Years ago, monetary transactions were made with cash and credit cards. You deposited your paycheck at the bank every pay day. Trips to the ATM were frequent. Credit card statements were sent and bills paid via postal mail.
Eventually online banking with features like billpay allowed us to save time and money when paying merchants — and even friends and family. Online statements helped us become greener. We went to the bank less. We used our credit cards more.
In the last ten years, the smartphone has become ubiquitous, and with this new platform, there are mobile apps for everything. The concept of a mobile payment network allowed us greater flexibility to make transactions anytime, anywhere — without physical banks or ATM’s nearby. Mobile payment apps today are great but they are proprietary. Right now on my iPhone I have Google Wallet, LevelUp, PayPal and Airbitz (of course). There are others I’ve deleted over time and others that have risen in popularity like Venmo and Square. The point is, I don’t want a dozen different apps on my phone, nor do I necessarily want to share my banking or credit card information with all these different companies.
Online payments are only a little bit more convenient than credit cards. Credit cards are a somewhat open system. You never interface with the credit card company directly, you interact with banks. Take for instance my United Visa credit card; it’s actually through Chase Bank. Merchants can use any number of merchant processors, consumers use any number of various credit card companies, and they are all inter-compatible.
Bitcoin offers faster, frictionless, more secure and more cost-effective payment solutions that omit the middleman. Bitcoin is like Visa for the mobile payment system. In fact, Visa may actually be open to facilitating the growing use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin is first mobile payment system that is an open system. What does that mean? It means you can choose what apps you like to use. Whether you have a Windows, Android or iOS phone, you are free to use the wallet of your choice. This opens the doors for multiple wallets and multiple payment providers. Instead of heading specifically to that cafe that accepts PayPal or LevelUp, the Bitcoin ecosystem would not require me to use one app versus another. A wallet, like Airbitz, can work with any merchant that accepts Bitcoin. Being in the Bitcoin ecosystem, we are compatible with all Bitcoin merchants. They don’t need the Airbitz wallet, although I’m sure they would prefer it!
Like PayPal and LevelUp, Airbitz has a built-in directory to help find merchants. We now have over 3,000 merchants in 14 countries. In addition, Bitcoin companies like Airbitz are revolutionizing mobile payments above & beyond the likes of Paypal by allowing users to add transaction data such as payee names, expense categories, and notes which are exportable to financial software like Quicken.
Bitcoin is also an interesting solution for developing markets. Right now we are working to complete our directory listings for Vietnam, a country with a volatile currency. Many people in these markets don’t have bank accounts, but they do have cell phones. Remittance fees are exhorbitantly high and a more stable electronic currency like Bitcoin that allows for transactions with low or no fees would be a huge economic boost to the millions of people in these developing countries.
The benefits are obvious, but here’s some additional peace of mind for those doubting the longevity of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin in particular. Another new platform is Coinmap.org, one of the standards to determine growth in bitcoin space, and they cite over 5,000 merchants worldwide including large retailers such as Overstock, Dell and Dish Network. The Bitcoin community is strong. There are hundreds of meetup groups around the world for Bitcoin. There is nowhere near that for mobile payment merchants. Bitcoin is like stock in a digital payment method. Like Paypal employees wanting to convince merchants to use their app, Bitcoin users are like shareholders. People have equity in the ubiquity of Bitcoin and evangelize its use.
There is still room for growth, but the benefits we’re trying to promote via Bitcoin technologies will hopefully be realized in the coming years. At least in the near future, I believe we’re creating a positive ecosystem to help lower fees and improve usability within the traditional financial ecosystem. It’s a win-win situation. As with all different verticals, there will be a variety of applications and platforms within the Bitcoin ecosystem. One thing in common is that they all support the growth of this new currency which lends to more benefits than seen with traditional currencies.