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Money 2020: Bitcoin races for crypto recognition and adoption in US

Friday 19 April 2019 | 08:10 AM CET

Is the world prepared to adopt crypto payments? Amelie Arras shares some real facts about Bitcoin usage across the US

In 2018, in the quest to best demonstrate the real-world challenges of everyday transactions, Money20/20 and Fintech Finance put regional financial systems such as crypto, cash, mobile, card, and “wildstyle” to the test. The race started in Istanbul on the 31st of May with the final destination being the Money20/20 Big Top stage, and with contenders having one goal: to be crowned the Payments Race Champion.

Each racer was only allowed to use a single form of payment for the duration of the race to pay for their travel and expenses. Amelie was one of the competitors for the 2018 Europe edition, however she took the same challenge in the US and South East Asia, also. Today she shares the journey she had in the US, before Money 20/20 Vegas.

The first time I heard about the Payments Race was in Copenhagen in 2017 at Money20/20 Europe”, Amelie told us, and you could see her determination to take part to the experiment from the excitement with which she recalls: “I knew from the start I had to give it a try and enrol in the next edition”. Amelie is a big advocate for greater inclusion of women in payments and fintech, therefore arguments such as the lack of woman racers in the previous edition and her innate desire for travelling, adventure and excitement in life, enabled Amelie to “squeeze” herself into participating in the payments race.

If we weren’t convinced by her determination, her next comment removed all doubt: “when Ali Paterson, the organiser, asked me what payments method I wanted, I said whatever is the most difficult”. Nevertheless, “I did not know what was waiting for me. He said ok, I give you Bitcoin”. Amelie accepted, and after she hung up she started dancing in the office to celebrate and singing “I was going to Money20/20 in “LAS VEGAS BABY”. After a few moments of excitement, she realised she didn’t know too much about Bitcoin.

Therefore, the next step was to do some online research on this topic. Just by browsing she realised that Bitcoin was a really complex topic and most of the information she found on it was technical. “I can tell you that this was not an easy and pleasant read, some things were good and make sense, but I found it quite complex” she recalls. Then by a stroke of luck Amelie discovered and watched Banking on Bitcoin, a really informative documentary on Bitcoin available on Netflix.

This helped her better understand the concept and she soon opened her first Bitcoin wallet using Blockchain.com and Wirex. The organiser of the race transferred “my first Bitcoin on this newly created wallet (equivalent of GBP 4 at the time)”. However, the first challenges would soon start to show up: “back in 2017 a few shops accepted Bitcoin” and “I was told by the organiser I could not use the Wirex card because I had to spend Bitcoin direct without changing it into USD”. As we were not too familiar with how Wirex card worked, Amelie continued: “Wirex provides an account with both traditional currencies and cryptocurrencies linked to a Visa card, this is great as it allows to convert and spend cryptocurrency wherever Visa is accepted”.

The actual journey started in Toronto, and the general feeling that we felt from Amelie’s story was that “Bitcoin is in its infancy, and this is reflected through the low acceptancy rate across America”. Moreover, “there are many companies that announce crypto payments acceptance to get press coverage but actually do not implement the payment method itself”. As a coffee addict myself I could perfectly understand Amelie who told us that, the morning she arrived in Columbus “I was dying for a coffee, and I thought that Starbucks accepted Bitcoin as I read this in an announcement made by the company. Unfortunately when I went there, they told me no. Their face was priceless when I asked if I could pay in Bitcoin, they hadn’t even heard of it. I was very disappointed with the company”.

On the other hand, she discovered that there are many cryptocurrency aficionados and a community willing to help support her in her endeavour. “I went on reddit and Facebook groups and found some Bitcoin meet ups in Toronto.” One of the guys she met during those discussions acted as a travel agent and helped Amelie buy a bus ticket to Columbus using Bitcoin.

Moreover, in Denver, while she was queuing at Subway and asked a lady by complete hazard if she could pay her in Bitcoin to buy her a sandwich, Amelie was struck by amazement when the lady accepted. “It was the first time I had approached a complete stranger who did not reply what is Bitcoin”.

As the old Latin proverb goes “fortune favours the brave”, during the trip, Amelie found a website cheapair.com which accepted payment in Bitcoin online. “This seemed like once in a lifetime chance, therefore I had to book all my flights and hotel staying for the rest of the competition”.

For the last three years, Bitcoin has experienced sharp price fluctuations, and as such there are many experts in the payment industry who have emphasised the cryptocurrency’s highly volatile nature. To stress this aspect, Amelie mentioned that during her journey, she was checking her wallet regularly and “it was really strange as my balance seemed to go down very slowly although I was spending. Indeed the price of Bitcoin had steadily increased by over 30% during the week I travelled. So I finished the race with almost as much money as when I started”.

We spent an amazing afternoon talking with Amelie, and as the interview was drawing near, we were curious to know what her advice was for merchants accepting/not accepting Bitcoin. “My only advice for them is that it would be cheaper than accepting card payments”. The premise of her reply was that spending and receiving payment in Bitcoin was easier than using a bank account. Overall, “technology will be emerging to bridge traditional and new financial ecosystem until cryptocurrencies are understood and adopted by the general public”.

About Amelie Arras

Amelie's personal mission is to bring fun and accessibility to payments and fintech communications and works as independent PR and new media communication consultant. An intrepid traveller, she made her way across the US, Asia and Europe paying only in cryptocurrencies, demonstrating the real life challenges of using an emerging payment method as well as the power of communities.

 About Mirela Ciobanu

Mirela Ciobanu is a Senior Editor at The Paypers and has been actively involved in covering digital payments and related topics, especially in the cryptocurrency, online security and fraud prevention space. She is passionate about finding the latest news on data breaches, machine learning, digital identity, blockchain, and she is an active advocate of the need to keep our online data/presence protected. Mirela has a bachelor degree in English language and holds a Master’s degree in Marketing.

A new Payments Race edition

Across the world, will starts mid-May, in which 5 racers will be sent across the globe with only one payment method before finishing at Money20/20 2019 European edition, watch out for the fun in Payments.

 

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