Losing my Bitcoin Virginity

I had a very exciting experience this morning: I made my first ever transaction with bitcoin! It was to buy a coffee in Starbucks, which was novel on its own, but it was made even better by the 20% discount that I got for using bitcoin!

I’ve been interning at Bitspark now for 5 weeks, so it’s perhaps surprising that it has taken me this long to try out bitcoin! However, hopefully this blog can show you how easy it was for me to obtain and spend some bitcoin, and maybe encourage you to step into the future too!

Step 1: The Wallet

I chose an app called MyCelium for my bitcoin wallet and downloaded it to my iPhone from the app store. MyCelium is well known as being one of the most secure and easy-to-use mobile wallets out there. When you open the app, a new wallet will be created for you and you’ll be told to write down a number of random words which serve as a backup to your wallet if you ever need to reinstall it. Keep this list somewhere safe and offline for security.

This is literally all you need to do; you now have the ability to send or receive a payment in bitcoin, and there’s no lengthy process like for setting up a new bank account. Chances are that you’re reading blog this on a mobile, so you could do this right now!

Step 2: Getting some bitcoins

So I now needed to buy some bitcoin for myself. There are a number of ways that I could have gone about this, such as buying them on an online peer-to-peer exchange like localbitcoins.com, on a regular exchange such as Coinfloor, or from a bitcoin ATM. The easiest is probably an ATM, which is what I did, or rather I stumbled across one to my surprise in a shopping centre! But you can find the closest one to you at Coin ATM Radar.

So excitedly I went up to the machine pressed the big “Buy Bitcoin” button. Now this ATM actually required an absurd amount of anti-money laundering steps, including a photo of my ID and my fingerprint, but I have since been told that this is not the norm. If you visit your local ATM, you’re likely to be able to just buy bitcoin without any of that. I was just too excited at the time and didn’t notice the blatant privacy invasion!
Anyway, after putting a Hong Kong note into the machine, I opened MyCelium on my phone, selected “Receive”, and scanned the QR code into the ATM. Clicked confirm and it was done! The funds appeared straight away, and were fully confirmed by the bitcoin network within 10 minutes.

Step 3: Spending my new bitcoins

There are numerous ways that I could spend my bitcoin right now, but I’m going to save those for another blog post. Instead I’ll just tell you that if you have bitcoin and a smartphone, you can get 20% of at Starbucks right now. And who doesn’t love a discount like that?!

So this morning I arrived at work and went to get my usual Grande Latte, but instead of reaching for my usual wallet to pay, I opened up FoldApp.com on my phone. I presented the bar code to the scanner at the till, and it responded with a satisfying beep. I had paid! With bitcoin!
To be fair, it’s a slightly indirect way of paying with bitcoin, but it still works well. FoldApp is a web-based app that allows you buy Starbucks gift cards with bitcoin, at a 20% discount, which is exactly what I had done a few moments before. It gave me the amount of bitcoin that I needed to send and the bitcoin address to send it to. I simply opened MyCelium, copied and pasted this amount and address, and hit send. Refreshing the FoldApp page revealed the nice new bar code worth $10!

It may not be the complete payment integration that bitcoin needs in order to go mainstream, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. At the very least it provides a good incentive and way for people to test out bitcoin and see how it works. And this is what I encourage you to do because whether you like it or not, this digital currency is likely to be here for the long run, so why not just try it out?

Will, Intern at Bitspark

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