Using bitcoin as a cash backup when travelling

Even the smartest traveller can lose their cards or have them blocked or stolen. Traveller’s cheques are an option but they are hard to get and use, and the fees are massive.

In this blog, we’ll go through how you can use CoinJar (or any other bitcoin service) to stay connected with your money back home. With a little know-how you can use bitcoin to access your money as cash, in any local currency, wherever you go.

Why bitcoin?

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Bitcoin is a distributed payment network that allows you to transfer value instantly and globally, with low fees. For this tutorial, we’ve used CoinJar but you can apply this to any bitcoin service that offers currency conversion and a wallet.

Step 1 – Set up your CoinJar

Set up is free and instant, you can use a CoinJar to hold cash, bitcoin, or hedge against major currencies.

Open a CoinJar

Step 2 – Deposit Cash

We accept deposits via BPAY. BPAY deposits can take 1 – 3 business days so make sure you complete yours before you head off.

Step 3 – Access your cash

There are a few options for accessing the funds in your CoinJar abroad:

illu__account__external__bank-alternateFind a bitcoin ATM

How do bitcoin ATMs work?

  • The ATM checks the current exchange rate for bitcoin in the local currency.
  • It then creates a quote, based on this exchange rate.
  • It displays a  QR code that says how much to pay, and where to pay to.
  • Your CoinJar then converts your money to bitcoin for the quoted amount and sends.
  • That value gets transferred and converted to the local currency instantly.

To note

  • This is still a new technology, don’t build all your travel plans around bitcoin just yet, we recommend this as a powerful option, and a good back up in case of emergencies.
  • You don’t even have to buy bitcoin, you just have to have a CoinJar (or similar service) with money in the account.

illu__account__aeroplaneOur users already use CoinJar to stay connected to their money, wherever they are. Read the about how one of our customers used CoinJar to access her Australian dollars in Japan when her cards were cancelled on a business trip. 

Stuck? Get help.

Next: Learn how to use bitcoin for remittance.

The return of monetary politics

In March, the UK government formally announced plans to welcome and regulate digital currency activity in the UK. The promise of research funding, police training, and pragmatic regulation are welcome first steps, but to what end? The focus in this area tends to fall on questions of innovation, competition, crime, and jobs, but there may be something much broader at stake, namely the question of deciding what the money of tomorrow will look like.

Money at its core is a claim on resources, though we rarely see it in those terms. A pound coin or a twenty-pound note comes infused with notions of power, tradition, identity, and stability, and in the process its core function gets buried. Credit cards and bank accounts go some distance in stripping money back down to its bare functionality, but in a manner that complements rather than replaces existing ideas around money.

Community-issued digital currencies such as bitcoin are less accommodating, not least by their being ‘not backed by anything’. Each bitcoin is a numerical balance in a public ledger and nothing more: no gold reserve, no government pledge, no material referent of any kind, money flattened into a database.

The 2009 launch of bitcoin — an anonymous act of guerilla semiosis from one of the Internet’s darker corners — resulted in two interesting and opposing challenges to the imagination within its community of users. The first was that bitcoin itself was mystified, its digital tokens elevated with metaphors of gold, coinage, and mining, a public ledger praised as the biggest networking innovation since the Internet, and a compelling origin story with an enigmatic lead character. But in the process, for a substantial community of geeks and enthusiasts, ‘money’ more generally was de-mystified. The premise is simple: if money is just a database designed to manage claims on resources, surely there must be a smarter way to run that database? Suddenly every parameter is adjustable. That was not the case with precious metal or paper, the physicality of those forms of money making it easier to leave them unquestioned — this purple piece of paper is worth £20 the same way this pint of milk is worth 50p, nothing about either of these things prompts us to question the nature of value or ownership, it feels natural for something physical.

“…if money is just a database designed to manage claims on resources, surely there must be a smarter way to run that database?”

Once we are talking about tokens in a database the game changes entirely, because everything can be questioned. Consider the political tug-of-war that is the carbon credit system: How many carbon credits should we create? Who should get newly created credits? Should we let them expire? Or accumulate interest? Or maybe erode over time instead? Can a thing own a carbon credit? Once we make something materially fluid it becomes politically fluid as well.

Since Bretton Woods we have had a relatively rigid monetary order built on the US dollar as a global reserve currency, initially backed by gold, and later backed by little more than inertia. Over the last few decades the monetary space has largely been depoliticised — central banks have become largely autonomous, and governments have been stripped of their rights to influence money issuance or interest rates. Most of these changes were welcome, monetary policy remains arbitrary but at least decision making passed from election-focused politicians to a cadre of reassuringly boring technocrats.

The financial crisis prised the clamshell of monetary politics back open. There are two ways to increase the money supply: get banks to lend more (thus creating debt-based money) or issue new monetary tokens (aka ‘printing money’). As interest rates hit zero and post-crisis economies yearned for monetary stimulus, central banks found themselves contorting to do what was always presumed to be illegal — arbitrarily printing more money.

While the revival of central bank activism addresses the panicked and practical question — how can we stimulate the economy right now — the digital currency space has been gestating in the background, a political meditation on more fundamental questions around money, albeit now framed as a grand database that records our collective claims on resources.

When creating a claim on resources, who should initially get that claim? The monetarist consensus dictated that nobody had an unearned right to claim resources, and money created via the lending process should be sufficient. While largely successful, this also led to the systemically unstable link between money supply and debt levels. That bedrock of debt was a key ingredient in the financial crisis, and the quantitative easing which followed has left monetary consensus in tatters.

As a result, more heterodox solutions are rising to prominence. Neo-metallists (gold bugs) take the atavistic view that value is still something we dig out of the ground, while neo-chartalists (such as Positive Money) argue that money should be issued directly by an arm of the state. Both have seen a post-crisis resurgence. Meanwhile the bitcoin protocol awards newly created units of money to those who support its payment infrastructure, while other digital currencies have experimented with awarding newly created units to community members, a sponsoring organisation, renewable energy producers, or even forestry projects.

Token allocation is not the only big question posed by virtual currency schemes: should a new money system be managed by a central authority or a dispersed community? The former promises efficiency, the latter resilience and transparency. Is money a public good, infrastructure, or a competitive service? Should transactions be free? Or reversible? And what kinds of messages or programmatic functions should we allow people to latch on to their money?

But the greatest debate around digital money hinges on its relationship to identity and access, how do we find the balance between transparency and privacy? We can imagine two extremes — a perfectly anonymous digital cash system (still a largely theoretical proposition) — or a hyper-transparent social currency where all transactions, participants, and infrastructure are in the public domain. The challenge, as with all the other big questions, is finding where in the spectrum in between we want to land.

This article was originally posted on www.respublica.org.uk on 25 March 2015.

The best bitcoin I’ve ever spent

I’ve bought a lot of stuff with bitcoin. Coffee, groceries, clothes… all very necessary but also quite ordinary. Last week, I signed up for a membership at Hubud, a co-working space in Bali and I paid for it with bitcoin. It was honestly the best bitcoin purchase I’ve ever made.

Why? The membership was priced in $USD, but since I was paying with bitcoin, I didn’t need to bother with the conversion fees. It was also instant, so my spot was confirmed immediately, instead of having to wait 3 days for my money to go through. It was also just awesome using bitcoin in an international transfer, because it worked so smoothly.

But the real reason was because I was just so productive at Hubud. Remote work is something I’ve never done before, so I was a little skeptical of how much work I’d get done, but it was worth it. I’m no digital nomad, and I was only there for a week but the change of scenery is refreshing from the big city life.

Several others from the CoinJar Team have visited Hubud before and here’s our top 8 reasons why you should too.

Bamboo is commonly used in Bali for its strength and sustainability as a building material. It’s a nice touch.
  1. No shoes
    Before you even step into the co-working space, you’re invited to leave your shoes at the door. Even though this may make you a little uncomfortable at first, it does lend to the comfortable, warm and welcoming vibe Hubud has.
  2. Better for your health
    Bali is hot and humid, and Hubud is an open-air working space. If you’re accustomed to climate controlled offices, prepare to sweat and embrace the natural fresh air. It’s a good reset for the body. And when you just can’t hack it, there’s an air-conditioned room.
  3. Convenience food
    There is a healthy organic cafe in Hubud with a salad bar, juices, smoothies, desserts and coffee. When it’s right next to you and so well-priced, healthy food choices are that much easier to make. Bali is known for its raw vegan and natural food offerings, and the cafe is Hubud is no exception. I highly recommend the two litre bottle of watermelon and lime juice and the coconut bliss balls.
  4. Insane global networking
    The people in Hubud are truly one of a kind. From Silicon Valley to Berlin, the members are all passionate professionals working on interesting projects. There are freelancers, entrepreneurs, career-shifters, startup owners, creative professionals, NGO workers, writers… It’s a networking haven, without the pretentiousness and awkward moments.
  5. The vibe
    Bali is a spiritual place, whether you’re at a tourist attraction, in a shop or at a co-working space. The vibe is calm, peaceful and other-worldly. It takes about a day or two to adjust to it, but it is seriously relaxing and quiet. And the view’s not too bad either.
  6. Visit monkeys during your lunch break
    I am not kidding, I didn’t believe it myself. Hubud is right next to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a big hit with tourists. If anyone pesters you about going overseas to work remote, you can tell them you’re going to Bali to hang out with a bunch of monkeys.
  7. Perspective
    It’s travel, work and play all in one trip. Enough said.
  8. Hubud accepts bitcoin
    And it makes a lot of sense for them. In fact, during my visit, I met several business owners in Bali who were looking into accepting bitcoin. When I asked Hubud’s co-founders Peter and Steve about why they accept bitcoin, their answer makes it very clear why.

“Our members operate and work transnationally and any way that they can pay for things easily and with low/no fees is huge for them and therefore us! One of our members, Gary, started the Bitcoin movement in Bali and we host Bitcoin Filter meet-up every Tuesday at Hubud.”

The need for bitcoin is most prevalent to me when I travel. The fees I pay for my traditional banking cards are exorbitant and I wish I didn’t have to rely on something that’s failed me so many times before. Especially for an island like Bali that attracts thousands of tourists a month, bitcoin just makes sense. Use cases like Hubud are prime examples of how powerful a global currency with instant and practically free transactions can be.

Still don’t get it? Read more on how bitcoin will change the unbanked economies, paying with bitcoin and accepting bitcoin as a business.

The outdoor seating area faces rice paddies


Article by Zhoe Low— Communications Strategist at CoinJar. Tweet her @zhoelow

Photos by Carol Da Riva available here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Introducing CoinJar Touch for Android

Today, we launched our long-awaited mobile application for Android – CoinJar Touch. The native app mirrors the CoinJar web platform and lets you manage your CoinJar on-the-go, wherever you are.

CoinJar Touch is designed to be your everyday bitcoin payments app, convenient for instant payments to others and quicker transfers between your accounts.

Download CoinJar Touch for Android

 

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Features:

• Pay instantly to CoinJar usernames, Bitcoin addresses and scanned QR codes.
• Request payments from anyone via email.
• Store funds without volatility in Hedged Accounts (GBP, EUR, USD and AUD)
• Transfer between bitcoin and cash with low fees.
• Withdraw funds to supported bank accounts¹.
• Secure your CoinJar with a passcode and Data Wipe.
• View your balances with AUD, GBP, BTC, EUR and USD as a value reference currency.
• Get push notifications for deposits, payment requests and confirmations.
¹ Currently available to Australian customers only.

Install CoinJar Touch for Android

Need help? Take a look at our Support Knowledge Base article for CoinJar Touch.

For any more information about CoinJar services, please contact our in-house support team. We’d also like to hear your thoughts and feedback on our products and features on Twitter. For promotions, offers, product launches and more, subscribe to CoinJar’s monthly newsletter.

Now every Australian business accepts bitcoin

Today we’re pleased to announce the general release of CoinJar Swipe, Australia’s first bitcoin debit card. With Swipe, you can spend your bitcoin anywhere that accepts EFTPOS and withdraw your bitcoin as cash at any ATM in Australia.

CoinJar Swipe is convenient, easy to use, and built so you can use your bitcoin to pay for the everyday things, like your morning coffee and the bills. If you live in Australia and have a verified identity, sign in and order your first bitcoin debit card.

Order CoinJar Swipe

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  • To order, there is a one time fee of $29.
  • To be eligible for CoinJar Swipe, you must be a verified CoinJar user.
    Not verified? Visit our identity verification portal.
  • Once ordered, your card will be delivered within 7-10 business days.
  • For more detailed information visit support.

Last year in September, we invited 100 members of our early access program, CoinJar DNA, to beta-test Swipe. It was well-received and using the beta-test feedback, our team was able to refine and improve Swipe for you today.

Here’s what our beta-testers thought of Swipe:

“With Swipe, I can now use Bitcoin to buy just about anything. The other day, I went out to the local Woolies and bought my lunch with bitcoin. Really, at the end of the day, I want to do everything that I already do with other currency, plus more with Bitcoin.”
Prashan Paramanathan, CEO, Chuffed.org

“I do like the fact that I can load my BTC onto the card and access the money immediately, as opposed to waiting for the obligatory 2 banking days to receive funds in my bank account. The process was pretty straightforward, receiving the card, activating it, loading money onto it, using the card to buy groceries.  All very easy. It’s definitely a step in the right direction to make Bitcoin more accessible for the masses.”
Daniel, DNA member

“Seeing it used in such a mundane context made it feel so real, and I started feeling really excited about the possibilities in this space.” 
Anthony, DNA member

“My favourite moment of using Swipe would be the time I ordered a meal and had my bank keycard fail. It would’ve been awkward had my Swipe not come to save the day.”
Gerard, DNA member

We look forward to hearing what you think of CoinJar Swipe. Share your feedback with us on Twitter or send us a support request.

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Order CoinJar Swipe

For more information, including the Product Disclosure Statement and the fee schedule for this product, visit our Support Knowledge Base article.

Introducing Hedged Accounts

Today, we’re excited to launch CoinJar’s newest feature for the everyday bitcoin user, Hedged Accounts. Hedged Accounts protect you from fluctuations in the bitcoin price by pegging your bitcoin to AUD, GBP, EUR or USD. They are available to be added to your CoinJar now.

Open a Hedged Account

 

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Hedged Accounts are great for people who want to start out with bitcoin for practical purposes but don’t want to manage it actively or worry about price volatility.
– Asher Tan, CEO

This new feature is particularly useful for businesses or charities that accept bitcoin as they can make business plans and budget without worrying about its volatility. Hedging their bitcoin gives them the assurance that their funds are stable, without having to transfer it to cash.

How Hedged Accounts work

A CoinJar Hedged Account allows you to hold a variable amount of bitcoins that have a fixed value in terms of an alternative currency (GBP, AUD, EUR, USD). This protects your bitcoin from price fluctuations.

CoinJar Hedged Accounts Infographic - AUD-2

 Need help? Read the Frequently Asked Questions article on our CoinJar Support Knowledge Base.

Introducing CoinJar Touch for iOS

Today, our team is excited to launch our redesigned mobile application for iOS – CoinJar Touch. CoinJar Touch is an everyday bitcoin payments app that lets you manage your CoinJar on-the-go, wherever you are. The app will be familiar to you as it mirrors CoinJar’s simple and easy to use web platform.

Using CoinJar Touch, you’ll be able to make instant payments to others and quicker transfers between your accounts. We built this because we believe you should have control over your money, wherever you are.

Download CoinJar Touch for iOS

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Features:
• Pay instantly to CoinJar usernames, Bitcoin addresses and scanned QR codes.
• Request payments from anyone via email.
• Transfer between bitcoin and cash with low fees.
• Withdraw funds to supported bank accounts¹.
• Secure your CoinJar with a passcode, Touch ID and Data Wipe.
• Sign up or sign in with 1Password integration.
• Store your bitcoin with AUD or GBP as a value reference currency.
• Get push notifications for deposits, payment requests and confirmations.
¹ Currently available to Australian customers only.

Install CoinJar Touch in the App Store

“We’ll be launching CoinJar Touch for Android shortly as well. Mobile is important for mainstream Bitcoin adoption because it’s accessible and reflective of the global trends. Mobile penetration has exceeded desktop computing and this is especially true in developing economies. Just like everything else CoinJar builds, CoinJar Touch is tailored to international markets.”
– Asher Tan, CEO

“We’re not only competing with other payment companies, but the physical wallet. Even with the extra benefits, like paying contacts and sending payment requests, paying via bitcoin must be fast, reliable and as easy to understand as paying with a card.”
– Cade Diehm, Creative Director

Need help? Take a look at our Support Knowledge Base article for CoinJar Touch.

For any more information about CoinJar services, please contact our in-house support team. We’d also like to hear your thoughts and feedback on our products and features on Twitter. For promotions, offers, product launches and more, subscribe to CoinJar’s monthly newsletter.

Our UK submission to the HM Treasury

On 3 December, we made a submission in response to the UK government’s economic and finance ministry’s call for information on digital currencies.

In an effort to make Britain the global centre of financial innovation, the HM Treasury’s consultation focussed the function of digital currencies as a payment method, rather than as a speculative investment. As published on their website, the call for information is lead by their desire to promote innovation and competition in the banking sector, learn more about digital currencies and hear the public’s views on regulation.

As suggested, our submission responded to the 13 questions posed by the HM Treasury around benefits, risks and regulation of digital currencies. Here are some excerpts:

  • Some of the benefits of digital currencies are felt at a functional, use-case level: the speed, efficiency, and flexibility of transactions. These are dependent on efficient gateways, reasonable tax treatment, and market depth. Some benefits are felt at a more systemic level, the resilience and transparency of a public secured ledger, and these are only meaningful if the currency is being used.
  • Bitcoin poses a huge challenge to international financial products which have remained stubbornly uncompetitive, most notably remittances, as well as basic banking for underbanked populations in both developing and developed economies.

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  • The biggest boon policymakers could give to the industry would be to find a way to give the industry access to banking services. The largest barrier to business in the UK is the blanket refusal of British banks to provide banking services to companies like ours.
  • Most user risks of digital currencies are comparable to the risks inherent in storing national currencies in an online bank account. Digital currencies do not offer an effective channel for money laundering or terrorist financing, given the permanent digital trail transactions leave in the public ledger.

“In communities such as Bitcoin these risks are actively tackled by researchers, developers, bounty hunters and ‘white hat’ hackers who endeavour to educate users, fix code vulnerabilities and document incidents of fraud and theft. In this sense the community, like any open source community, is already self-policing.”

  • For most digital currencies, it is effectively impossible to regulate the protocol that underlies the technology, The possible unintended consequence of this is that it could saddle early-stage technology companies with legal and regulatory costs that render them uncompetitive. Regulators should instead work with community players to ensure that the currency’s infrastructure is being responsibly managed and used.

If you have a moment, read the submission in full here. In November, we also made a submission to the Australian Senate, which can be found here.

Thank you for your support as we expand internationally to offer you a better global service.

A bitcoin night out with Tatiana Moroz

When Tatiana dropped by Melbourne for The Bitcoin Address in November, it was a great excuse for a girls’ night out – but with bitcoin!

I met Tatiana right outside Grumpy’s Green, a charming, bitcoin-friendly pub familiar to the local Melbourne music scene. She bounces out of her cab with a cheery smile, laughs about her public transport mishap and settles in for the night out to explore Melbourne with us.

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While we browsed the secondhand bookstores and thrift shops along Brunswick Street, I chatted to Tatiana about her experience as an international singer/songwriter and a bitcoin advocate in the New York artist community. It’s clear how passionate she is about cryptocurrency and what it means for musicians. It’s not a surprise, after all, she started the very first musical artist coin – Tatiana Coin – which owners can use to exclusively access Tatiana’s music, memorabilia, merchandise and gigs.

“It’s about being innovative use of the blockchain. Bitcoin can do so much for everyone, but for artists, there are so many opportunities. I know that bitcoin has some really solid support and interest in the community, but I also know that just like in the states, there will be plenty of people who don’t know about it yet!  In between hiking, swimming, and checking out the sites, I hope to have many opportunities to share how bitcoin has improved so many lives around the wall and is a truly international phenomena. “

For Tatiana, music is a powerful platform to communicate the power of bitcoin to people because it’s a universal language. And for this very same reason, she wrote the ‘Bitcoin Jingle’, a song about why she started using bitcoin. My favourite line from the song reveals Tatiana’s strong anti-war stance in her bitcoin campaign, ‘I didn’t want to give any of my money to a nation based on war. I wanted to be free, nothing holding me back from where I want to go.’

“The ‘Bitcoin Jingle’ started out as a way to sell a concept but the more that I became familiar with how this technology could impact society, the more it inspired my creative spirit.”

We had Tatiana perform and sing the ‘Bitcoin Jingle’ for The Bitcoin Address Melbourne and Sydney and it was a hit! When Sam (our Marketing Lead) and I were organising #TBA14, we wanted it to be special, and it was important that we used different forms of communication, and Tatiana really took it home for us. More on the event here, including bitcoin expert Andreas M. Antonopoulos’ address on the potential of the blockchain and what it means for the unbanked.


Tatiana at The Bitcoin Address with bitcoin law expert, Pamela Morgan. 

I used my CoinJar Swipe for most of the night and it was especially helpful once we started moving around. Tatiana thought it was incredibly useful because it allowed anyone to spend bitcoin anywhere that accepts EFTPOS. She was using the Airbitz App and while Melbourne does have its fair share of bitcoin-accepting businesses, the Swipe card made it much easier to live a bitcoin-lifestyle. She wanted one straightaway! I am counting down the days till Swipe is available to the public.

We covered a lot of ground in our girls’ night out, from our backgrounds, our travelling adventures to being women in tech. Tatiana formed part of our speaker dream team for The Bitcoin Address, but she was also great company while we were on the road.

If you have any questions for Tatiana, follow her on Twitter at @queentatianaofoz.

20141121_5637Setting Tatiana up with a CoinJar account

20141121_5672Paying for our drinks at Grumpy’s Green…

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That right there, is gelato bought with bitcoin!

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Showing off my Swipe card to Tatiana! And right before we had a lengthy discussion with our cab driver about bitcoin. It was fun to have someone to partake in my bitcoin rant with me!

20141124_1206Thank you to our dream speaker team for The Bitcoin Address – Tatiana (and her guitar with QR code!), Pamela Morgan and Andreas M. Antonopoulos. It was the Australian bitcoin community’s highlight event of the year!