Wednesday, October 1, 2014
As the payments infrastructure continues to expand to accept the alternative crypto-currency bitcoin, prepaid card providers are increasingly enabling bitcoin payments. New alternative currency providers like CoinJar, Azteco, Xoin and Piiko are leveraging the prepaid payments infrastructure to enable bitcoin transactions worldwide.
In Australia, bitcoin exchange CoinJar launched its Swipe prepaid debit card in late September. The card is used to initiate bitcoin transactions over Australia's electronic funds transfer POS network.
"We created Swipe because we simply wanted to make it easier for our customers to spend their bitcoin," said Asher Tan, CoinJar co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. "Swipe demystifies bitcoin and makes it accessible to everyone through a secure platform." Swipe transactions are subject to a 2 percent exchange fee.
Additionally, U.K.-based bitcoin voucher service Azteco and South African bitcoin payments startup Xoin are both targeting the unbanked in Africa with separate prepaid voucher implementations.
"Buying bitcoin is unnecessarily hard," said Akin Fernandez, founder of Azteco, in a statement. "We solve this problem with a simple, fast and elegant solution that's easy for users and easy for vendors."
Azteco's bitcoin prepaid vouchers are purchased in-store with cash and can be redeemed with any bitcoin address. Fernandez said, "Bitcoin is set to change the way people send money globally, and this will be especially powerful and transforming for the third-world diaspora, eliminating the financial network access problems that plague the unbanked, helping them to break out of the poverty cycle."
Meanwhile, Xoin is specifically targeting younger South African consumers, who may be newer to the bitcoin marketplace, with bitcoin-enabled prepaid vouchers and gift cards. Xoin's service includes a pre-loaded wallet with the face value of each voucher.
Xoin leverages the South African BitX exchange and locks in exchange rates in real time. The vouchers are purchased from merchants using cash and customers scan the codes on the vouchers into smartphones. The service is currently Internet-based only.
Last April, prepaid mobile top up service Piiko debuted. The service, designed by bitcoin developer Umbrellab, allows mobile users to purchase prepaid phone minutes with bitcoin. Prepaid phone users in over 100 countries can top up their phone minutes with Piiko's bitwallet.
Fees for Piiko's service vary from country to country. According to its website, Piiko is free for users in the United States, Aruba, Barbados, Burkina Faso, Mali, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Senegal.
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