Visa, Mastercard or Bitcoin: Arnhem, Netherlands Previews the Future of Crypto Assets

The end of the last century saw the decline of cash transactions and a rapid adoption of “plastic money”. During the boom times of the late 90s and early 00s, economies expanded and people spent. This made the adoption of a global payment network both convenient and a necessity. However, there has always issues with the current setup. Concerns of government control, international transaction time and costs in an increasingly globalized economy, to name the obvious ones. It had been thought that Bitcoin would be the next iteration in this regard and provide the gateway to a “global currency”.

Today that idea has been steadily losing steam, with the primary narrative around the digital currency now being a “censorship-resistant gold.” This is reflective in its payment trends, whilst over $400 million worth of transactions were noted in December 2017, last month it fell to under $100 million. During its peak, certain providers had to back off due to the high fees and long transaction times. Then, Bitcoin introduced Lightning Network as a modified payment protocol for bitcoin, and that alleviated a lot of pressure.

After the dust has settled, today, a report, which compiles details about all businesses allowing Bitcoin for payment, says there are a little over 13000 such venues, the world over. These include ATMs, traditional businesses, services and restaurants that accept bitcoin. Almost 40 percent are noted as shopping venues with about 10 percent tagged as ATMs. This clearly shows that while not every one is jumping on excitedly, acceptance and interest for bitcoin remains from both merchants and customers alike. There has also been a correlation between the prices of a crypto and a surge in its popularity with merchants.

Where Are These Stores

In numerical terms, the USA easily has the highest number of bitcoin-accepting stores, yet in terms of per capita, the European nations of Slovenia and the Czech Republic take the lead. Similarly, Prague is considered the most bitcoin-friendly city and Arnhem leads in terms of the most bitcoin-accepting venues per million.

An interesting fact to note is that more than half the venues that accept bitcoin started doing so by 2015, with about 3000 businesses adding the option in 2014 alone. After a downturn, the rapid market activity of 2017 saw a renewed interest and that has continued into this year. A deeper analysis reveals that there is a clear connection between bitcoin’s market performance and the interest shown by merchants to accept crypto in that particular month. Unsurprisingly, a stable and higher priced Bitcoin will undoubtedly encourage more people to allow and adopt this as a payment method.

In terms of physical locations of these bitcoin-accepting centers, the United States is the runaway leader with about 27% of all bitcoin-accepting venues within its borders. It is followed by Europe which has Italy, Spain Netherlands and a host of east European countries. There is also a fair amount of interest in Brazil and Canada. However, in terms of population, the US gets relegated to the back benches. Slovenia and the Czech Republic with 41.6 and 32.6 per million people respectively take the lead.

While Oceania, Asia and Africa have stayed largely insulated, a large percentage of the population is aware of, and sees the potential in, cryptos. Thus, even though in terms of raw numbers the bitcoin-accepting merchants are relatively low and adding on at a snail's pace, the idea has not been altogether abandoned. It should be noted that ATMs and even payment gateways did not catch on in a couple of years. This process took decades, at a time of relative market stability.

Thus it is safe to assume that as and when there is another bull market, there will be a surge in the number of new merchants that will begin welcoming Bitcoin transactions and when the market stabilizes it will encourage the general populace to look at and adopt this option. The emergence of Lightning Network should make transaction costs and speeds much more manageable and will hopefully encourage people to look at bitcoin as a viable payments option.

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