Jamie Dimon, the boss of JPMorgan recently compared the astronomic rise of Bitcoin to the Dutch ‘tulip mania’ of the 17th Century.
‘There is nothing to support Bitcoin except the hope that you will sell it to someone for more than you paid for it’
is the opinion of Jack Bogle – father of the first index fund.
But, Jamie and Jack might do well to remember that humans love flowers and hope. And a sharing economy.
After hitting a high of US$20,000 in November 2017 the world is caught in the middle of a speculative mania around Bitcoin right now. Unless you have been on Safari for the last five years, the digital currency created by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, is no longer something you are only peripherally aware of.
There are now over 100 hedge funds specializing in cryptocurrencies. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange that trades trillions of dollars of derivative contracts for global commodities every year, became the second exchange to offer Bitcoin futures on the 17th of December 2017. And the number of people using cryptocurrency is up from around 5 million in April, to between 10 and 20 million at the end of 2017.
Joe and Jane Blogs are either investing (and telling everyone else about how clever they are investing), wanting to invest or thinking they should be thinking of investing.
It is becoming harder to admit you don’t know what it is and how it works. Luckily the world have this old fashioned thing called ‘scientists’ to do a good job of sorting that problem right out:
What isn’t so easy?
Finding someone without a stake in the currency advising you to go out and buy in.
For every article mentioning a possible ‘high’ there are five with the word ‘bubble’ everywhere. Then again revolutionary new technology has form with crashes during the early stages. If you compare Bitcoin with, say, the internet, it is developing along a perfectly normal trajectory.
People like tech investor Roger McNamee thinks that 2018 is going to be an important year for Bitcoin. It might very well crash. But if it is big enough it may very well be unstoppable.
If the notorious volatility of the cryptocurrency excites you, this is how you can go about buying your very own bit of madness and sidestep much of the second inherent problem that Bitcoin has: Security.
(For purposes of this post we are assuming that you do not own a supercomputer capable of mining your own bitcoin 🤔)
First things first: Sign up to a Bitcoin Wallet Service
Your options are either Hot (connected to the internet) or Cold (you guessed it NOT connected). The Hot options are generally simple sign-ups – as you would do for any other online activity. The Cold options will plainly involve purchases.
1. An Online Exchange (HOT)
Amongst these Coinbase is the best provider with a secure ‘Vault’ storage option and two-factor authentication.
- User Friendly
- You can buy, sell, exchange, store and trade all in one place
- The Least Secure Wallet Type
- Company has some control over your Funds
- Not supported worldwide yet
- Bad Track record of Similar Services
2. An Online Wallet (HOT)
Like Blockchain for instance.
- Better Track record
- Not as much of a target
- Over 15 million wallets and 100 million transactions
- Supported by many cryptocurrency enthusiasts
- Good interface for mobile and web
- You don’t have ultimate control, 3rd party trust required
- If the company gets hacked you get hacked
- Difficult to make anonymous payments
3. The Software Wallet (HOT)
Electrum is one of the most well-respected desktop storage apps you can find.
- Around since 2011
- Available for mobile
- Easy to use
- Very safe and reliable
- Supports hardware wallets and cold storage
- Two-factor authentication
- Fast and light weight
- Only supported by Android
- Not newby friendly
- Reliance on external servers could be a security threat
4. The Hardware Wallet (COLD)
This is probably more for serious investors (also good for making Joe and Jane Blogs uncomfortable!)
- Extremely safe
- Very mobile
- Good enough for professional investors
- Eliminates counter party risk (losing your bitcoin to the exchange where you bought it)
- Greatly reduces cybersecurity risk
- Supports additional wallets and altcoins
- Not free (Trezor is more expensive than Ledger Nano S)
- More security comes with less usability
5. The Paper Wallet (COLD)
A document that contains all the information you need to generate the private bitcoin keys you need.
Often a QR code that can be scanned
- The most private and strongest security
- Have to be stored in a safe place
- Need to be generated with a clean system such as Linux live CD (incremental complexity and techno know how)
- Less nimble – if bitcoin crashes you may be last to withdraw your currency
There is also Xapo… which is a wallet and a vault and a bitcoin debit card! So you can use Bitcoin ATM’s and spend at merchants across the world… this comes with extra security threats and you won’t be able to manage your Bitcoins without an Internet connection.
Once you have signed up you will be asked to connect your wallet to your bank account, debit card or credit card.
Other steps to ensure safe Bitcoin transactions:
- Be wary of legitimate-looking emails from phishing accounts. Check email address very carefully and do not engage with anyone unless you are absolutely sure who they are. Obviously do not follow any links and do not enter any private details.
- If someone offers you quick profits or trading tips – go on Safari immediately.
- Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
- If you lose your wallet details or your cold storage it is game over.
- Some services will allow you to set a price alert when the bitcoin drops or climbs above or below certain figures.
Now you are ready to buy whole bitcoins… or fractions of a bitcoin and join the revolution.
Have Bitcoin Can Travel? The world of travel lends itself beautifully to the Bitcoin gospel.
Think about it:
All the headaches of currency conversion, ATM withdrawal fees, transaction fees, fraud risk and commissions suddenly disappear when a trip is paid for in Bitcoins.
You can exchange your Bitcoin for local currency through a local exchange.
You can go through border controls without scrutiny regarding the amount of cash you carry.
It reduces the threat of pickpockets
You have a kind of built in insurance with a safe money reserve that is separate to your physical wallet, credit card and cash.
If you have dipped your toes in the Bitcoin pool here is how you can pay for your next holiday with your cryptocurrency:
- CheapAir has been accepting Bitcoin since 2013. They will book flights on all major airlines to all major airports worldwide.
- Spanish travel agency Destinia also accepts Bitcoin.
- Only flying around continental Europe? Book through ABitSky.
- For flights to the Baltics, Russia and Europe book through airBaltic.
- Travellers to North Asia can book Japanese air carrier Peach Aviation.
- Gyft.com sells American Airline, Delta and Southwest gift cards.
- BTCTrip accepts Bitcoin for flight bookings.
- TravelforCoins also accepts Bitcoin for flight bookings.
- You can book flights through BitcoinTravel.
- Travel agencies CheapAir and Destinia also accept Bitcoin payments for hotel bookings.
- Expedia accepts bitcoin for hotel bookings through Coinbase.
- 9flats.com, Airbnb’s European rival headquartered in Berlin, accepts Bitcoin payments for its short-term home rentals.
- Gyft.com sells Hotels.com gift cards
- BTCTrip also accepts Bitcoin for hotel bookings
- Hotelgo24 accepts Bitcoin for hotel bookings.
- TravelforCoins also accepts Bitcoin for hotel bookings.
- BitcoinTravel sells hotel accommodation for Bitcoin.
- Gyft.com sells Royal Caribbean gift cards
- Buy a yacht from BitPremier (Go on. Blow Joe and Jane’s hair right back!)
- Rent a yacht from Denison Yacht Sales
- CheapAir and Destinia also do car rentals.
- CoinFuel will sell you gasoline gift cards in Bitcoin to an array of gas stations across the United States including Shell, BP, Sunoco, and Gulf. They will also sell you Uber gift cards.
- Gyft.com also sell Uber gift cards
For spending and shopping in Bitcoin
- CoinMap will help you locate BitCoin friendly stores and restaurants.
- A BitCoin ATM map can help find places to fill your digital wallet. (A Bitcoin ATM is also known as a BTM.) According to CoinATMRadar, there are 1,140 BTMs in 57 countries across the globe including places like Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, in Barbados’ capital Bridgetown and in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands.
- You could also purchase gift cards on Gyft.com using Bitcoin, which you then use at Groupon and merchants abroad. Gyft allows you to buy an array of gift cards in Bitcoin for eateries such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Whole Foods as well as retailers such as Adidas, Hollister, and Nike, among other vendors.
- BitcoinTravel also provides you with thousands of businesses accepting Bitcoins around the world with an emphasis on merchants that travelers would be likely to use – airport transfers, hotels, tourist attractions and more.
- Use Purse.io on Amazon to create a wishlist linked to a preferred discount. Amazon users can then gift the items for the users in exchange for Bitcoins.
Does it work? Let’s ask Felix
On January 12, 2015 Felix left Berlin. Everyone was telling him Bitcoin was dead. So he decided to travel around the world for 12 months.
Felix’s travel rules
- No banks
- Use Bitcoin first
- Cash only for Bitcoin
- Decide how to store your Bitcoin
And make sure you back up your private keys (Weiss used Trezor and then had a 12 word phrase in indelible ink on paper for deriving his master private key if he lost his wallet).
- Use a smartphone wallet for daily expenditure
Transfer only money that you imminently need to a smartphone wallet (be aware of daily withdrawal limits).
- Use Coinmap to find which businesses accept Bitcoin.
Airbitz also has an integrated map of Bitcoin businesses.
- Connect with people in the community
- Spend at least a few hours researching before going to each destination.
Figure out which businesses (like restaurants and groceries) in your new destination will take Bitcoin and with whom you can exchange for cash. It’s best to put out an ad for your bitcoins on LocalBitcoins at least 48 hours in advance of arrival.
- Be ready to improvise.
Weis did run into problems. Who doesn’t when they travel for 12 months. A BTM might be offline or his LocalBitcoins connection did not show. There were some hungry days. But he also lucked out. In Brazil the local Bitcoin prices were 12% higher than on the exchanges for example… and he speaks often of the interesting conversations with new people.
Hope, flowers, a sharing economy and adventurous new ways to travel. We speak this language.
Bitcoin… we are keeping a beady eye on you.