The cryptocurrency craze has found its way to Prince Rupert.
On Nov. 21, the first Bitcoin machine in Northern B.C. was installed at Cowpuccino’s cafe, allowing individuals to purchase Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Lightcoin, Etherium and Bitcash as if they were depositing money into their personal bank accounts.
Mike Whitford, a day trader who owns and installed the machine at the coffee shop, said he wanted to make Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies more accessible to average consumers in the north.
“It’s pretty difficult for someone who isn’t computer or tech savvy to go online and try to find the right exchange,” he said. “So with a machine, people can go to Cowpuccino’s and we can show you how to download a wallet. It’s bridging the gap so people can feel safe about using it.”
A cryptocurrency is virtual money that can be used to buy and sell goods and services online over a secure network. Unlike mainstream currencies, a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin is not tied to any physical resource, bank or central authority. Rather, each member of the network has access to every transaction that has ever taken place using the virtual currency, ensuring its validity and security.
The first Bitcoins were introduced in 2009, and the market for them has grown exponentially. Currently, one Bitcoin has a value of $11,099.39 CAD. There has been some skepticism in mainstream financial commentary about its security and long-term potential, but advocates say it is here to stay.
“It’s basically the US dollar to the cryptocurrency market,” Whitford said. “It’s so strong now that it would be very difficult for it to go away.”
Buying virtual currency, such as Bitcoin, usually requires a relatively sophisticated understanding of the system and a digital wallet, which allows users to conduct transactions. The machine at Cowpuccino’s will function as a Bitcoin ATM.
Cowpuccino’s owner, Judson Rowse, said he agreed to have the machine set up because of how innovative it is. He said, a few customers have already used the machine, and he may consider accepting Bitcoin payments in the future as the transaction fees are considerably less than current credit card and debit payment options. The money he saves on those fees as a merchant could potentially be passed back to his customers.
“If I were to accept Bitcoin regardless of the ATM, I think it would show people how it could work full circle,” he said. “It’s just another option.”