Most of us have wondered at first: “Why is cryptocurrency even a thing? What is the difference between numbers in a bank account versus numbers on a crypto wallet?”
Banking still relies on technology built in the 1970s and plain old paper trails. Why should we wait days for deposits and withdraws to clear, wire transfers to be sent, and cashier checks to be printed and mailed, when we can email someone around the world in 5 seconds? Finally, institutional banking and government are catching onto that the answer to that problem is cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology.
PayPal was one of the most revolutionizing services that pushed online shopping further after a long stalemate, adding another layer of safety and anonymity between the buyer and the seller (and anybody else trying to take a peak illegally). PayPal was never a currency though, just a payment gateway, providing a debit card linked to your PayPal balance that kept US dollars.
When Bitcoin came around, it brought a novel idea to the table called Proof of Work to make sure that each transaction was legitimate and transparent which is stored on something called the blockchain that anyone could read and be held accountable for. It gave the world of online currencies the chance it needed.
While the whole cryptocurrency field is yet to be accepted by the majority, there are already plenty of real-life use cases for them right now:
Go to Coinatmradar and find the nearest ATM that converts cash into crypto. Crypto ATMs are already serving over 70 countries! This might not appeal to someone who only travels to the local grocery store and back in a large country like the United States. However, for someone living in Europe, where you could drive through two or three countries in a day, it would be greatly convenient to be able to carry only one currency that is accepted everywhere.
Many places are taking crypto-payments, and a good place to start looking to see which physical shops take crypto is http://coinmap.org. In terms of online shops, you might have heard of a few of these places mentioned below:
- Dish Network
And there are hundreds more. You can even shop on Amazon through a portal called Purse.io
Over 45,000 companies are registered at billpayforcoins.com to accept some form of cryptocurrency as payment for your electric bill, gas bill, insurance bill, etc.
Crypto debit cards
There are also a large handful of services offering cryptocurrency debit cards that withdraw directly from your crypto/blockchain account. These typically can only access a few of the major cryptocurrencies, but that is good enough! Do your research if you’re interested in one of these, or wait for a future article comparing several different ones. Beware, there is very high demand, so a long wait time is likely for the more desirable cards.
Each currency has their own accounts stored on the blockchain with the balances and access codes, which can be accessed directly from a phone app. There are specialized apps (Exodus and Jaxx, just to name two) that are built that will access to many different wallets, through one easy to use interface, so paying for gas at a gas station will be as easy as scanning a QR code at the pump with your phone, and then filling up.
There is still a lot of evolution needed in this segment of the market, before mass adoption and every day common use can take place, so keep your expectations tempered for the time being.