We hear more and more about Bitcoin these days – some of it positive, some of it negative. After arriving on the scene in 2009, it has generated no end of controversy. As the world’s first entirely digital currency, it is not controlled by any government or central bank, and it is free to move around across borders with ease.
As such, it may prove to be useful for expats and remote workers living abroad. As you may already know, getting access to your money and moving it across borders is not always easy – and it can be expensive too. Bank transfer fees, PayPal fees, ATM fees and currency exchange fees can all add up.
Although moving Bitcoins around usually involves a small fee, this can often be a lot lower than other methods. So could you take advantage of Bitcoins?
Are They Secure?
You will hear two opinions about Bitcoin security: that they have security issues, or that they are just as secure as other forms of electronic money transfers.
One thing to remember is that if you do keep Bitcoins, always make a backup of your wallet and use a secure password just like you would with any other service.
One of the greater problems with Bitcoin is its volatility. It has seen huge swings in value over recent months, and this means you could stand to lose a lot (or gain a lot) by saving your money in Bitcoins. However, if you are moving your money around quickly, buying Bitcoins in one country and cashing them out in another over a period of a few days, the risk is reduced.
Ease of Use
Although it is essentially free to transfer Bitcoins, and it can be almost instant, that does not mean they are always easy to use. Bitcoins are still quite new, and you may need a bit of technological knowhow to get the most out of them.
For example, you may not be able to simply buy Bitcoins through your bank account and cash them out in another account (although this may be possible in some countries).
In some locations, you may have to find a group of traders who buy and sell Bitcoins. You can then sell your Bitcoins for local currency at a price that you both decide on. If there is an active community in your country, this may pose fewer problems, but there are always security considerations to take into account.
In other places, you may find that you can use a Bitcoin ATM to buy Bitcoins and even sell them for cash. However, these are few and far between at the moment.
The idea of keeping your money in Bitcoins and then cashing them out wherever you happen to be in the world is very tempting, but just be aware that it is not always that easy – at least not yet.
Spend Them Directly
Another option could be to spend your Bitcoins directly. A number of online stores and even physical stores all over the world are now accepting Bitcoins, and that number is likely to increase. This could make buying things across borders simpler for expats.
Because Bitcoin is so new, it has a lot of people worried. Although it is legal to use in most countries around the world, this could change depending quickly. It is worth finding out about the issue in whichever country you happen to be in so you know the legalities before you start buying.
Get Started with Bitcoin
If you are curious about Bitcoins, try them out for yourself. You will need to set up a wallet using a service like Coinbase, which is a good option for beginners, and you can go from there. Start by investing just a small amount of money to get the hang of it, and see how well it works for you. You never know, it could become a useful way to move your money around when you are living and working overseas.