The road to broader adoption and an increasing value of Bitcoin can take multiple paths and requires a growing demand for the legacy cryptocurrency. Whether that comes from more merchants and consumers using Bitcoin for everyday transactions or last resort assurances against inflationary fiat regimes, alternative methods are emerging that are designed to ingratiate Bitcoin further into native transaction formats.
In particular, services like Bitrefill, Bitcart, Azteco, and OpenDime present some compelling applications and methods for wielding Bitcoin through conventional fiat avenues. So, what exactly are they?
Bitrefill is a service for topping up mobile phones and gift cards that can be used with more than 1,000 businesses across the world. The idea is to transfer BTC and several other cryptocurrencies (e.g., Litecoin, Dash, Ether) to vouchers and gift cards that are widely compatible with conventional fiat rails.
Users can fill up phone vouchers and pay bills anywhere using crypto, and gift card support includes Amazon, Google Play, Hotels.com, and the Apple App Store. Bitrefill offers an avenue for spending Bitcoin as a standard fiat currency, is compatible with the Lightning Network (LN), and over 130,000 customers have used the service.
Bitcart provides a similar service to Bitrefill, except for that it explicitly focuses on Amazon gift cards and emphasizes their acceptance of payments via Bitcoin’s LN. Bitcart Amazon gift cards are available at a 10 percent discount, and no fiat services are accepted for payment — only Bitcoin.
Amazon gift cards can even be exchanged for other gift cards on Amazon. Cards are typically received within 12 confirmations on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Aztec.co is another Bitcoin voucher service designed to reduce the technical barriers to accessing Bitcoin by enabling users to buy a voucher at convenience stores — just like topping up a mobile phone — and subsequently just enter the information on the voucher into the Azteco.co website to receive your Bitcoin instantly.
Services like Azteco have some intriguing long-term implications for the broader adoption of Bitcoin by the mainstream as they target local communities with a familiar and straightforward concept. No need to access an online exchange or P2P marketplace — just a convenience store.
OpenDime is unique among the alternative services listed above and is a clever method to express Bitcoin in a physical form as cash, securely. Functioning as the first ‘Bitcoin bearer bond,’ OpenDime consists of various types of encrypted USB sticks for spending and passing around Bitcoin using a sealed private key in the device.
Commonly referenced as ‘cypherpunk credit sticks,’ OpenDime sticks are an innovative method for converting an abstract digital cash into physical cash. Any holder can check the balance of a stick and send funds to its address. However, to use the device, users need to poke a hole in the stick that changes the circuitry, alters the flash memory, and unlocks the private key to spend the bitcoins on the credit stick. Counterparties will not accept an OpenDime stick that has clearly been used.
Compelling applications of OpenDime include more flexible paper wallets, untraceable physical Bitcoin transactions that are not recorded on the blockchain, and secure gifting of Bitcoin.
The continual evolution of Bitcoin will drive an unfolding ecosystem of tools for maintaining its censorship-resistance, property assurances, and payment capabilities. The LN is propelling Bitcoin to a new application design space, and alternative services for wielding the legacy cryptocurrency are rapidly arising.