Can Travellers Actually Use Bitcoins?
With travellers carrying a multitude of debit and credit cards, juggling various bank and savings accounts and dealing with a handful of different currencies, how will purchase, payment and protection change in the future for those of us who are constantly on the road? This guest post, by Rob Dionisio, talks about a new financial concept called ‘Bitcoin’ – a currency that can be exchanged via a computer or smartphone.
As backpackers we love collecting notes and coins from exotic destinations, but the days of cash being king for travellers might be coming to an end.
Debit and credit cards have been gradually taking over and making it less of a necessity to always ensure you have cash in your pocket.
And now there are Bitcoins.
With the world being ruled by digital, and enhancements such as mobile payments via NFC (Near Field Communication) along with other ways to combine tech and cash, it was always going to be that currency took a turn for the virtual.
What was created was the Bitcoin, a digital currency which puts the power of distribution in the hands of the users who have them.
But are they any good for backpackers?
Just what are Bitcoins?
Bitcoins are a virtual currency which can be used for payments via a smartphone or computer which live in a digital wallet. Users are able to transfer these online to make payments, or alternatively in some instances shop at stores by scanning a QR code.
Right. But what can I do with them?
Well, if you’re travelling in the UK, you could always head to East London’s first bit-coin pub, The Pembury Tavern and grab a pint. Jumping on the tech bandwagon, the owner has decided to offer Bitcoin as a way to pay for your drinks. Not the worst idea as it removes the need to pay bank charges on card transactions and can be quicker if things are a bit quiet.
What about worldy travellers? With popular websites like Airbnb or Hostelworld, it will only be a matter of time before they too hopefully adopt the currency as it will work with their unique business model; it will alleviate bank charges if paying by credit card and invariably cut out the middle man in the process, making them more money and saving you a bit too.
The world is definitely starting to take note of this currency, what with currency exchange sites like xe.com now offering Bitcoin as a conversion currency. At the time of writing, one Bitcoin would fetch £68.75, which is nothing to sniff at.
What is happening now is that more and more websites are offering Bitcoins as a payment method, as the virtual currency is becoming more popular. WordPress offers it as a payment method, and Etsy (the independent craft one-stop shop) have joined the few who are early adopters.
Ok, sounds promising. But how do I get them?
The easiest way to get Bitcoins is by selling things for the illustrious coins online. Bored of your PS3? Check the exchange rate and see what it could be worth. Who knows, you may be lucky in finding a buyer. Or just beg for a few, there seem to be quite a few forums where people are more than willing to offer a coin or two in the hope that more and more people will turn into adopters, making the currency more difficult to abolish from society.
Just be wary though when looking for hand-outs of coins, as there are quite a few dodgy characters around making promises of offering coins only to attempt to hack you, and doing a Google search for the new currency returned a host of unsavoury sites, so having a good setup against viruses when using this service is a must.
Hopefully it won’t be long before you are paying for your beer in Bangkok or a curry in India with Bitcoins. But only time will tell if this is a passing fad or it’s a way to once and for all cut out the banks from taking a cut of your hard-earned cash.