Bitcoins Berlin cater for underbanked Europeans
Tuesday 14 July 2015
A German bitcoin startup incubator is launching new projects to cater to Greeks and Eastern Europeans. Here’s why.
Greece-mania has taken hold of the world recently, with the country’s woes dominating headlines. Even now, when there is agreement in principle about the way forwards, the country still faces a tough time. More austerity is on the way, and capital controls will be in place for some time to come.
In a show of solidarity, Euro exchange bitcoin.de has slashed fees to zero for Greek citizens. Christoph, who heads up the marketing for the exchange, also told me about a couple of further projects he’d been promoting for Bitcoins Berlin - neither of which make a lot of sense for Germans or western Europeans, but opened some interesting doors for Greeks and those in the East.
All4btc allows you to use bitcoin to goods from Amazon and eBay, as well as other services normally limited to fiat. You pay BTC to All4btc, they take care of the dirty fiat. Easy.
You can now buy incredibly over-packaged goods using bitcoins
The question arises as to why you would want to bother. Unless you’re one of the hard-core tinfoil hat brigade, living off the grid in some solar-powered commune in the wilderness, there’s no reason not to sign up for Amazon and eBay the regular way. As Christoph explained, ‘For me as a German this service sounds stupid, because it is an expensive way of doing what I can do with Euros. But as Jörg from Bitcoins Berlin told me, it is very popular in Romania, Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries, because their partners often don't accept payments from Eastern Europe due to concerns about fraud. Also, many Eastern Europeans have no credit card. For Greeks it should be also very useful.’
Bitwala is a broadly similar service that allows you to pay your bills with bitcoin. (In fact, it's basically a way to send money abroad with bitcoin, for 0.5% fees, which is pretty cool if you're fed up being extorted by the banks every time you want to make an international transfer.) You pay bitcoin to Bitwala and give them your bill, and they pay it with Euros. ‘This is a good way to pay a foreign bill - for example, someone in the supply-chain - something that wouldn’t be possible with any other means.’ Christoph notes that both services are very useful to Greeks, so long as they have bitcoin, or access to bitcoin.
And the evidence is that they do. In the past month, Greek visitors have ranked fourth highest in Bitwala’s analytics - an extremely uncommon occurrence and proof of the growing Greek interest in alternative currencies. To cater to this market, Bitcoins Berlin has taken the shrewd step of cutting fees for Greek customers of All4btc and Bitwala (as bitcoin.de itself has done).
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