When you are an avid traveler like I am, you surely must know that sometimes managing international currency can be a little bit complicated. Not only the amount of money we carry with us should be limited due to international tax laws but also because the U.S. dollar may not be accepted in some countries. So how can we pay for goods and services while we are traveling around the world then? Due to the reasons listed above and many others, lately I've been trying to find a way of exploring the world while managing my money regardless of what part of the world I am in. I'm glad to say that I have found the perfect way to do it, and I would like to share it with you, my fellow travelers.
Cryptocurrency provides us with a secure and private way to control our money regardless of where we are, without limitations, and without having to pay exorbitant fees. And because cryptocurrency payments are impossible to block, your account can never be frozen.
No more waiting on hold with your bank’s phone support!!
But before I provide you with the whys and hows, we need to talk first about what is a cryptocurrency and why is such a big deal.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is an alternative method of online payment, a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography. It allows us to transfer funds directly between two parties, without the need for a third party like a bank or credit card company with minimal processing fees, allowing users to avoid the steep fees charged by banks and financial institutions.
Cryptocurrency has been praised due to its portability, inflation resistance, and transparency. Cryptocurrencies are virtual and are not stored in a central database, which means that there is no central authority, government, or corporation that has access to your funds or your personal information.
Today, there are thousands of alternate cryptocurrencies around the world, each one with various functions and specifications, Bitcoin being the most popular one.
What is Bitcoin?
Launched in 2009, Bitcoin is a digital currency that uses peer-to-peer technology to facilitate instant payments, similar to Skype, or BitTorrent, a file-sharing system. Cryptocurrency transactions are immutable.
Once they happen, there’s no taking them back. Bitcoin is the fastest, easiest, and safest way to exchange money. As long as you have an internet connection you'll have access to cryptocurrency.
The value of bitcoin comes from supply and demand and the fact that it’s supply is limited. So once all the Bitcoin is mined, a third party (like a government for example) cannot just go and print more Bitcoin just because they feel like it. Some people say that this is what gives Bitcoin intrinsic value.
Which Countries Accept Bitcoin as a Payment Method?
I would be as bold to say that you can find people in any country that are willing to accept Bitcoin. But obviously there are some countries that have voiced their support on a national level.
Recently, the Chinese government has come out and stated they will be focusing on blockchain and more specifically, digital currencies. South Korea has a massive appetite for crypto, where “everyone and their grandmothers” are getting into it. Countries like Venezuela have adopted crypto now that the Bolivar practically has no monetary value due to an irresponsible government. Then you have western countries like the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and then the EU that are making incredible strides to adopting crypto via methods like crypto ATMs, marketplaces where you can exchange BTC for cash, or even merchants that will accept crypto directly.
What can I do with Bitcoin?
The list of things you can do with bitcoin is endless, because cryptocurrency isn’t tied to a specific country, traveling with crypto can cut down on money exchange fees.
Worldwide, over thousands of shops accept bitcoin as a payment method. Some of the most important ones are:
● KFC Canada decided to accept Bitcoin for a limited time
● Overstock, a american online retailer that sells big ticket items at lower prices.
● Several Subway branches accept Bitcoin as payment for their sandwiches.
● CheapAir an american online travel agency, they sell planet tickets in exchange for bitcoin
● Amazon: while this online shop doesn't accept bitcoin directly, you can use use a website called purse.io that connects people who want to buy on Amazon with sellers who want to get Bitcoin in return for their items
● AT&T this mobile carrier, have provided a cryptocurrency payment option to their customers
These stores are only the most famous ones that accept cryptocurrency in exchange for their services, but there are several other businesses that accept Bitcoin as well, you just have to find them.
You can also convert your Bitcoin into gift cards, while there are many famous stores that accept cryptocurrencies as a payment method sadly there are others that do not accept them, buying gift cards is a perfect way to spend your bitcoins. Gyft, a popular online store, offer discounts and rewards to customers who purchase gift cards using Bitcoin.
Probably the most practical way of using Bitcoin abroad is by converting it into cash. For this, you can use a marketplace called LocalBitcoins, select your county and then find people nearby who want to buy Bitcoin for cash (via bank transfer, physical cash, PayPal transfer, etc…)
Often, you can even find Kiosks in malls that will give you cash for your Bitcoin on the spot.
Can Bitcoin be Converted to Cash?
One of the most important questions people ask once they have enough knowledge about cryptocurrency and bitcoin is whether or not it can be converted to cash, and I'm glad to say that yes, it can.
Bitcoin can be converted to cash using bitcoin ATM or through a bitcoin credit cards.
A Bitcoin ATM is like a traditional ATM that dispenses fiat currencies where you use your debit card to withdraw USD or whichever other major international currency. The bitcoin ATM, allows you to buy or sell bitcoins anonymously, you have a Visa Bitcoin debit card, you can use it anywhere Visa credit and debit cards are accepted, is important to know that these Bitcoin cards only allow purchases in U.S. dollars. If you want to use a Bitcoin card in the E.U you should get a Coinbase card that is accepted in the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, and The Netherlands. The most marvelous characteristic about the Bitcoin debit card is that you can use it to withdraw USD from any ATM.
But the whole point of using Bitcoin is to save on exchange fees, ATM fees, etc…
So let’s do a quick comparison between typical Bitcoin ATM fees and your traditional currency exchange desk, shall we?
Unfortunately, crypto is still considered quite risky. And with higher risk comes higher fees. The average fee of using a Bitcoin ATM is about 6%. But that depends on the country you are travelling to. The range is from 2.5% to 10% depending on how well-adopted crypto is in that country.
Now a currency exchange desk on the other hand charges about 1-3% of the total cash value. But you also need to factor in what hidden fees your bank is charging you when you take out the cash you want to convert in the first place).
So when you compare Bitcoin ATMs to regular currency exchanges, Bitcoin doesn’t seem like a super viable option. Plus it’s still a very new technology, so it will only improve with time.
However, when you factor in other options like LocalBitcoins (that allows you to exchange your BTC for cash) with buyers who live in the city, traveling with BTC becomes a lot more viable.
How Can I Start Using Bitcoin?
1. Acquiring Bitcoin.
The first thing you should do once you have decided to invest in any cryptocoin is to buy Bitcoins instantly with a credit card or debit card through verified sellers such as Coinbase, Binance (the two most famous platforms) or other local merchants.
If it is your first time buying Bitcoin, then Coinbase is probably your safest bet. You will need to go through something called “KYC” where they will need to verify your identity and make sure you are a real person. I highly recommend LocalBitcoins as well as you can buy directly from people who want to sell BTC and there are tons of options to buy (cash, PayPal transfer, bank transfer, etc…)
2. Get a Bitcoin Wallet.
A Bitcoin wallet is a software program where Bitcoins are stored. All of the wallets allows you to transfer Bitcoin from one wallet to another.
There are a number of Bitcoin wallets to choose from, such as mobile Bitcoin wallets, hardware wallets and web wallets the difference between them is that web wallets while being the easiest to use they are potentially less secure than the others.
Hardware wallets are the most secure because they do not expose your private keys to the network. Once the software is downloaded, you don't have to rely on third-party services to complete Bitcoin transactions.
The most popular ones are Ledger wallet and Trezor wallet. To increase the security of your wallet, you should create a public and a private Bitcoin address, your public address allows you to receive Bitcoin from other people and the private address is the one you'll use to send Bitcoin to others.
3. Make a Bitcoin Transaction
After buying your Bitcoin, you should transfer it to your wallet. Many sellers use BitPay, to process their Bitcoin transactions. Make sure to use the public address of the person you are buying from and send your Bitcoin to this address as payment, along with the amount of Bitcoin you want to send them and wait for the transaction to be confirmed. Follow these steps and voila, you'll have all the skills to successfully make a bitcoin transaction.
Right now the number of services and merchants accepting Cryptocurrencies all over the world is growing extremely fast.
From online retailers to travel agencies and food chains, the possibilities are endless. You can also get paid with cryptocurrency by accepting them as a payment for goods and services. It's a beneficial and secure exchange for everybody involved in the transaction.
Cryptocurrencies allows you to directly control the money yourself without the involvement of a third party like a bank or any other institution.
And one of the most important characteristics about this new type of currency is that is accepted in several countries in the world from North America to the European union, even Asian countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong are starting to see the value of the Cryptocurrency.
It seems as if cryptocurrencies are here to stay.
Text by Marina Yoveva - www.exploreist.com