Coinbase users can now send bitcoin payments without being exposed to the digital currency’s volatility.
Users with a fiat wallet (must be verified in order to get it) allows use of Bitcoin’s global payment network without being exposed to the price of the digital currency. Coinbase’s Instant Exchange deducts an equal amount to the bitcoin the user wants to send, effectively exchanging the two. The service is similar to one offered by Coinbase to bitcoin-accepting merchants.
As of today, Instant Exchange is available for users with a USD, EUR, or GBP wallet. After typing the bitcoin address and chosing a fiat wallet, users can hit the “Instant Exchange” button, and then send. A bitcoin amount equal to the fiat selected will be sent instantly, without exposing the user to bitcoin’s notorious volatility. The startup’s standard conversion fee of 15 cents will be deducted from each conversion, but sending payments to other Coinbase users is free.
The bitcoin is deducted from the user’s fiat wallet and not his or her digital currency wallet, meaning it can also serve as a way for users to instantly sell their bitcoin.
A different model
Volatility is a problem all too well-known in Bitcoin and is a chief complaint among people interested in using the technology’s payment network. Many services have looked to solve this problem by offering the ability to “lock” bitcoin to the price of the American dollar, British pound, and various other fiat currencies. Users can then unlock their bitcoin when they want to send them or be exposed to the digital currency’s price.
Latin American bitcoin startup Coinapult was first to launch such a service, but now many bitcoin businesses offer it, including Bitreserve, which designed its whole service around the concept.
One issue with these services is that though it makes storing the currency safer, it does not solve the problem when sending the digital currency. Also, if bitcoin’s price goes down, these businesses offering the ability to peg bitcoin will lose money. And though the price has been more stable in recent months, bitcoin’s price has declined dramatically over the last year, meaning that many “lock” services could be feeling some pain.
Coinbase’s model avoids the potential risk of being on the strong side of a price swing by exchanging bitcoin for dollars instantly, and not operating a one-to-one reserve (peg).