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How Practical is it to Live on Bitcoin in Philippines and South Korea?

A chart based on the practicality of bitcoin for daily expenditures was introduced on many popular bitcoin online forums, including Reddit. The user, who goes by the alias “themetalfriend” is a bitcoin enthusiast who formulated the chart after using bitcoin to finance his day-to-day life in Germany. 

Bitcoin practicality chart shared by Reddit user "themetalfriend"
Bitcoin practicality chart shared by Reddit user “themetalfriend”

The communities and online forums that saw the bitcoin practicality chart expressed interest in seeing a similar breakdown or analysis in other countries. Thus, considering the rapid emergence of innovative bitcoin startups in Asia and my personal experience of using bitcoin in South Korea and the Philippines, I have evaluated bitcoin practicality in those two countries.

Also read: Philippines Customers Can Pay Consumer Loans, Bills with Bitcoin

The Philippines

The Philippines has experienced a surge in the growth of its bitcoin userbase. Coins.ph, the most popular and widely-used application in the country, is also one of the most-used applications and web-based platforms across all categories including games, content sharing, social media, etc.

Coins.ph is a remittance-focused bitcoin application that enables anyone in the country to live solely on bitcoin without any discomfort or inefficiency. Directly from its mobile application, people can purchase and sell bitcoin through bank ATMs, physical bank branches, remittance outlets and convenience stores. Thus, for users trying to avoid owning fiat, it is highly recommended.

The application also allows users to avoid using fiat and deal only with bitcoin to finance daily expenditures. Specifically, users can pay tuition, utility bills such as internet, rental, water and electricity fees, settle credit card bills and send remittances to anywhere in the Philippines with bitcoin. Essentially, Coins.ph transforms bank-issued credit cards into bitcoin credit cards, as users don’t need fiat to pay for their card bills.

A local user also told Bitcoin.com that she began to use Coins.ph after they simplified buying mobile credits using bitcoin. Traditionally, users have to visit physical stores and wait long lines, usually hours, to purchase credits. She was first introduced to bitcoin at a technology event called Geeks on a Beach.

“I used it to purchase load for my phone. I used the credits given away by coins.ph at Geeks on a Beach. I eventually ran out of credits, and I wanted to purchase more.” she said.

The Philippines has a surprisingly large number of vendors, online merchants, and platforms that accept direct bitcoin payments. In Manila, coffee shops and restaurants accept direct bitcoin payments and local e-commerce platforms including Pinoy Travel and Metrodeal partnered with Coins.ph to accept bitcoin.

Apart from Coins.ph, platforms like Rebit.ph and BuyBitcoin.ph make bitcoin-based remittances simple, as any worker or resident from the Philippines can send money back to the country with low fees. The recipient has the choice to either accept the payment in bitcoin or cash.

Overall, avoiding fiat money for durable goods, food, rent, and utilities is made practical with bitcoin in the Philippines. Anyone can also practically purchase goods, food and settle utility bills directly with bitcoin at ease.

South Korea

South Korea, one of the major fintech hubs in Asia competes against global leaders such as Singapore, China, and Hong Kong. It has seen a rapid growth in its bitcoin industry as well since 2014. South Korean startups were some of the first bitcoin-focused companies in Asia to receive venture capital funding from prominent investors like multi-billion dollar angel investor Tim Draper.

In most cases, payment settlements happen through digital networks and banking systems. Physical cash is rarely used in Korea, as credit card service providers have successfully unified the majority of transportation and utility settlement systems with their networks.

Because South Korean users were already used to dealing with digitalized financial networks, its general population adopted bitcoin quite quickly, as startups installed bitcoin ATMs in national universities and popular tourist spots. The introduction of bitcoin ATMs led to active mainstream media countries, spurring the growth of companies like Coinplug.

Coinplug, a Tim Draper-backed company, is one of the few bitcoin companies in the world today that focuses on simplifying bitcoin transfers and spending. The company successfully transformed over 20,000 convenience stores in South Korea to bitcoin over-the-counter exchanges, enabling each ATM in the convenience store to facilitate bitcoin-to-fiat trading.

However, Coinplug and other bitcoin startups like Korbit are heavily cash-reliant. While they simplify purchasing and selling of bitcoin for fiat, local South Korean apps don’t have features that allow direct spending of bitcoin like apps in the Philippines and Thailand.

Thus, holding onto bitcoin as an investment is extremely efficient in Korea, as users can withdraw small amounts of fiat each time they’re in urgent of cash convenience stores nationwide. However, none of the startups in South Korea helps users avoid using fiat in any form.

Do you wish to see bitcoin practicality analysis on other countries? Let us know in the comments below.


Images via Patrick Roque, Reddit


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iamjosephyoung@gmail.com'
Joseph Young is a tech, financial and bitcoin journalist based in Hong Kong. He works with leading media and publishing companies to introduce innovative ideas, concepts and technologies. Young also led various digital development firms in South Korea and the Philippines, designing websites and mobile applications for leading Asian corporations.