The Coinbase / Visa Issue Appears to be Resolved

February 21, 2018         By: Steven Anderson

Just recently we heard about an issue between Coinbase and Visa that left some wondering if the vaunted cryptocurrency exchange had been hacked. A new report out recently says that Visa’s taking the blame for this one, and is already working to reverse the transactions in question.

The newest reports say that the events that led to cryptocurrency buyers seeing multiple reversed charges and various other issues that left accounts overdrawn in some cases were the result of new policies in how credit card companies are classifying transactions that involve digital currencies. Apparently, Visa was reversing multiple weeks’ worth of old transactions using a new merchant category code (MCC) that classifies businesses according to the service they provide.

The switch actually allowed banks and card issuers to charge extra fees, reports noted, and ended up looking like erroneous charges as a result. Despite what the companies involved said, though, numerous customers pointed out the problems still inherent in such a system, noting that the funds involved are just as tied up and inaccessible no matter what the reasoning and motivation involved actually was. Worse, it was poor optics for all involved, as it amounted to a circular blame game, with Coinbase pointing the blame at Visa and Visa promptly bouncing it elsewhere.

The good news in all this, however, is that it wasn’t hackers. No card numbers seem to have been stolen, no cryptocurrency looted, no life-wrecking disasters in play. Granted, the news as it sits is not exactly good; Visa basically tied up a whole bunch of users’ money playing games with classifications that may ultimately lead to more fees to buy a thing they want: cryptocurrency. That’s certainly not good news, and it speaks to a growing disconnect between the status quo—who pretty much does not want users having ready access to an anonymous currency—and the end user.

While this is being sorted out, we may all at least content ourselves with the revelation that hacking had nothing to do with this, and that all those issues are off the table, if only for now. The issues that remain on the table, however, are bad enough.