Vancouver is now home to Canada’s first ATM that allows users to exchange cash for a new currency: the Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is like any other currency (e.g. Canadian Dollar, U.S. Dollar, Euro), except it exists solely on the Internet. The currency launched in 2009 and acts as a medium to exchange money across the world with few fees, no exchange rates, and no middlemen.
Bitcoin is not trademarked anymore than e-mail is trademarked. It is not owned by an individual company and it is not regulated by a central bank. It is a new currency and form of technology that exists on the Internet.
Bitcoin can be used to exchange money between individuals, but it is hoped to eventually play a larger role in business transactions.
Amanda Krystalovich, manager of Krystal Fit Studio in Vancouver said, “It’s a lot cheaper than accepting, say, Visa or MasterCard. It’s very secure as well”.
Michael Bliss, co-founder of the Bitcoin Co-op, said that they have added 20 businesses this year who are using the new currency. They anticipate that this number will increase as Bitcoin ATMs gain accessibility and presence.
Michell Demeter, co-founder of the Vancouver store Bitcoiniacs, is responsible for bringing the new ATM machine to Vancouver. He states that Bitcoin is not only useful for purchases, but also as an investment. “It is the best performing currency in the world,” he said. “It has grown over a thousand per cent year after year, for the last four years. So people are using it also as an investment”.
The Bitcoin is best known for its role in the Silk Road online scandal where Bitcoins owned by anonymous users were implicated in the online sale of illicit drugs.
Anthony Gallipi, a Canadian entrepreneur, argues that fixating on the illicit uses of Bitcoin detracts from “much bigger e-commerce use for this that’s growing and that’s growing rapidly.” He adds: “I can access my money from any computing device at any time and do whatever the heck I want with it”.
Bitcoins are a neat idea, but many governments and economists have expressed concern over its lack of governmental regulation, as well as its actual usefulness and real-life value. Judith Chevalier, former editor of the American Economic Review states, “Unlike government issued fiat money, there is no guarantee it can be used to pay taxes or settle other obligations”.
Economist Jeffrey Tucker disagrees with Chevalier, noting “A year ago I would have had to say that, well, it has a limited functionality, but now you can actually use Bitcoin at Walmart, at, you know, every kind of big box store, anybody that sells a gift certificate, you can buy this gift certificate with Bitcoin using very simple apps”.
Tucker elaborated on Bitcoin’s other benefits, “You can bypass government currency entirely…I’ll tell you, it only takes a few times of using Bitcoin to realize this is incredibly easy. It’s much easier than credit cards and there is no danger of fraud or identity theft and other things that come with the old-fashioned credit cards system. It’s just a pure technology”.