Greece moves without cash, Entrepreneurs contemplate bitcoin
Mashable has an article on Greece, Money and Bitcoin, a place that harkens comparison to Cyprus two years past and brings to people’s mind serious issues on the nature and characteristics of money.
Much like Cyprus then, it has less to do with Cypriots themselves actually engaging in bitcoin activity but more of people around the world being alarmed at the turn of events and looking for ways to protect themselves. (Often Gold and Bitcoins)
Greece is in a sense a closer problem to home for some in Europe, as the can being kicked down is slowly running out of road.
It would also bring to view of the general populace the efficacy of digital currencies in legally sidestepping capital controls (more immediately at the bank atm level) which has been contemporary capital issues of late.
For the past two weeks, people across Greece have asked two questions on the phone with their friends waiting at ATMs: Is there a line? And does it have money?
The long lines at money machines have emerged as a key symbol of a nation in crisis. Since June 29, capital controls, designed to keep money within Greek borders, have restricted daily withdrawals to 60 euros per day. It has wreaked havoc on daily life in a country where most people pay for nearly everything in cash.
It’s also led people to devise creative ways to game the system.
“My parents go to the ATM just before midnight, then get back in line and withdraw again at 10 past,” said 18-year-old Anna Chatziparisi, a student. Other tips being spread among people include avoiding ATMs with no lines in busy areas — they likely don’t have money — and keeping an eye out for machines in uncommon spots, such as inside hospitals, schools and supermarkets.
Greeks are also loading up credit and debit cards because they fear a bail-in, a situation where Greece would skim money from people’s deposits to avoid a banking system collapse as happened in Cyprus in 2013. Newspapers have floated the idea of a possible “kourema” – the Greek word for “haircut” – of 30% on accounts over 8,000 euros when banks reopen.
The capital controls are also sparking entrepreneurs to come up with innovative workarounds.
On Saturday, Spanish startup Bitchain installed Greece’s first two-way bitcoin ATM. The virtual currency is not tied to geography or government-run financial systems, which means users aren’t restricted to capital control limits. And because the machine is two-way, people who use the virtual currency can both buy and sell bitcoins and euros.
The machine, located at an Athens-based startup and coworking space called The Cube, has a withdrawal limit of 1,000 euros. For now, the machine does not charge a commission for each transaction.
“The freedom bitcoin gives you is greater than the freedom euros give you right now,” said 23-year old Bitchain representative Adrian Verde at a gathering Saturday of a dozen bitcoin entrepreneurs who had flocked to Greece to discuss increasing bitcoin use here. “Everyone presumes that a bank won’t fail them, but right now has demonstrated that banks can’t be trusted because people can’t get their own money.”
Verde dubbed bitcoin “Greece’s Plan B.” If there was a similar crisis with a bitcoin-based currency, he added, people would not be restricted from accessing their funds. Demand for bitcoin in Europe has picked up in recent weeks, shooting up 500% in Greece alone. About 20 people made 2,000 euros worth of bitcoin transactions on Bitchain’s machine on Saturday, Verde said. Bitchain’s ATM brings the number of bitcoin kiosks in Greece to four, with three installed just this weekend. The first came to Greece less than a month ago.