Bitcoin investments continue to make finance charts pop as the cryptocurrency surges upwards of US$6,000, but is it any good as an everyday utility currency?
Amélie Arras, the winner of the #Money2020 Payment Race, has just proven to the world’s largest payment and financial services innovation conference that bitcoin not only runs the race but wins it, too.
The #Money2020 Payment Race
Money 20/20 is the world’s leading conference brand in the financial services’ payments sector, with a special focus on the role of fintech in revolutionizing this sector. This year, their USA event in Las Vegas in October 2017 attracted more than 11,000 attendees from 4,500 companies and 85 countries.
For the opening of the 4-day event, Money2020, in partnership with Fintech Finance, hosted the #Money2020 Payment Race. 5 racers, each tasked with a different payment option, were given 7 days to make their way down to Las Vegas from Sibos 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Their spending money? US$1,500 using only their designated payment method.
Competing payment methods included gold, contactless, chip and pin, US$1 bills….and bitcoin. In the previous year’s race, gold came in first and bitcoin was last. This year saw gold and bitcoin fighting for top spot, with bitcoin edging out gold for the win.
Bitcoin Champion Amelie Arras
Arras is an unlikely cryptocurrency champion. As marketing director for niche fintech marketing firm Adastra Marketing based in the UK, she had never even heard of bitcoin until a few weeks prior to the race. Instead, she’s a contactless fan in her daily life and uses her VISA chip and pin for larger or online payments.
Even so, Amélie proved everyone from cryptocurrency naysayer to the average bitcoin enthusiast, who themselves didn’t think it would be possible, wrong. Bitcoin won the race, outperforming traditional payment methods.
Bitcoin is a Winner
Invest in Blockchain spoke to Arras after her victory.
What was your biggest challenge during the race in terms of using bitcoin as your only means of payment?
“Bit…what?” was the question I heard from most of the people I talked to. To be honest, even just explaining what it is was a struggle. Merchants didn’t have the time to be walked through what it was, and cashiers didn’t have the authority to accept my bitcoin. Sometimes they got the idea of it, but in general, there was a big misconception of what bitcoin is. This was especially apparent in Chicago.
I, myself, am only now getting round to understanding it. There is so much about bitcoin that needs to be understood: what it represents, the ideology behind it, what it could represent for the future, its value as a currency, or as an asset (as it is currently being used by most people I have met).
Of all merchants I met, only one accepted Bitcoin and this was Bucephalus Bikes in Evanston, Chicago. I did go to the “Shops and Restaurants” that were on Coinmap, but most of them actually didn’t accept bitcoin or didn’t even exist.
Was there at any point a situation in which you simply could not pay for something you needed to?
Yes. In Chicago, after arriving at the airport, I got stuck for 20 hours in a hotel and I wouldn’t have been able to go out if it hadn’t been for the help of a local shop that accepted bitcoin and who agreed to get me an Uber to their shop in exchange for the value of the trip.
Sometimes I got stuck because I wanted some water and shops simply couldn’t accept my bitcoin, as usually the person who could make the decision was not the one behind the counter.
I learned to live within my means, and I actually have nothing left. I was lucky the price of bitcoin went up during my race, or I wouldn’t have been able to complete all the tasks.
How active was the community in assisting you? You took to YouTube and were offered a helicopter ride; how did that work out?
The community was really active in helping me. I reached out on social channels and offered payments in bitcoin in exchange for services.
This is the beauty of bitcoin. It is a currency made by the people, for the people. You can transact anytime, anywhere, with whoever you want, provided you have their wallet address.
With the helicopter ride to Las Vegas, I published a video explaining that I needed help and that I was willing to pay in bitcoin. I was amazed by the responses I got as everybody offered to help me in some way.
(Editor’s note: You can learn more about some of the community assistance she received on her vlog.)
Has your opinion changed about bitcoin being an investment coin and not a user-friendly utility currency?
When I was first reading about bitcoin, I was fascinated about why it was created, its vision, and what it would represent for the future of the economy. During my travels, I was happy to meet people who support bitcoin as a growing cryptocurrency.
The community I met didn’t see bitcoin as an investment only. They were really committed to transacting with it. Some even get paid in bitcoin. I can see that people see it as an asset and investment, but the whole point of bitcoin is to use it, and it’s only by transacting with it that it will eventually become a user-friendly payment method.
Do you think we’re getting any closer to a world in which cryptocurrencies will be accepted as a viable everyday alternative?
I think so. From my experience with the general public I met during this challenge, people love the idea and vision on which bitcoin was built. Being able to transact without third-party involvement and being in control of what they have are big selling points.
However, I have to admit, there’s a lot of work to be done before we get to the point where cryptocurrencies will be accepted commercially.
The financial world is changing dramatically, thanks to fintech. New emergent technologies are enabling more secure, agile and flexible solutions, and these companies have us consumers at the heart of their strategies.
What’s next for you?
The first thing that needs to be addressed is the distinct lack of understanding and education about cryptocurrencies by the general public.
This is so prevalent that as a result of this race, my associate Daniel Hanmer and I intend to produce a series of short, fun and easy-to-understand videos that will introduce bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the non-banking literate public. Our goal is to help them get ahead of curve and embrace what we believe to be the future of banking.
At the moment, it’s very difficult for the average person to understand the benefits and the future of digital currencies. This is probably due to the technical jargon used in order to confuse and disassociate the masses.
We believe this is creating a barrier that stops people from understanding. It’s easy to become scared or feel stupid and therefore mistrust cryptocurrencies. For that reason, we intend to guide people gently into the world of digital currencies and banking by creating bite-sized videos that are simple to comprehend but do not patronise the viewer.
Challenges like the #Money2020 race go a long way towards creating much-needed awareness around cryptocurrencies, but it’s stories like Amelie’s overnight conversion to bitcoin enthusiast, and the strong sense of comradeship of the bitcoin community, that are the most positive takeaways from such an event.
In Arras’ words, this is “just the beginning.”