It’s probably fair to say that most alternative currencies or ‘cryptocurrencies’ have grown to the point of irrelevancy over the past few years – there are hundreds of them – and the fact that tokens like Dogecoin exist says a lot about the rationale behind their creation; it’s a challenge, a hobby, or a bit of fun, the brief existence of the Coinye West standing as testament to the latter.
However, a few cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Ripple, have become legitimate rivals to conventional currencies. Bitcoin, in particular, recently gained the approval of billionaire fund manager Bill Gross, who suggested that it might prove an interesting alternative for investors looking to avoid punitive interest rates.
But with Bitcoin still in its mainstream infancy, is now a good time for UK businesses to begin accepting Satoshi Nakamoto’s cryptocurrency? Here are a few reasons why allowing customers to pay with Bitcoin could be a prudent decision.
New Markets, Fewer Fees
Businesses with a global audience have an incentive for accepting Bitcoin in ready access to a developing market. For example, digital distribution platform Steam recently began accepting Bitcoin to reach customers in places like India, China and Brazil, where ownership of credit and debit cards is lagging behind internet access.
Bitcoin transactions are also free of things like cross-border payment fees, which, on Amazon, for example, can cost around 1.5% of any sum received from a customer outside of the UK. The previous is arguably of greater benefit to small businesses, which may view cross-border fees as a barrier to expansion abroad.
Faster, More Secure Payments
The technology behind Bitcoin is revolutionary. Known as ‘blockchain’, transactions are stored in ‘blocks’, a permanent record that is verified by computer hardware or ‘miners’. As each block holds an identical copy of every transaction made in Bitcoin, fraudulent entries are easily flagged, as their blocks no longer match others in the chain.
Blockchain is almost immune to fraud, counterfeiting and similar criminal pursuits, to the extent that it has been touted as a solution to the trade in ‘conflict’ diamonds and other areas where forged or lost documentation is an issue.
As there are no banks to act as middlemen in transactions, Bitcoin payments clear almost immediately, preventing chargebacks and the long ‘clearing’ periods that often come with credit card payments. For this reason, Bitcoin has long been the preferred token of some iGaming websites, such as those listed on BitcoinPokies, as the currency allows for faster payouts, often in a matter of minutes.
Bitcoin also provides something of an extra security barrier for people who enjoy playing casino games online. No personally identifying information is sent with payments in the cryptocurrency and it’s impossible to steal money from a Bitcoin wallet (money can only be ‘pushed’, not ‘pulled’), meaning that identity and credit card fraud is a non-issue.
It’s All the Rage
Tech giants Microsoft and Dell both accept Bitcoin, as well as travel firms Virgin Galactic and Expedia. Bitcoin is not just the domain of major corporations though. The currency has already made inroads into high-street stores and local endeavours in the southwest.
For example, Brighton-based marketing companies Segment Digital and Swat Marketing accept Bitcoin, in addition to firms like RedBedlam (software) and Coast Networks (IT support). Second-hand retailer CeX has long been something of a trailblazer as far as Bitcoin is concerned, and the cryptocurrency is welcome at its Brighton branch.
Elsewhere, 1066Fitness in Bodiam, Bells and Whistles Wedding Stationary in Worthing, Computer Junction in Portsmouth, and Seymour Locksmiths in Shoreham-by-Sea have begun accepting Bitcoin. The currency may never replace the pound as the go-to option for UK shoppers but Bitcoin remains a viable currency with a future beyond mere hobby.