Uber is still standing strong in Argentina, despite months of being denied credit and debit card service, in part thanks to Bitcoin.
According to Franco Amati, co-founder of the Latin American Bitcoin Conference, Uber is still holding on despite resistance from government.
“Uber is fighting the blockade, sometimes Uber changes the place from where it is charging the payment, and local cards work again, but then the government blocks them again.”
To fuel the use of cards that are not so easily shut down, Uber is incentivizing prepaid cards, according to Amati.
He explains to Cointelegraph:
“SatoshiTango and Xapo cards still working, and they have a 25% discount for the moment, using them daily. Uber gives a discount in Argentina to everyone using "prepaid" cards. This includes Bitcoin cards like SatoshiTango and Xapo, but also non-Bitcoin cards like Neteller.”
Amati also notes that other prepaid cards not related to Bitcoin have also factored into fueling Uber’s continuing operations.
“Many people use Neteller and CardNow, two prepaid options not using BTC. It's a combo, prepaid cards, bitcoin cards, and tourists (who use cards from abroad).”
A bump in BItcoin card use since Uber’s card ban
Matias Bari, CEO of Bitcoin debit card provider SatoshiTango, saw a marked increase in card use by Uber because of the company’s trouble with the authorities:
“We had an important increase in the amount of prepaid cards issued since Uber announced the possibility to pay with them. Until July 31st, more than 200 people have linked their debit cards to Uber. And we keep receiving queries about that functionality. Many people asking if the card really works with Uber. We are constantly trying to add new payment methods, so we don’t limit our platform to bitcoin users only.”
Bari explained that one distinct advantage of Bitcoin debit cards, especially during rapidly changing circumstances, is the ability to use a virtual, online-only debit card.
He says to Cointelegraph:
“Besides the plastic card we also have virtual cards and that is a very attractive product because you don’t need to wait 2, 3 weeks until you get your card. Moreover, the virtual debit card is free of charge.”
Arcade City’s own cat-and-mouse game against government
Conflicts with local authorities are par for the course in the nascent ride-sharing industry. Arcade City, which itself grew out of protests to a ban on Uber in New Hampshire, moved into Austin, Texas after the city forced out Uber and Lyft. Shortly afterwards, Arcade City found itself targeted by city authorities as well.
Christopher David, Arcade City’s CEO, sees government efforts to shut down business as futile in the long term.
“Uber let the ridesharing genie out of the bottle and no governments can stuff it back in. Markets may be pushed underground for a time, but only until entrepreneurs find a way to make misguided regulations obsolete or impossible to enforce. Freedom of choice will win in the end.”
Traditional financial systems are risky for controversial businesses
Outside of the ride-sharing business, other companies have lost access to financial services because of the nature of their business. Earlier this year, Tavex, Sweden’s largest gold and silver dealer, similarly had its bank accounts arbitrarily closed.
Relying on financial institutions is risky for charitable institutions as well. Members of the Bundy family, who were involved in a standoff with the US federal government in 2014, recently saw their PayPal donation accounts shut down. Pro-peace site AntiWar.com lost access to Google Adsense over displaying the cost of war.