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比特币将给希腊带来新出路?

比特币将给希腊带来新出路?

Ian Mount 2015年07月15日
为防止银行出现挤兑风潮,希腊政府正在限制ATM机的取款额度。好消息是,出现在雅典街头的比特币ATM机,有望缓解希腊人的现金短缺问题。

    上周五,在雅典的大街上,杰奎因·菲诺伊为缓解希腊的货币限制做着自己的努力。他并没有给路人派发现金,而是安装了一台每日取款额度为1000欧元的ATM机,比希腊政府的规定高出940欧元。当时正值债权人决定希望金融命运的关键时刻,为了防止银行出现挤兑浪潮,希腊政府规定,ATM机的取款额度为每日60欧元。

    只有一个条件:你需要有虚拟货币比特币才能使用它。

    菲诺伊今年36岁,是Bitchain的首席技术官。这家初创公司成立于4个月前,位于巴塞罗那SantCugatdelVallés社区。他和另两位共同创始人,39岁的乔迪·阿拉尔卡斯、44岁的米格尔·阿拉尔卡斯,在今年3月成立了这家公司。他们打算建立基于比特币的国际ATM机网络,这些ATM机由位于巴塞罗那和硅谷的公司BTCPoint生产(该公司也是菲诺伊的前任雇主)。

    比特币已诞生6年之久。这种ATM机是一种迅速发展的衍生物。2013年10月,第一台比特币ATM机出现在温哥华一家咖啡店内,而如今这类机器在全球已经有429台。要在ATM上购买比特币,用户需要投入现金,随后对应的比特币就会打入其虚拟账户。想要把比特币转化为现金并取出(在现金紧缺的希腊更有可能出现这种情况),用户需要把比特币发送到ATM机提供的虚拟地址,然后获得一个二维码,扫描这个二维码就能得到现金。

    比特币脱离于政府的金融体系之外。对于那些想要避免因货币和银行体系不稳而导致财务损失的人们来说,这种虚拟货币极具吸引力。近来,对比特币的需求重新高涨起来,尤其是在欧洲(在过去四周,比特币在希腊的使用量提高了500%),这意味着希腊的遭遇甚至会鼓励其他南欧国家的人民把钱换成比特币,以免自己的国家陷入类似困境。

    麻省理工学院媒体实验室数字货币倡议高级顾问,《加密货币时代:比特币和数字货币如何挑战全球经济力量》一书的作者之一迈克尔·凯西表示:“西班牙、葡萄牙、意大利和其他一些国家的国民都担心自己的国家重蹈希腊覆辙,他们可能会出于投机考虑购买比特币。”

    他补充道;“你购买比特币,因为你觉得在未来的某个时候,你的银行会关闭,你手中的货币会被新货币取代。黄金是应对这种问题的最古老的止损措施。而比特币则是一种新的手段。”不过,凯西指出,比特币的使用率仍然很低,尽管其增长速度很快,仍然需要谨慎看待。

    菲诺伊把构建比特币的国际ATM网络,看作一种帮助人们更轻松地在全球各地转移金钱的方式,如此一来就不用为传统的转账服务支付高昂的费用。

    他表示:“对第三世界国家的人民来说,这是一个好消息,他们目前要依靠西联汇款之类的服务。例如,一个人可以在世界某处存钱,而他的家人可以在非洲把它取出来。这就是我们这个网络希望达成的目标之一:汇款。”

    在希腊的案例中,身处伦敦且感到担心的亲人可以购买比特币,并将其转至雅典的家人账下,家人随后就能以欧元的形式从Bitchain的ATM机中取出这些比特币。类似的,游客也可以用美元在纽约购买比特币,然后在巴塞罗那的比特币ATM机中取出相应的欧元。

    行业网站Coin ATM Radar的数据显示,Bitchain的ATM机会在交易中收取4%的手续费,略低于全球5.61%的平均水平,而雅典的ATM机将会在运作初期免手续费。菲诺伊表示,对那些兑换货币的人而言,比起实体货币兑换商,4%的手续费意味着节省了80%至85%的钱。

    用传统方式汇款显然要昂贵得多:要把钱从美国汇到希腊,西联汇款从中要收取大量费用(汇款1000欧元需要1180美元,而目前的汇率是1000欧元兑换1120美元),若要把这笔钱打入信用卡并使其立刻到账,还需要额外收取81美元。

    菲诺伊和他的伙伴们很快就会了解有多少希腊人(以及去希腊的游客)使用了比特币。他们的ATM机设立在雅典市中心的The Cube办公区,计划于周六正式开始运作。他表示,几周前Bitchain安装在巴塞罗那的两台ATM每天都能完成约20次交易,其中60%是购买比特币,40%是取现。

    该公司计划于今年年底之前在全球安装40台ATM机,包括那些存在货币问题或转账流程十分繁杂的国家,如阿根廷和委内瑞拉,这些国家拥有使用比特币的环境。

    每台ATM机的成本大约为8500欧元,据费诺伊介绍,每台机器收取6至9个月的手续费后就能收回成本。到目前为止,他和搭档已经投入了约10万欧元来做前期工作。

    菲诺伊表示:“希腊的局势比我根据媒体报道推测的要平静得多。在ATM机前排队的只有一两个人。旅游业依旧正常。人们的情绪比我想象的好。”

    如果希腊退出欧元区,毫无疑问这一切都将改变,并让Bitchain的ATM机更加火爆。毕竟,与希腊目前尝试的其他选择相比,比特币并没有古怪到让人难以接受的程度。比如,有些商店开始接受邻国保加利亚的货币列弗,而希腊小岛阿基斯提正在尝试一种名为“鹦鹉螺币”,以黄金支撑的数字货币。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正

    审校:任文科

    Joaquin Fenoy was wandering the streets of Athens Friday, doing his bit to ease Greece’s currency restrictions. He wasn’t handing out cash, but rather installing an ATM with a withdrawal limit of €1,000 (about $1,100). That’s €940 above the €60 daily ATM withdrawal limit the Greek government put in place to stop a bank run as its creditors decide the country’s financial fate.

    There is one catch, though: You need to have the virtual currency bitcoin to use it.

    Fenoy, 36, is the CTO of Bitchain, a four-month-old startup based in the Barcelona suburb of Sant Cugat del Vallés. He and his co-founders—Jordi Alcaraz, 39, and Miguel Alcaraz, 44—launched the company in March to build an international network of bitcoin-based ATMs manufactured by BTCPoint, a Barcelona/Silicon Valley company (and Fenoy’s former employer).

    Bitcoin ATMs are a fast-growing offshoot of the six-year old bitcoin currency. The first one was opened in a Vancouver coffee shop in October 2013, and there are now 429 worldwide. To buy bitcoins at an ATM, a user inserts money, and the equivalent in bitcoins are put into his virtual wallet. To turn bitcoins into cash and withdraw it (which is more likely in cash-strapped Greece), users send bitcoins to a virtual address supplied by the ATM; they are then given a QR code that they scan to receive cash.

    Free of ties to government financial systems, bitcoin appeals to people looking to hedge against unstable currencies and banking systems. Demand for bitcoin has picked up in recent days, especially in Europe (Greece’s bitcoin use has risen 500% in the last four weeks), suggesting that Greece’s travails may even be inspiring people in other southern European nations to shift into bitcoin in case their countries ever have similar problems.

    “The suspicion is Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and others worried about going down this route are buying in speculation,” says Michael Casey, senior advisor of MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative and co-author of The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order.

    “You buy a bitcoin now because you think sometime in the future you’ll have your banks shut and your currency reintroduced,” he adds. “Gold was the old hedge against this sort of thing. Bitcoin is the new one.” Usage is still low, Casey notes, so big growth numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Fenoy frames building an international bitcoin ATM network as a way to help people easily move money around the globe without paying the high fees of traditional money transferring services.

    “It’s very good for people in the Third World, who are now dependent on Western Union and services like that,” he says. “Someone in one part of the world could put in money, and a family member could take it out in Africa, for example. That is one of the objectives: remittances.”

    In Greece’s case, worried relatives in London could buy bitcoins and transfer them to the digital wallet of a family member in Athens, who could then withdraw the bitcoins as euros from Bitchain’s ATM. Similarly, tourists could also buy bitcoins with dollars in New York and then take them out of a Barcelona bitcoin ATM in euros.

    Bitchain ATMs charge a 4% commission on transactions, a bit below the worldwide average of 5.61%, according to industry site Coin ATM Radar; the ATM in Athens will offer a zero commission rate to start. Fenoy says that for someone exchanging currencies, that 4% commission represents an 80 to 85% savings when compared with a physical moneychanger.

    Sending money the old-fashioned way is certainly more expensive: On a transfer from the U.S. to Greece, Western Union takes a cut on the conversion (€1,000 would cost $1,180 from Western Union, compared with $1,120 at the current exchange rate) and charges $81 on top of that to put the transfer on a credit card and deliver it immediately.

    Fenoy and his partners will soon find out how many Greeks (and visitors to Greece) have access to bitcoins. Their ATM, based at a downtown Athens co-working space called The Cube, is slated to open Saturday. The two ATMs Bitchain installed in Barcelona a few weeks ago see about 20 transactions a day each, he says, split 60/40 between buying bitcoins and withdrawing cash.

    The company plans to have 40 ATMs installed worldwide by the end of the year, including in other countries with the kind of currency problems and byzantine money transfer regulations that make them prime for bitcoin usage, like Argentina and Venezuela.

    Each machine costs about €8,500 and according to Fenoy, between six and nine months worth of commissions are needed to pay off each one. So far, he and his partners have put in about €100,000 to bootstrap the company.

    “The situation [in Greece] is a lot calmer than I’d envisioned from what I’d seen in the media. The lines at ATMs are just one or two people,” Fenoy says, talking from Athens on his cell phone. “Tourism is normal. People are in a better mood than I expected.”

    A Greek exit from the euro would no doubt change that—and make Bitchain’s ATM much more popular. After all, bitcoins are not any weirder than other alternatives being tried out in Greece right now: Some stores are taking neighboring Bulgaria’s currency, the lev, while a small Greek island, Agistri, is trying out a gold-backed digital currency, the Nautiluscoin.

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