Australian startup CoinJar trials bitcoin Eftpos card

Australian bitcoin startup CoinJar is trialling what it claims is the first Eftpos card to draw funds from a user's bitcoin account, in a bid to bridge the gap between cryptocurrency and traditional payments.

Australian bitcoin exchange startup CoinJar is hoping to "bridge the gap" between cryptocurrency and traditional payments systems with the trial of a new Eftpos (electronic funds at point of sale) card that allows users to pay for items in Australian dollars using the digital currency.

The company said that customers taking part in its CoinJar Swipe card trial will be able to withdraw from their bitcoin accounts, converted to Australian dollars, at any ATM, or purchase items at any retail outlet accepting Eftpos cards.

For the trial, CoinJar has teamed up with local prepaid payments solution provider Emerchants, which makes non-reloadable prepaid debit cards that can be used for purposes such as corporate expense programs, funds disbursement, and petty cash.

CoinJar CEO and co-founder Asher Tan said he expects that the Swipe trial will help take bitcoin into the mainstream Australian economy.

"We created Swipe because we simply wanted to make it easier for our customers to spend their bitcoin," he said. "Swipe demystifies bitcoin and makes it accessible to everyone through a secure platform. Our team is really excited about Swipe, and we look forward to receiving feedback from our customers."

The trial will consist of 100 cards distributed to pre-registered CoinJar members allocated evenly between early adopters, everyday consumers, and a wide variety of demographic characteristics. Customers are set to receive their cards from next week.

CoinJar, which raised around AU$500,000 from Blackbird Ventures late last year, estimates that the cryptocurrency is being used by around 500,000 Australians, with that number growing rapidly.

CoinJar alone has processed more than AU$50 million worth of bitcoin transactions in the past 12 months for more than 30,000 individual and business customers, according to the company, which expects a wider rollout of the technology in the "near future".

The trial comes six months after Australia received its first dedicated bitcoin ATM, which went live in central Sydney in mid April, allowing users to buy and sell the digital currency and exchange it for cash.

Bitcoin, along with other forms of cryptocurrency, has been viewed with an ambivalent eye by a number of governments around the world, with fluctuations in the value of the in cryptocurrency prompting policy makers to be wary.

In March, China's central bank moved to enforce a crackdown on bitcoin trading, demanding that all banks and payment service providers cease their dealings in the digital currency.

In June, the European Banking Authority recommended that the use of virtual currencies such as bitcoin be avoided until regulatory systems are put in place to manage it.

However, some authorities have welcomed the currency, with California repealing a law in June banning the use of money issued from individuals or companies that was not considered to be "lawful money of the United States", effectively lifting restrictions on the use of cryptocurrencies in the state.

Meanwhile, Ecuador has decided to go ahead with its plan to create and issue an official state cryptocurrency, with the country's central bank indicating that the as-yet-unnamed electronic money would begin circulating alongside the US dollar as soon as December, according to a BBC report.