Bitcoin debit card launched
Staff Reporter 2014-07-24 15:27 (GMT+8)
Consumers can now use a bitcoin debit card issued by ANX Bitcoin Exchange to make purchases at retailers and online merchants and withdraw cash at ATMs globally, as the virtual peer-to-peer currency is seeing its appeal among speculators fade as its usage for payment expands.
Ken Lo, CEO and co-founder of the Hong Kong-based ANX Bitcoin Exchange, told Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald that the launch of debit cards marks the first time the virtual currency has been integrated into the traditional banking system.
“With this debit card, you can make purchases at 30 million stores around the world, Lo said. He added that users can also make cash withdrawals using the card at ATMs in 200 countries.
The release of the debit cards comes at a time when the price of the virtual currency has plummeted from US$1,147 a coin to US$620 in less than half a year, and when more companies are allowing consumers to shop using bitcoins.
On July 18, Dell announced it will allow shoppers in the United States to use bitcoins to buy all of its products, a practice that it might extend later to overseas markets, including China, according to the newspaper. Apple had previously announced that it will allow consumers to shop at its app store using the virtual currency.
As bitcoins migrate from the virtual world to the real world, concerns have arisen about the virtual currency being used for money laundering.
“Compared to underground banks, using bitcoins for money laundering is not as easy,” Lo said, as ANX subjects trades in the currency to harsher scrutiny than banks.
ANX has measures in place to prevent money laundering using bitcoins, including asking customers to provide documentation for identity and residence and even of income if the amounts involved are big, according to Lo.
ANX will report any suspicious cases to the Joint Financial Intelligence Unit.
Asked about the challenges facing bitcoins as a vehicle for payment, Lo said regulators are monitoring and controlling bitcoin transactions.
He said that bitcoins were invented initially to be used as a vehicle for payment that applies around the world, in place of real currencies, and acknowledged that the wave of speculation in bitcoins bode ill for its development.
Currently, a majority of regulators do not recognize bitcoins as a real currency and ban banking institutions from conducting businesses using the virtual currency.
ANX, however, has entered into a partnership with one European bank and is in final talks with two other European banks and a bank in Asia, according to Lo.
Asked about how to predict the price of bitcoins, Lo said that while a higher demand than supply for bitcoins will push up prices, the virtual currency will not rapidly jump in value as it did last year.
He predicted that prices of bitcoins will stabilize, adding that the development will help popularize bitcoins among consumers.