Virtual money

Digital currency has arrived, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay and others. They let you spend electronic money in real shops and online. Of course that money belongs to the payment company and it's tied to your real identity. Thankfully a free, open source alternative existed long before any of these newcomers. It's called "Bitcoin".

 

Bitcoin is like virtual gold or cash, with no need for accounts and no banks making an unfair profit, just for storing your money. There's no central authority. You store Bitcoin yourself, in your personal wallet. Nobody "owns" or controls the Bitcoin system, it's public property, designed to be fair and secure. It puts you in charge of your own virtual finances.

 

Who accepts Bitcoin?

CeX (UK), Dell, Etsy, Expedia, Microsoft, PayPal, Virgin Galactic...
and many small or independent businesses around the world.

Living on Bitcoin

 

How does it work?

To use Bitcoin, you download an app for your smartphone or computer, buy some currency for your wallet and spend it wherever Bitcoin is accepted. Or send it to anyone with a wallet, instantly. It's as easy as sending a text or a chat message.

The magic is in the "blockchain". Every Bitcoin user has a copy of the public ledger, or record of transactions. Because this information is public and each copy needs to match, it's extremely difficult to defraud it. Obviously criminals have tried various ways to cheat the system but each time they try, the Bitcoin community fix any issues and it becomes much harder to crack in future. Since its creation in 2008, Bitcoin has been well tested by millions of users.

The coins themselves are not anonymous. Like cash, they have unique numbers and these can be traced. While there's no personal information stored in the ledger and it protects your privacy, just using Bitcoin isn't a good way to hide illegal activities. It's meant to empower law abiding citizens, removing greedy gatekeepers like banks.

As with any currency, there are risks. The value of Bitcoin goes up and down. If your wallet is stolen, with your phone or computer, you're in trouble. Backups are vital and nothing is guaranteed. You're the boss, so guard your cash carefully!

It's sensible to do some homework and read up on the various pros and cons before investing. But if you're after a more "off-the-grid" lifestyle, Bitcoin is well worth considering.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Bitcoin
https://bitcoin.org

Beginner's guide to Bitcoin
http://www.coindesk.com/information
(Threats: Facebook, Google Analytics, Hotjar, Pagefair, Skim Resources, Twitter.)

Bitcoin charted by the New York Stock Exchange
http://time.com/3889775/new-york-stock-exchange-gives-bitcoin-some-mains...
(Threats: Brightcove, Facebook, Google Ads, Optimizely, Revsci.net, Scorecard Research.)

Buy gift cards from major retailers using Bitcoin
https://www.gyft.com/bitcoin
(Threat: Google.)

 

GET THE APPS

Bitcoin Wallet for Android. (Threat: PayPal object for donate button.)
Breadwallet for iOS.
Bitcoin software for Linux, Mac and Windows.