a bit cumbersome

I love the gamified aspects of Fold. Especially when you’re just starting to use it, spinning the wheel and waiting in anticipation of what reward you’re going to get is exciting. After a while though, opening the app every single day for a daily spin and spinning the wheel after every single purchase can be a bit cumbersome.

This is especially true lately, as the Fold team has seemed to make their “extra spins” functionality central to the entire experience. If you’re a Premium user you get lots of extra spins, which is great for increasing your chances of big wins, but it’s not great if you’re already annoyed at the exhausting spin animations.

It might help if there was a way to quickly tap through the spin animations. In the current builds of the app, after you do a debit transaction, you spin the wheel and have to wait for 5ish seconds as your phone vibrates in your hands and the animation plays out. I’d prefer to get rid of the fanfare at this point.

Sats back really do pay off — and fast

One question many people have is whether the $150 per year price for the Premium card is worth the cost. In my initial experience, at this particular junction in the Bitcoin market, the card has quickly paid itself off. It only took me about a month of purchases to rack up $150 in sats rewards.

After you pass a certain threshold, you can easily withdraw your sats over the Lightning network to a Lightning-enabled Bitcoin wallet, or just withdraw them directly to your cold storage or exchange.

If you get lucky, you can pay for multiple years worth of Premium Fold membership with a single spin. You have a very small chance of nabbing a full Bitcoin with every single spin, and Fold has had to give out several of them so far. Your chances aren’t great, but they’re many orders of magnitude better than spending $150 on lottery tickets — and that Premium sub comes with much more.

It’s a debit card, and it works!

You know how to use a debit card. You go to stores or order things online and you enter your card details. Fold is just like that. Except you get free bitcoin.

Added privacy is a major secondary benefit

One thing that might not be obvious at first is that Fold really stays true to the Bitcoin ethos in more ways than one. Obviously supporting people to save and spend their money wisely is a big part of that, but Fold is also big on privacy — Fold’s app can serve as an incognito mode between your personal financial data and the various merchants you choose to do business with.

As co-founder Will Reeves explained to The Block last year:

The credit card network only sees a payment to Fold, and the retailer only sees a payment from Fold. Therefore, the [credit card] company does not know where the transaction took place or what was purchased and the retailer does not know the identity of the purchaser or payment details.

Obviously the degree to which this is true depends on how you’re doing these purchases. If you’re using your Fold debit card, you’re going to have to provide all of your personal details to your merchant. If you’re purchasing gift cards in the Fold app using Lightning, though, you could theoretically stay almost entirely anonymous as far as all the merchants you’re buying from are concerned.

In theory, you could create an entirely anonymous Fold account, fund it with Lightning Network funds that you acquired via an offline service like Local Bitcoins, and purchase gift cards and make online purchases that can’t be traced back to you. It’s worth noting, though, that Fold can’t pay out any rewards without providing and verifying an email address.

In summary

If you aren’t already saving and storing some portion of your wealth in Bitcoin, Fold is a great way to get started. All you have to do is fund your account and buy gift cards or simply use your Fold debit card like you would any other. Sats will start stacking in your account, and if Bitcoin continues to be adopted by people looking to preserve their purchasing power, those sats could multiply in value.

Just like Bitcoin faucets in the early days which would have paid off massively if you had taken advantage of them and held onto your coin, the Fold app gives you a way to start accumulating bitcon with essentially no cost to you. I don’t blame you if you aren’t at a place where you feel comfortable converting your dollars to bitcoin, so don’t just yet — just start using Fold and accumulate anyway.

The potential for an astoundingly asymmetric payoff (read: every purchase you make eventually being paid for in the form of Bitcoin appreciation) is off the charts with this product, and I’d recommend everyone I know that feels like Bitcoin is a bit too confusing to start using it. Trust me, it’s going to do you way more good than accumulating airline miles or movie theater gift cards.

Support the site by checking out Swan Bitcoin and using their services to purchase Bitcoin. They also offer a free book that does a great job of covering the basics of Bitcoin.

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