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Competetive Analysis
Summary:
Analyzing Monaco’s lead competitors – not only TenX and Centra as many believe, but actually the traditional credit card providers.

An Analysis of Monaco's Competitors

When considering who Monaco is competing with it’s important to have a look not only at the future but at the past and present as well. If you look at the world today, you’d be hard pressed to find a place in the developed world where credit cards aren’t accepted. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day neither was the traditional banking system nor the network credit cards and cross border payments run on. Most people in the crypto world would assume Monaco is competing with other cards that let you spend cryptocurrency, whether they be ones with their own tokens like TenX or Centra or companies established in the payment sector getting into crypto now like Revolut, but that assumption is only partly correct. While Monaco is competing with them in a sense, they don’t consider them their lead competitors. Their lead competitors are in fact, traditional credit card providers and banks, evidenced by Monaco’s plan for Money 20/20 – they’re one of the main sponsors along with companies like Google, the CEO can also be quoted saying “we will be organizing what amounts to a hostile takeover”, though no additional details are available. While the other cards that let you spend cryptocurrency are in a race to either get their cards out or increase their customer base and adoption rates, Monaco is focused on getting cards out and simultaneously giving customers a truly valid reason to ditch the traditional credit card/bank system.  

I’ll outline a few of the competitors – with the companies currently in the crypto space followed by some of the major cards Monaco is attempting to compete with.


TenX:

The most recognizable competitor in the field, they previously lead the pack and pretty much everyone in crypto knows who they are. The TenX PAY token currently has no utility outside of trading and due to legal constraints, they can’t say much about their plans for token utility – the latest update was to clarify that the PAY token is not intended to constitute a security, other than that there haven’t been any progress updates. Unfortunately, the problems for TenX don’t stop there since they no longer have functioning cards anywhere in the world due to the WaveCrest shutdown. It hit all CryptoCard companies who attempted to get early mover advantages by choosing WaveCrest – who was breaking Visa regulations – as an issuer. TenX is now in negotiations with a new card issuer, WireCard, but there is no ETA on the release of new cards. WireCard is also issuing Monaco’s cards.

Centra:

In recent weeks, Centra has been attempting to establish itself as a serious player in the CryptoCard field, bolstered by new hires they are starting to show some promise. The Centra Whitepaper details some of the plans that they have, but the date given (Q4 2017) for the release of whitepapers related to Centra Market and Centra Network have passed and neither are to be seen. They also have Centrachain, Centra Merchant Services and the Currency Conversion Engine Module briefly detailed with whitepapers pending release. The Centra token, CTR, can be used to redeem a card, get access to the Centra Wallet, receive .8% of the network rewards received from Centra cards, used on the Centra Market and Network for fees, and be staked on Centrachain for block rewards. Currently the only use for the CTR token is the wallet and to redeem cards.

They’ve also been using an aggressive marketing campaign, with celebrities like DJ Khaled tweeting out “I just received my titanium centra debit card” back as early as September. In recent weeks, cards have been and continue to be sent to influencers/digital marketing experts in various countries and have mentioned a video of a major celebrity influencer being posted to YouTube soon. Unfortunately, outside of a small group of influencers no one else seems to have received cards yet. As far as community engagement, its on the lower end of the spectrum –while their subreddit is closer to dead than alive, they do have an active slack.

There are 3 different tiers Centra is offering, Blue – Gold – Black

Blue – KYC Level 2 – 50 CTR:

Has a daily limit of $5,000 and a daily withdrawal limit of $500 – the monthlies are $10,000 and $2,000 respectively with the yearly max at $80,000.

•    Plastic Card

•    24/7 Support

•    Chip

•    $50 Annual Fee

•    $2.50 ATM Withdrawal fee (USD) – 3$ + 1% (non-USD)

•    $20 Activation fee

Gold – KYC Level 2 – 10,000 CTR:

Has a daily limit of $20,000 and a daily withdrawal limit of $1,000 – the monthlies are $20,000 and $3,000 respectively with the yearly max at $80,000.

•    Plastic Card – “Limited Edition”

•    24/7 Support

•    Chip

•    $100 Annual Fee

•    $2.50 ATM Withdrawal fee (USD) – 3$ + 1% (non-USD)

•    $20 Activation fee

Black – KYC Level 3 – 100,000 CTR:

Black has the limits as gold at level 2, but you do have the option to do level 3 verification to increase limits to a daily limit of $100,000 and a daily withdrawal limit of $3,000 – the monthlies are $200,000 and $3,000 respectively with the yearly max at $200,000.

•    Plastic – Metal design upgrade available

•    24/7 Worldwide Concierge

•    Chip

•    “Exclusive Rewards”?

•    $500 Annual Fee

•    $2.50 ATM Withdrawal fee (USD) – 3$ + 1% (non-USD)

•    $20 Activation fee

Cards are available for pre-order now from the Centra website.

The main problem Centra is facing right now (aside from the lawsuits, lack of product) is that the cards don’t have much value – they allow you to spend crypto, but there are no other benefits. The black card exists to compete with Amex’s black card (evidenced by the yearly fee, its price, color) – and it doesn’t even come close: their black card has a yearly limit of 200k USD – about half the cards value at CTR tokens recent peak. Compare that to some Amex customers purchasing million-dollar paintings with their cards and you can easily see why they have a lot of work to do in terms of card value (especially in the term of cardholder benefits, since that’s what makes a black card a black card – though the 24/7 concierge is a start). The Gold card also faces the same problems, for a card that costs so much it doesn’t even compete with low-cost consumer cards in terms of benefits. The Blue card is actually the best buy right now, when considering the features of each – it has the lowest yearly fee (the other fees are the same across tiers), requires the least CTR to be held, and the limits wont impact you if you’re spending less than $5,000 a day.

All things considered though, Centra does have some promise. If they can reduce the nightmarish fees, deliver cards en masse (along with delayed whitepapers, other products they have on the roadmap) and provide more benefits to card holding their strong marketing ability may pull through.  

Revolut:

Revolut is established in the prepaid debit card industry, recently obtaining their European banking license and moving into the crypto space soon after. Their app allows you to buy and sell various cryptocurrencies (BTC, LTC, ETH) but doesn’t let you transfer the crypto off - but if you can’t move crypto off Revolut’s app is it even crypto? Hopefully that functionality is added soon. One big feature they offer, similar to Monaco, is the ability to get the real exchange rate, allowing you to save up to 6% on transactions.

Standard:

•    Free (£0/m)

•    Free UK current account/Euro IBAN account

•    Interbank FX rates

•    Free bank transfers in 26 currencies

•    Free ATM withdrawal limit - £200/€200 (or equivalent if another currency)

Premium (in Black, Silver, Black/Rose, Rose Gold):

•    £6.99/m

•    Free UK current account/Euro IBAN account

•    Interbank FX rates

•    Free bank transfers in 26 currencies

•    Free ATM withdrawal limit - £400/€400 (or equivalent if another currency)

•    Free Unlimited FX volumes

•    Free premium cards

•    Free overseas medical insurance

•    Free delivery

•    Exclusive priority 24/7 customer support

•    Exclusive premium promotions

The premium card benefits are actually pretty good value for money and now that Revolut supports cryptocurrency they look even better – but Revolut themselves does have some problems holding it back. They’ve said airport lounges and overseas medical insurance have been coming to premium “soon” as added benefits but at the same time now offering pay per day overseas medical insurance for as little as £1 per day (though the cost is typically higher than that and there are other, cheaper services available). Their 24/7 support is also questionable, if you look on their twitter posts you’ll see plenty of people complaining about support not helping them for extended periods of time – though some do receive responses and presumably fast support thereafter.

The main problems with their cryptocurrency platform now are: the inability to transfer crypto outside the app, the high fees and price premium for crypto turning people away. The biggest positives for Revolut currently are their experience in the space coupled with a well done social media marketing/presence with decent community engagement and support. If they keep it up, find solutions to the aforementioned problems and improve their application/customer support, they’ll be able to do well in the crypto space.

Traditional Cards

Since the companies behind these cards have massive presences in the financial sector I’ll skip directly to the cards they offer. Its important to understand how big credit cards are – there are literally more than a billion credit cards in the world, in the US alone outstanding credit card debt according to recent numbers is well over $800bn. This is the market Monaco is positioning themselves to compete with in the long term.

Chase Sapphire Preferred:

Chase is a pretty big name in the banking and credit card world, and their Sapphire Preferred card is a popular low-cost card. It has an annual fee of $95 ($0 the first year), allows you to earn 2x points on travel/dining and 1x on all other purchases with points worth more if you book flights or etc. through the rewards program – they currently offer a new signup bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months the account has been open, the cards standout feature (in comparison to others).

Chase Sapphire Reserve:

Similar to the Preferred card Chase is offering, this card offers quite a few more benefits but with a substantial increase in annual fee (450$/year). It offers 3x points and the same signup bonus that draws people to the Preferred card, but also offers Priority Pass lounge access and $300 in travel credits/$100 for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check.

Citi Prestige:

Citi is another global player offering a premium card. This card has an annual fee of 450$ and offers varying multiples of points for different types of purchases. They also offer Priority Pass lounge membership, travel credits, 24/7 concierge, $100 for Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check, and lost baggage coverage.

Amex Platinum:

Amex is another household name in the financial sector, with the platinum being their top consumer card. It has a slightly higher annual fee ($550) when compared to the previous two cards, but it comes with more perks. They also offer various amounts of points for different services – up to an insane 5x when booking directly with Amex, varying types of travel credits (Airline, Uber – 200$ each, Global Entry/TSA Pre-Check credit), elite status with certain hotel and car rental chains, lounge access, and more. They also offer a 60,000 point signup bonus after spending $5,000 within the first 3 months – similar to Chase’s offering. As far as travel benefits/value go however, this easily beats out both the Citi Prestige and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Amex Centurion Card – AKA The Amex Black Card:

You might wonder why I’m including the black card, but that’s exactly what Monaco is positioning themselves to compete with by offering their Obsidian Black card. This card is invitation only after appropriate net worth, credit, and spending criteria are met – the figures aren’t publicized but they’re up there. The yearly fee is around $2,500 a year and the benefits are equally as substantial. Complimentary companion airline tickets, personal shoppers at many high-end retailers, first-class upgrades, extensive hotel benefits, unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges (with access to exclusive areas for Centurion holders), and more. The bar is set high for anyone trying to compete with the black card, but Monaco seems to have taken the challenge seriously (compared to Centra’s take). In terms of features the Obsidian Black card doesn’t currently come close however and only time (and benefits…lots of benefits) will tell if the Obsidian Black card truly competes with the Centurion.


Table (part 1)


The way I see it, there are the companies competing with Monaco and there are the companies Monaco is competing with. Yes, Monaco is competing with Centra and others to release a card that allows you to spend cryptocurrency and fiat for everyday purchases, but what comes after release? While Monaco’s updated roadmap is being released in the upcoming days, statements their CEO has made indicate they’ll go after the credit card sector with some force. It simply is a fact that credit cards are a global phenomenon – especially compared to the prepaid debit card space Revolut is in. Thinking long term and from a consumer standpoint, it’s not enough to simply be able to spend crypto and I’m excited to see how each company approaches this. The road to mass consumer adoption won’t be quick and easy, and with competitors like Amex offering credit cards with significant benefits there’s definitely going to be a few bumps along the way.  

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