The Philippines has more overseas workers than nearly any country in the world, and remittances reached an all-time high of $25.1 billion in 2013. But the cost of sending money home to family has historically been high. That is changing, thanks to the Philippines Bitcoin exchange and remittance service Coins.ph. The company has a new service that allows recipients to instantly withdraw money from a bank ATM.
The company is releasing a mobile app that allows their customers to deposit funds anywhere in the world through a Bitcoin ATM and send it to someone in the Philippines. They are also able to deposit from a Bitcoin balance being held in a Coins.ph online wallet.
Coin.ph has said that this might be the first service of its type, but this is not quite accurate. Wall of Coins, for instance, allows users to deposit funds that recipients can withdraw from hundreds of bank ATMs in the United States and Canada, and another company is planning to offer the same service in Mexico, set to be launched in February of 2015. There is also a local competitor, Rebit.ph, that is trying to open Bitcoin services to residents.
Coins.ph has integrated with the eGiveCash service, which is integrated with the Philippines Security Bank, to open up a network of 450 bank ATMs to the service. Recipients do not need a bank account or an ATM card to withdraw funds. Ron Hose, the company’s CEO, said in one interview:
"The process is tedious; since there is no single counter-party (other ATM networks only cover card-based transactions). Each integration can take upwards of six months, and there are various technical and other requirements that need to be addressed. That said, the benefits to the customers are clear and we are dedicated to pushing this forward.
"Our priority has always been about offering convenience and equal opportunity. We believe that everyone deserves access to financial services and should have the option to use their money to their desire, without having to endure high fees and prerequisites."
Regular ATM users might be confused about the fact that a card or account is not needed to use this service. The menu will instead offer the option ‘ATM Pickup/eGive Cash,’ which a user can select when sending money. This can be found under a section labeled ‘Where should we send the money?’ Once the money is sent, the recipient will receive a 16-digit reference number via SMS, and a four-digit PIN in a separate email will be sent to the sender. The PIN can then be forwarded to the recipient’s email by the sender.
This level-two validation is designed to keep the process in compliance with the know-your-customer and anti-money laundering rules. These rules require both email and ID verification, but no address or telephone number. There are also limits to how much can be sent through the service. Currently the minimum is 500 PHP and the maximum is 10,000 PHP per day, and 100,000 PHP per month. When we consider that the average salary for a worker in the Philippines is only US$280 a month, the allowance of approximately US$2400 a month through this service gives these workers a major advantage.
The Philippines has one of the worst economies for average people in the world, making it very difficult for people to save money. Salaries are low, hours are long and natural disasters are common. When a storm or earthquake hits the islands and family members need funds quickly, services such as those offered by Coins.ph can be a matter of life and death in many cases. Besides the 450 ATMs that are now open to this service, Coins.ph offers more than 5,000 other cash pickup locations with 24 different banks. If the customer wants to pick up the money, the service is free, but the service also offers a delivery option, for a small fee.
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