A few months ago, I moved from the U.S. to Germany. Since moving abroad, my credit cards have been rendered useless for everyday transactions because of Germany’s cash-only culture. As an American, there are many hassles involved with using credit cards in Europe including outrageous foreign transaction fees and card machines built for chip-PIN vs. the American-standard swipe. It only made sense for me to find a solution that I could use at home and abroad. Enter Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is like the sexy, mysterious new kid on the block that you want to get to know. The digital currency is gaining popularity, but misconceptions about safety and the perceived difficulty of obtaining Bitcoin have prevented many people from using it. Still, Bitcoin was a solution that could bridge my international finances. Thankfully, I moved to Berlin just in time to check out the Bitcoin Film Festival, where I met people in the community who encouraged me to give it a whirl.
CHOOSING A BITCOIN WALLET
To hold any sort of money, paper or digital, you need a wallet. After researching the options available for iOS, I decided to go with Blockchain.info’s wallet.
Blockchain embodies the spirit of Bitcoin with its open source nature, and hence, became my wallet of choice.
GO, GET YOUR BITCOIN
Now, I needed to get some Bitcoin. I researched options of getting the currency quickly, only to find that most services would make me wait days for my Bitcoin. There had to be a quicker way.
Luckily, I had been invited to use Cubits and decided to give it a try. Cubits lets people buy or sell Bitcoin within minutes. The interface was designed to make using Bitcoin direct and simple. I was able to have Bitcoin in my wallet just moments after signing up.
USING BITCOIN THE FIRST TIME
With my Bitcoin ready on my mobile, I was excited to experiment with this new evolving technology for the first time. Because I spend a good chunk of time working from cafés, I found a place in Berlin called 19 Grams that happens to do two awesome things: make a darn good espresso and accept Bitcoin payments.
After finishing my espresso, I approached the register, which had “Bitcoin Accepted Here” prominently displayed. No credit cards—just cash and Bitcoin.
I said proudly, “I’d like to pay in Bitcoin.” The barista grabbed an iPad, and entered in 2 EURO into a Bitcoin merchant app. The app displayed that I owed 0.0061 BTC along with the merchant’s QR code, which I scanned using my wallet to complete the transaction.
Being able to wirelessly pay my bill felt really liberating, like I’d just tapped into the future of money. I was the only one in the café who paid in Bitcoin, which made me feel special because I was now among the few have used this new payment technology. There was a rush of adrenaline, a thrill of using something that’s still so new that it feels a tiny bit wrong, and at the same time oh-so-right.
IN THE END
As awesome as it was to spend digital currency for the first time, there’s still room for improvement. Unlike using credit cards, the process of using Bitcoin was neither seamless nor immediately familiar. I had to do a lot of research and piece together services before I could spend any Bitcoin. An all-in-one service would streamline the Bitcoin experience and would help more people adopt it.
Because it is still difficult for many people to acquire Bitcoin to spend, only a handful of people use it in their everyday lives. If there were more services like Cubits that let people buy digital currency in minutes, certainly Bitcoin would be a more accessible and attractive payment method. Even though Bitcoin hasn’t yet gained the popularity and acceptance it should have in today’s society, mobile payments are here to stay and will no doubt revolutionize the ways people spend money.
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