Bitcoin, the increasingly popular cyber-currency, is gaining traction in Calgary as traditional currencies fluctuate during the current oil crisis.
Calgary and Edmonton, along with most other major Canadian cities, have a number of ATM machines where consumers can purchase and trade the cyber-currency.
“Bitcoin is in its infancy like debit was 15 years ago,” said Adam O’Brien, president of Bitcoin Solutions. “It’s 100% the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to transfer money.
“I heard a commercial yesterday that said ‘transfer $50 for $5,’ and it made me laugh. The current banking system is funny like that.”
Currently, regular currency transfer to another country costs a fee and takes at least a few business days. With Bitcoin, the transfers do not cost anything and they occur instantly.
Jennifer Melendez, an employee at Café Blanca, has noticed an increase in traffic after a Bitcoin ATM was installed in the café.
“Around 20 to 30 people come in every week just for the ATM,” she said.
Melendez has also noticed the ATM users in Café Blanca are usually the same customers each week, and most of the traffic generated from the ATM typically comes and leaves quickly.
“I use Bitcoin to transfer money to India all the time,” Ramandeep Singh said. “It is free and fast.”
Singh sends money back to his wife and children in India twice a month. Since the ATMs arrived in Calgary, he has saved a lot of money by using Bitcoin instead of a traditional bank.
To store Bitcoins, consumers need to set up their own digital wallet. Many companies exclusively deal with easy to use wallets, but more tech-savy people can download the Bitcoin Core and manage their own wallet security.
“It’s really easy,” O’Brien said. “Even if you don’t have a Bitcoin ATM in your city, we can still deposit Bitcoins into your wallet.”
O’Brien currently recommends clients to use blockchain.info for their wallets, as he finds it secure and easy to use.
Most of Bitcoin’s popularity comes from its ease to transfer money around the world, but more retailers are starting to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment.
“Right now we’re waiting for full adoption,” O’Brien said.
Dell, Microsoft, Expedia and Virgin Galactic are a few companies that already accept Bitcoin online as a method of payment.
Waves Coffeehouse and Café Blanca are currently the only ATM locations in Calgary, with the next closest at the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery in Lethbridge.
“You have to look at it as a commodity,” O’Brien said. “Like gold, it holds it value worldwide.”