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Understanding Taxes on Crypto Credit Card Rewards

By Dan Miller · October 13, 2022 · 5 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

Understanding Taxes on Crypto Credit Card Rewards

As crypto credit cards gain popularity, it’s becoming critical to understand how crypto credit card rewards are taxed. In some cases, crypto credit card rewards are considered a rebate on spending and therefore not taxable. But in other cases, the cryptocurrency you earn with a credit card may be taxable.

In either case, it’s important to keep in mind that you’ll also pay tax on any gains you make when selling the cryptocurrency you earned as credit card rewards. Keeping good records is important to ensure you accurately pay taxes associated with crypto credit card rewards.

What Is a Crypto Credit Card and How Does it Work?

There are several different kinds of crypto credit cards, and each one might work differently. The most common type of crypto credit card is one that will earn crypto rewards instead of cash back or travel rewards. You might earn cryptocurrency as part of a welcome offer, or on every purchase, or both.

Outside of the involvement of cryptocurrency, crypto credit cards otherwise don’t diverge from how credit cards work usually. Cardholders are extended a line of credit they can borrow against, and they’ll pay interest on balances that carry over from month to month.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

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What Are Crypto Credit Card Rewards?

Crypto credit card rewards are a type of credit card reward that you can earn with a crypto credit card. Crypto credit card rewards are similar to cash-back rewards or airline miles that you might earn with a different type of credit card.

With many crypto credit cards, you earn a certain cash percentage with each transaction (e.g. 1.5% back). But instead of getting the actual cash back, the rewards you earn are converted to the applicable cryptocurrency.

Recommended: Can You Buy Cryptocurrency With a Credit Card?

Are Crypto Credit Card Rewards Reported as Income?

The IRS has stated that income generated from any source must be reported on your tax return. That being said, the IRS has also given guidance that most credit card rewards are considered a rebate against spending rather than taxable income.

While most credit card issuers do not issue a 1099 form for credit card rewards, some may. If you receive a 1099 form, you will probably want to report the amount as income, or contact a tax professional for advice.

Are Crypto Credit Card Rewards Taxable?

The IRS has generally given guidance that most credit card rewards are considered a rebate on spending, and therefore not taxable. However, any gain you realize from the cryptocurrency that you earn as crypto credit card rewards is taxable.

If you receive cryptocurrency as a credit card reward, typically your cost basis will be the fair market value of the coins on the date you earn them. That means if and when you sell them, you’ll have to pay tax on the full crypto redemption amount minus your cost basis.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Crypto Credit Card Rewards?

Whether or not you have to pay taxes on crypto credit card rewards depends on how you receive your rewards. While the IRS has not ruled definitively on crypto credit card rewards, you may want to consider how the IRS treats non-crypto credit card rewards, like cashback, points or miles.

Generally, one of the credit card rules that the IRS has held is that rewards earned as part of spending are considered a rebate against that spending, and therefore not taxable. However, if you receive a reward (like a sign-up bonus) without having to make any purchase, that may be considered taxable income.

When Are Crypto Rewards Taxed?

In some scenarios, crypto rewards are taxable, while in other cases they are not. If you’re not sure if or how your crypto rewards should be taxed, consult with a tax professional.

When Crypto Are Taxable

If you receive cryptocurrency as part of a sign-up bonus where you did not have to make any purchase to earn that bonus, the cryptocurrency you receive may be considered taxable income.

You also will have to pay capital gains tax when you sell any cryptocurrency, even if you got it as a reward from a crypto credit card. The crypto rewards that you receive from a credit card generally will have a cost basis of the fair market value of the cryptocurrency on the date you receive the rewards. That means that when you sell, you’ll pay tax on any increase in the value.

When Crypto Rewards Are Not Taxable

Generally speaking, any credit card rewards that you receive after making a purchase are considered a rebate against that purchase. That means that in most cases, you won’t need to pay income tax on these rewards. However, you would still need to pay tax on any gains you make when you sell the crypto you earned as a crypto credit card reward.

Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card

Can You Protect Yourself from a Crypto Tax Audit?

While there’s no strategy that will completely eliminate the chance that you’ll be audited, there are a couple things you can do to help minimize your risk:

•   Make sure that you include any income or information that you receive via an official IRS form, like a 1099-MISC form.

•   Keep detailed and accurate records of all of your cryptocurrency transactions. That will minimize your chances of being audited as well as any interest or penalties you might have to pay if you are audited.

How to Know If You Owe Taxes on Crypto Credit Card Rewards

If you receive cryptocurrency as a bonus without a purchase as a credit card requirement, it will almost certainly be classified as taxable income.

Another indicator to know if you owe taxes will be if you receive an official IRS form like a 1099-MISC. Any income on such a form is reported to the IRS, so you’ll want to declare it on your return or indicate with your return why you are not declaring it.

Finally, remember that you will owe tax on any gains you make when selling cryptocurrency, including crypto that you got as a credit card reward.

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The Takeaway

Generally, the IRS has provided guidance that credit card rewards earned as part of a purchase are considered a rebate related to that purchase. Rebates on purchases generally are not considered taxable income. On the other hand, any cryptocurrency that you receive as a bonus without making a purchase in order to earn it may be considered taxable income. Consult your tax professional for advice if you’re not sure whether you should pay taxes on crypto credit card rewards.

If you’re looking for a new credit card, consider the SoFi credit card. You can earn unlimited cash-back rewards, which you can use to invest in fractional shares, redeem for a statement credit, or meet other financial goals you might have, like paying down eligible SoFi debt. Learn more and consider applying for a rewards credit card with SoFi today.

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FAQ

Are crypto credit rewards payouts or rebates?

Whether or not crypto credit rewards are considered a payout or rebate depends on how you earn them. Generally, the IRS has held that credit card rewards received as a result of spending are considered rebates. On the other hand, if you receive crypto credit rewards or any other type of credit rewards without making a purchase, that may be considered income.

Are crypto credit rewards considered virtual currency?

IRS Notice 2014-21 does mention that cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin) is considered a convertible virtual currency. There are certain tax laws and regulations that deal with virtual currencies, so you’ll want to be aware of that if you receive crypto credit rewards or purchase crypto with a credit card.

What will the IRS do if I do not get audited for my crypto credit card rewards?

The IRS manages tax compliance primarily through taxpayer audits. While the IRS does not publish the criteria it uses to determine who gets audited, there are a few things that you can do to minimize your chances of being audited. But even if you haven’t been audited yet, you may not be out of the woods — the IRS can go back several years in the past. The best thing to do is make sure you keep good records and fully record and report any income that you earn.


Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back rewards when redeemed for a statement credit.1
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. If you elect to redeem points for cash deposited into your SoFi Checking or Savings account, SoFi Money® account, fractional shares or cryptocurrency in your SoFi Active Invest account, or as a payment to your SoFi Personal, Private Student, or Student Loan Refinance, your points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per every point. If you elect to redeem points as a statement credit to your SoFi Credit Card account, your points will redeem at a rate of 0.5 cents per every point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.
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