Bitcoin has many immediate benefits including 0-friction ecommerce (no user accounts), low liability and fees in a purely Bitcoin enclosed market, micro payments and real escrow, just to name few. But the prophets peddling the idea it will have a huge impact on banking and commerce, how it is so much more efficient for international money transfer, are just downright misleading and actually distract people from fixing the problem.This video
touts how low the fees are for transfering money internationally with Bitcoin but limits itself to the example of $1000. All the benifits fall apart once the amount is >$5k. Let me give a real example.
I have a family member in the US that is part owner of company. A majority owner was leaving and so that presented an opportunity for me, in the EU, to send them $50k to invest. I could take profits from BTC as an early adopter or I could dip into FIAT savings. The former seemed ideal and seemed to be perfect for BTC according to the prophets. So I started looking into how to do it. On the US end MtGox
can be used but with a long delay for 4 to 8 weeks and some marginal fees (0.5% exchange fee, $10 transfer fee). A bit ridiculous. But the other exchanges are worse, in a different way. For example Coinbase
has 2 to 3 day transfer but a daily limit of 50BTC. That means it would take at least 9 days to sell enough BTC to convert into $50k. Assuming all these abstraction layers work out it would take 2 weeks to get the money with some fees for exchange (1%). CampBx
doesnt really state their BTC sell limits clearly but do state a $1000k per day withdrawl limit. 50 days is nuts. Guess there is a wire transfer option but not knowing the BTC limits its just not clear if this would work. A p2p exchange such as #bitcoin-otc
would have a 5% margin from my experience so this also seems a bit much. Localbitcoins
and in fact most of the other exchanges have such low volume this also has to be considered.
So no, Bitcoin is just not good for money transfer (unless you are sending to Japan or China). In the end FIAT>FIAT internationally was way less of a headache, less time, and nearly the same or less fees than using Bitcoin in the BTC>FIAT route.Is Bitcoin broken?
Well no. The other non-money transfer benefits are huge and will bring real growth. But they are limited to the sub $1k realm. The prophetic windfall from large commerce is not coming soon. It makes no sense for Paypal
or Western Union
to utilise Bitcoin. If exchanges have to reduce volume and limits or incur huge delays you could only imagine the volumes that these players would need and be unable to obtain stably with Bitcoin. They of course *could* solve them as Paypal did in the early days. But they would have to take upon themselves a huge headache that the exchanges already have. (It'd be a Heisenburg like headache
but where all the cash is legal.) One can expect they will stay far away from it until this is solved. So if you see posts or comments from large players considering to utilise it for anything other than micro or <$1k payments, forget about it. It's several years away.Conclusion:
It seems to me that to fulfil the prophecies Bitcoin will either have to become completely regulated at the exchange level AND more or the community will have to stop living in the fantasy that the problem is solved and focus on innovating on the p2p exchange models. Bitcoin.de
had a potentially working model before they paired with a bank and limited activity to german citizens alone (edit: limited to citizens of several EU countries, not just germany
). Each user makes that transaction directly between their banks. Exchange only escrows BTC to ensure transaction and reputation. A better system could avoid the whole user verification entirely, or find ways to obtain additional trust without taking on the liability of enforcement.