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Brief Published: 23 Jul 2015

Philippines: Cash for Bitcoins

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Coins.ph

Philippines-based start-up Coins.ph has launched a service that converts cash into digital currency using a smartphone. It aims to help the millions of unbanked residents across south-east Asia store, send and receive money, while avoiding expensive international wire transfer fees and remittance centres.

Users access vetted 'tellers' – currently local shops, but eventually individuals as well – which collect cash and convert it into the equivalent amount of Bitcoins (digital currency) for a small fee using a smartphone. The user can store this digital value using the Coins.ph Bitcoin 'wallet' on their phones to spend online or send electronically to distant friends or relatives. The teller can also arrange this for them. Receivers can access the transferred money via their own Coins.ph account, partnered ATMs, home delivery and more.

Overseas Filipinos sent home more than $24bn in cash remittances in 2014, according to the Philippines' central bank. Many in the country rely on this money, but only 31% of the population has a bank account, forcing them to collect money at international remittance centres – which deduct a fee.

In a Bloomberg briefing, Coins.ph founder Ron Hose said the average remittance of $250 costs 8%, or $20, to access via conventional services – that's almost 8% of the average Filipino's salary just to access their money. Transfers are free on Coins.ph, and tellers set flexible fees for cash deposits and withdrawals, from as little as 20 cents.

For more on the latest innovations in finance, including the emergence of new markets and the disruptive power of Bitcoin, see Breaking Banks: Wired Money.

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