Greenbacks. Moolah. Cash. Bitcoin?
Money, an ever-present need, has gone through many changes, from livestock to the U.S. Federal Reserve Note to today's digital currency. Whether it is earning, spending or saving, we use money. Bitcoin, a digital currency, is the new kid on the block.
Ernesto Jimenez, Twin Ports entrepreneur and owner of SoberPro, a local designated-driver delivery service, is a proponent of bitcoin as well as other altcoins, or cryptocurrencies. His business, which offers sober drivers to bring people home in their own cars, can be paid in the traditional manner of credit card and cash. It also accepts bitcoin.
"The biggest thing about bitcoin are the transaction fees," said Jimenez. "With Square (a mobile credit-card reader) and such, it's based on a percentage. So at 2.75 percent, if we make a $100 transaction, they're going to take $2.75. If we take a million-dollar transaction at 2.75 percent, that's a pretty penny. Now with bitcoin, it doesn't matter how much money is changing hands."
"Bitcoin transaction fees are usually around 4 cents," said Clyde Raymond Whitledge, a computer programmer and local expert on bitcoin. This is much lower than traditional credit card fees, which commonly add 3-5 percent to the cost of any product. Many small businesses will offer a 3-5 percent discount to a buyer using bitcoins for avoiding the traditional fees.
With these potential savings, coupled with the online appeal of security and anonymity, bitcoin is gaining an increased presence for the average consumer and retailer. Retailers such as Home Depot, CVS and Target now accept bitcoin as a valid form of payment at many locations, though not yet in the Twin Ports.
There are also digital gift card providers such as Gyft and eGifter. Both companies have apps available that allow purchasing digital gift cards directly with bitcoin. Many large chain businesses such as Best Buy and Applebee's have egift cards available. Both gift-card sellers offer greater rewards for using bitcoin than they do for traditional credit and debit card purchases.
Jimenez thinks putting the control of money back into the hands of those to whom it belongs, as opposed to the banks, can be a great help to pulling people out of poverty.
"I have heard we are in an economic crisis since I was 12 years old," said Jimenez, "Constantly being told it is my future, well, they're right. I see this as a way to bring wealth back into the community."
The potential savings and the ease at which one can collect Satoshis, the smallest fraction of a bitcoin, are a couple of the reasons Jimenez sees the future of bitcoin as one that helps eliminate poverty.
Bitcoin faucets, so-called because they drip Satoshis from a network, similar to how a bathroom sink may have a leaky faucet, is one way to collect bitcoin. Jimenez estimates he collects about $14 a month in altcoins, either through bitcoin faucets or by connecting to networks to earn various other cryptocurrencies which then can be exchanged for bitcoin. This is all money he earns by simply allowing his home desktop computer to connect to the required networks and run the needed programs by playing simple games or entering "Captcha" phrases.
"If I can get $14 a month on my computer, what if 30,000 people in Duluth did that?" he said. "That's $420,000 a month being brought into the city."