Abine announced the release of Bitcoin Anywhere, a new service that lets users spend bitcoin at all online merchants that accept MasterCard. The service, currently in an invite-only beta, permits funding of a Blur “Masked Card” from a Coinbase wallet.
Currently, Bitcoin Anywhere is available only to invited users of Abine’s Blur premium service.
Blur Masked Cards are one-time MasterCards created on-the-fly by Abine, which can be used at all online merchants that accept MasterCard, which, in practice, means all online merchants. Masked cards don’t compromise the user’s real name and address and have a built-in limit to avoid hidden charges.
“When a user makes a Masked Card, we are issuing a limited-balance, limited-duration credit card for that transaction. When you generate a masked card we charge your funding source,” said Andrew Sudbury, Abine co-founder and CTO.
Bitcoin Anywhere aims to make bitcoin payments widespread by automatically signing up all online merchants. Only the users know that they are paying with bitcoin, whereas the merchants continue to use their credit card payment systems.
The Abine announcement notes that leading venture capitalists invest in the Bitcoin ecosystem because they are persuaded that more consumers will use Bitcoin if it is accepted more broadly, while Bitcoin companies bet on wide acceptance catalyzing mainstream use.
“What we aim to achieve is to assess consumer demand for a purchasing experience that balances innovation, convenience, compliance and security,” said Sudbury. Abine plans to share the results of the beta program with other Bitcoin companies and interest groups.
Abine is a Boston-based company founded by Rob Shavell, Andrew Sudbury and Eugene Kuznetsov, focused on developing easy-to-use privacy solutions for consumers. Blur, the flagship service of Abine, is an integrated solution for privacy and online life management.
Besides masked cards, Blur offers password management, online forms auto-fill, and one-time disposable email addresses. The premium service costs $39 per year (with discounts for multi-year subscriptions), and includes extra features such as data synchronization across multiple devices, secure backup and a masked phone number.
With Bitcoin Anywhere, Abine enters the Bitcoin ecosystem with the same emphasis on privacy and ease-of-use.
In related news, Australian Bitcoin company CoinJar announced the public launch of the Bitcoin debit card CoinJar Swipe. The card permits spending bitcoin anywhere that accepts EFTPOS. That means just about anywhere since the EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) payment network is widespread in Australia and New Zealand. The CoinJar announcement is titled “Now every Australian business accepts Bitcoin.”
The card also permits withdrawing bitcoin as cash at any ATM in Australia.
Abine and CoinJar are betting on expanding the adoption of Bitcoin by making the digital currency completely transparent to merchants. That seems to make sense, because acceptance by merchants is one of the critical bottlenecks in the Bitcoin ecosystem. Once consumers can spend their bitcoin anywhere, more people will participate in the emerging Bitcoin economy.
Images via Abine.com