The vast majority of investors in Bitcoin consider it as a safe haven asset, long-term investment and digital gold. But, how practical is it to live on Bitcoin in 2017?
By nature, Bitcoin is a digital currency, described by its creator Satoshi Nakamoto as a digital cash system. Upon the clearance of the Bitcoin mempool, a holding area for unconfirmed transactions, Bitcoin transaction fees decreased to a range of $0.5 to $0.9, and with the activation of Segregated Witness through the BIP 91 activation mechanism, fees are expected to decrease to around $0.1.
The substantial decrease in Bitcoin transaction fees will allow Bitcoin to become more usable as a digital currency, to purchase goods and items both online and offline.
Bitcoin debit cards
Many Bitcoin service providers including Xapo, a prominent wallet and vault platform, and BTCC, a leading Chinese Bitcoin exchange, offer Bitcoin debit card services. Xapo for instance ships debit cards to consumers that are linked to Bitcoin wallets. Transactions made with the Xapo Visa debit card are automatically deducted from the Bitcoin wallet in real time.
More to that, Xapo Visa debit card can be linked to platforms such as PayPal, allowing users to easily purchase Bitcoin and spend Bitcoin at normal merchants, stores and outlets. Travelers can also use the Xapo debit card to cash out using any bank ATMs, which increases liquidity for casual users.
Retailers and merchants accepting Bitcoin
In some regions, particularly Japan, many merchants have started to accept Bitcoin as a legitimate payment method. The legalization of Bitcoin by the Japanese government allowed leading companies including the country’s largest electronics retailer Bic Camera to integrate Bitcoin and introduce Bitcoin payments to the public.
Initially, Bic Camera started off by accepting Bitcoin at one of its locations. At the moment, every Bic Camera location in Japan is accepting Bitcoin, which has been optimistic for Bitcoin adoption and mainstream media coverage.
More importantly, hundreds of thousands of merchants in Japan including bars, restaurants, cafes and stores have begun to accept Bitcoin through AirREGI, the nation’s most widely utilized point of sale (PoS) system.
Local publications including Nikkei reported in April that the AirREGI development team was planning to integrate Bitcoin by summer of 2017. Earlier last month, Kagayaki Kawabata, Coincheck International Business Developer, told Bitcoin.com in an interview that a few merchants have already begun to accept Bitcoin through AirREGI and the rest will follow throughout 2017.
“Some other stores are also preparing AirREGI Bitcoin payments…Also, adding to existing 260,000 stores that already use AirREGI, we will cooperate with Recruit Lifestyle to expand the stores that accept Bitcoin.”
Hence, it has already become easier to spend Bitcoin directly at stores and merchants with AirREGI. Some hotels including Japan’s Capsule Hotel, the most popular and largest budget hotel in Japan, have also directly integrated Bitcoin.
Paying utility bills, credit card bills and remittances with Bitcoin
Regional Bitcoin service providers such as Coins, which operates in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Malaysia, allow users to pay for utility bills such as electricity, water, rent, tuition fees and Internet bills with Bitcoin and even cover credit card bills using Bitcoin.
Coins.ph, the Philippines arm of Coins, has formed additional partnerships with local banks and remittance outlets, allowing users to cash out and purchase Bitcoin from bank ATMs, bank over-the-counter methods and remittance outlets.