A number of Canberra businesses are embracing bitcoin as part of their daily operations proving the digital currency is not just for dubious purchases on hidden networks.
The owner of the V Spot Café in Civic Chrissie Wittich said the “novelty aspect” of bitcoin appealed to her, but the currency has come to suit her business model and generate interest in the business.
“We do quite a few things different here and bitcoin was just another one of those things at first,” she said.
“As a new business it was good to have different options available to customers.”
While the bitcoin facilities at the café are rarely used by customers, Ms Wittich said the technology creates a lot of interest in the café and talk amongst customers.
“It’s been received with lots of interest by customers, mainly by those people who are simply surprised that bitcoin is a real currency,” she said
“Customers often say ‘oh I’ve heard of bitcoin before’, or ‘are you telling me this is a real thing’.”
Ms Wittich said she spends a lot of time explaining how the system actually works to customers although the matter of payment was relatively straightforward and easy.
“I’ve got a tablet that has a point of sale program on it provided by a company based in Melbourne,” she said.
“I just process the transaction exactly as I would a credit card transaction”
“They have to have an ewallet on their device which allows their bitcoins to be transferred into my own ewallet.”
Ms Wittich said she hopes bitcoin becomes a more popular alternative method of payment in Canberra as it enables small businesses to save money.
“Bitcoin allows us to cut out the middle man and save on credit card transactions fees,” she said.
“There’s a relatively small cost to set it up too, less than what it cost us to set up our EFTPOS system”
The outdoor based Sly Fox café in O’Connor is another Canberra café with a bitcoin terminal for payment, which was set up by the owner with the assistance of a regular customer.
Commuters in Canberra can also pay for their public transport with bitcoin thanks to ACTION Buses’ new MyBus 2.0 applications.
The bitcoin capability was introduced by Canberra based software developers Zakaria Bouguettaya and Andrew Clapham, who have described themselves as strong supporters of the digital currency.
Mr Bouguettaya said bitcoin is generally used by a younger demographic which has particular benefits for Canberra businesses.
“We’ve seen with MyBus application that many people have bitcoin but don’t quite know what to do with it, so from a business perspective it’s a great way to leverage a disposable income,” he said.
But outside of Canberra, the digital currency faces an uncertain future.
The legality of the currency is disputed by many nations with Iceland and Vietnam banning the currency.
In March, the US Government’s Internal Review Service (IRS) decided to classify bitcoin as property, which means that a transaction is considered a taxable event.
Bitcoin was valued at more than US$1000 in November but stabilised below the $500 mark in April following the IRS announcement.