With bank doors slammed shut, frantic Greeks are turning to online trading platforms to see if the digital money Bitcoin is a better bet than the euro. The earn free bitcoin 2015’s largest Bitcoin exchanges tell CNNMoney they’ve seen a surge of business from Greece. Ten times as many Greeks are registering to trade bitcoins on the German marketplace Bitcoin. Even trading platforms in China are getting interest.
Over the weekend, the Polish exchange Bitcurex got flooded with emails from Greeks. Is Bitcoin a legal currency in EU? Can I use Bitcurex as a bank account? Do you have a Bitcoin ATM network in Greece? Bitcurex then started marketing directly to Greeks on its website: “Sign up at Bitcurex and trade for 3 months for free. For those wondering, yes, bitcoins can be spent legally in Europe. And yes, a digital Bitcoin wallet can be used as a sort of access-from-anywhere bank account.
The simplest way to understand Bitcoin is to think of it as electronic cash. You can spend it using any smartphone or computer. But that’s not the hard part. First, it’s incredibly difficult to obtain bitcoins. There’s a single Bitcoin ATM in all of Greece — at a bookstore in Athens.
And the most common method — buying them in an online marketplace — requires sending a wire transfer from a bank. But banks in Greece are closed. Greeks are managing to get bitcoins, because they still get access to online banking. There aren’t many ways to spend them in Greece anyway. Among them: a family restaurant called Angel Tavern, a head-and-neck surgeon, and a yacht rental company.
As CNNMoney documented last year, it’s difficult to live entirely on Bitcoin — even in high tech, modern New York City. Share your story: Are you Greek? Still, this is a pivotal moment. Bitcoin was created as an independent, computerized money in 2009 to provide a stark alternative to government-issued currency held at banks.