Some months ago, I had heard about Uphold, a new service allowing easy, secure exchanges among various kinds of currencies, including hard metals and cryptocurrencies. I signed up for an account, but as I had other means to move my pay from China to the USA, I didn’t take advantage of Uphold’s services, and to be honest, I forgot all about it.
Early last year, Chinese banking authorities shut down the nation’s cryptocurrency exchanges, making it difficult (but not impossible) to convert Chinese yuan (CNY) into Bitcoin or some other digital asset. As I have already written, I switched to using two Over The Counter (OTC) P2P services, Coincola and Bitshares Magicwallet, to buy Bitcoin, Bitshares, Ethereum or Litecoin.
In the fall, I remembered I had an Uphold account and decided to give it a try.
Uphold (formerly known as Bitreserve) partnered with China UnionPay, the nation’s primary credit and debit card provider, way back in December 2015. You can fund your Uphold account with your UnionPay card, and then use Uphold’s easy-to-use conversion services to move yuan into a variety of other currencies.
But there’s a catch. Presumably to comply with China’s capital controls, you can only send CNY1,000 (about $150) each time. There are fees, of course, too, but they seem to take less of a bite out my funds than the premium prices one pays in OTC exchanges. Since I typically don’t need to send large sums of money across borders (since I don’t make large sums of money as a teacher), the CNY1,000/USD150 limit is no big deal.
Since I have not linked a US bank account to my Uphold account yet, I instead convert yuan into Litecoin and then transfer that to my Coinbase account, and sell it for a USD deposit into my bank account. Everything is done at the computer, and the entire process from UnionPay to US bank account takes one to two days to complete. The slowest part is the ACH transfer from Coinbase to the bank.
Aside from allowing indirect bank-to-bank transfers. Uphold also offers virtual cards, which represent different kinds of currencies. You can think of them as accounts or wallets within a larger account. So, you can hold USD, British pounds, Euros, gold, silver, palladium, platinum, Bitcoin, and so on, merely by transferring funds from one card to another.
Uphold also has partner apps, including the ad-free browser Brave and the automatic investment app Heleum. Today I funded my Heleum account with a whopping $50. After several weeks, I’ll report on the results. I have not yet tried Brave, which uses the Basic Attention Token (BAT) as a way to remunerate businesses and users to replace web-based advertising.
Foreigners working in China (and other countries, for that matter) may find Uphold to be an convenient way to move modest amounts of money back home, or to slowly build a diversified portfolio of currencies. Uphold states it holds full reserves for funds held by users, and also complies with national Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) laws in the jurisdictions in which it operates.
Nevertheless, it is wise not to keep large sums of money on an uninsured exchange. So do your due diligence, protect your account information, and keep your computer secure.
Also, I must add the standard disclaimer that I am not a professional financial advisor, and this is not financial advice. This is intended only to be educational and informative.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.