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Buying Burgers and Beer in Berlin with Bitcoin

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A man in Texas had nowhere to spend his Bitcoins so he flew to Berlin and bought a hamburger and beer, reports Bloomberg News today.

‘People come to us from all over the world because we accept Bitcoin,’ Vesna Sic, co-owner of the Lekkerurlaub guest house in Berlin, said by phone. ‘We had one man from Texas who has nowhere at home where he can spend his Bitcoins, so he came to Berlin for a week to spend them.’

In the past month, the number of businesses on CoinMap, a website showing physical companies and vendors accepting Bitcoin, has tripled to more than 2,100.

There are about 12.2 million Bitcoins in circulation, according to Bitcoincharts. While online payments for everything from university tuition fees to gummi bears aren’t unusual, over-the-counter transactions are just beginning to become popular. Now the virtual currency can buy olive oil in Spain or vodka shots in Moscow as consumers seek ways to spend the digital money.

CoinDesk project manager, Jeremy Bonney, says our news inbox has gone crazy over the last couple of months with more and more vendors saying they are accepting Bitcoins. CoinDesk website tracks the progress of the virtual currency.

While a handful of companies have minted physical Bitcoins with a code that can be scanned to link them to the digital version, they’re rarely used for everyday purchases since they’re worth hundreds of dollars apiece. Today, a Bitcoin fetched $757, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin price index.

There are 26 physical retailers in London that accept Bitcoin and about 160 in Britain, according to CoinMap. Government and banking restrictions prevent U.K. retailers from adopting Bitcoins on a larger scale, explained Chris Skinner, director of the Financial Services Club and head of Balatro Ltd., a research firm in London. While there are few limitations on individuals buying and selling, it is different for lenders who may close the accounts of businesses conducting many transfers with the electronic currency.

The European Banking Authority is weighing whether to regulate virtual currencies, a decision that could make or break wider-scale use by retailers. The banking regulator warned Dec. 13 that users risk theft and lack protection from losses if their virtual exchange collapses.

China and its Banking system announced in December that it could not accept transfers of Bitcoin into the banking system.

Stephen Early, the owner of the Pembury Tavern, the first London pub to accept Bitcoin for beer, says it’s an attractive form of payment for small retailers because, unlike credit cards, it has no transaction fees and payments can be processed in less than a minute.

‘I was fed up with the credit card process so it’s been nice to use Bitcoin,’ Early says it very simply. ‘But I’m not yet confident enough to put all my savings into it, even though if I had done so earlier this year, I would now be very rich.’

Stephen Early’s experience in fee cost savings is also benefitting Burger Bear, which became London’s first street food vendor to accept Bitcoin. Within three weeks about 50 customers had used the currency, paying him by making a transfer with their smartphones.

‘I wasn’t expecting all the fuss when I said I would accept Bitcoin, but a lot of people have jumped on it,’ Reaney said. ‘People are desperate to spend their coins on something rather than just online transactions.’

To learn more about Bitcoin, its history, websites, how it is calculated, tracked and many other details of its usage and status worldwide, please, view the articles listed in the suggested by author section.

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