A tonnnn of businesses accept Bitcoin
Bitcoin: some think it will revolutionize currency, others think it’s nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. The worth of the open source cryptocurrency has fluctuated significantly since it was first introduced – mostly losing value. Nonetheless, a surprising number of major corporations have begun accepting payments for products in Bitcoin.
A Wired.com article encouraged those “uninitiated” in the ways of Bitcoin to “catch up,” noting that “irrespective of your opinion, the rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies cannot be ignored. Today, there are a number of billion dollar businesses that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.”
Online retailers the first wave
The trend began in 2014 when Overstock.com announced that it would accept Bitcoin payments. Several other large online retailers, like Ebay and Amazon.com, followed suit.
Other major companies to accept Bitcoin payments include Target, CVS, WordPress.com, Subway, Victoria Secret, PayPal, Expedia, Home Depot, Kmart, Sears, the Apple App Store, Grooveshark, Dell and Zappos.
Products from several other companies, such as Whole Foods, The Gap, Game Stop, and JC Penney, are available through BitCoin by using the cryptocurrency to buy gift cards from sites like Gyft and eGifter.com.
Still other sites are designed to receive BitCoin payments exclusively. Bitcoin.Travel is a site for making travel reservations with Bitcoin. Meanwhile Domino’s Pizza set up PizzaForCoins.com. Bitcoincoffee.com is another example of a site catering specifically to Bitcoin users. Even the Republican Party of Louisiana accepts Bitcoin donations.
The future of currency?
Major corporations accepting Bitcoin may seem like a strong argument in favor of the stability of the currency. After all, it’s giving consumers something legal to buy with a currency heavily associated with the black market, and it’s keeping Bitcoin in circulation. However, an article from Time’s Money section explains companies aren’t exactly taking payments in Bitcoin. Instead, they are working with a middleman to immediately convert Bitcoin into U.S. dollars.
Even Overstock.com, the first major company to accept Bitcoin converts 90 percent of Bitcoin revenue into U.S. dollars. Companies like Coinbase and BitPay profit by charging transaction fees or selling subscriptions of their services to convert Bitcoin. Tony Gallippi, executive chairman of BitPay says that “most of our larger business do choose a settlement in 100 percent U.S. dollars.”
The fact is that Bitcoin isn’t a stable currency.
When the value of Bitcoin plummeted almost 50 percent, companies accepting Bitcoin didn’t feel the burn, because they’d already converted Bitcoin into cash.
Is the convenience of payment apps worth the risk of fraud?
(FINANCE) Peer-to-peer payment apps like CashApp and Venmo are quick and convenient – for users and scammers alike. What are Square and PayPal doing to help?
More and more people are using peer-to-peer payment services, like Square’s Cash App and PayPal’s Venmo, to make purchases, handle their banking, or just to pitch in on the pizza you and your friends had delivered last night. These payment apps have been particularly useful for folks who may not be able to afford bank fees or have other barriers preventing them from accessing a bank account.
That’s because they are very easy to set up, requiring nothing more than an email address or phone number. Even folks with bank accounts are using these payment apps more as folks are trying to stay home and reduce their in-person contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of daily users on Venmo has grown 26% since last year.
While these apps bring a lot of convenience to our lives, they have also made running scams more convenient for cybercriminals. According to experts, the rate of fraud on Venmo and Cash App is three to four times higher than with credit or debit cards. While PayPal and Square don’t provide statistics about scams, there are some telling signs. The New York Times and Apptopia, a mobile services tracking firm, found that the number of users mentioning frauds or scams in Venmo customer reviews had increased by four times in the past year.
It seems that Cash App has the most fraudulent activity, with the Better Business Bureau reporting twice as many complaints about Cash App as Venmo, even though Venmo has more users. Zelle has a better track record when it comes to fraud, most likely because it requires a more thorough authentication process when setting up an account. It also has better legal protections for folks who have been scammed.
Some of the things that make these payment apps so quick and easy are exactly the reasons it’s so easy to scam users. The instantaneous payments mean that there’s not much of a vetting process, and not much time to catch a fraudulent transaction before it’s too late. Because you only need an email address or phone number to set up an account, it’s easy for criminals to set up dummy accounts for running scams.
Other scams have been facilitated by the marketing choices of the companies. For example, Cash App regularly runs a Cash App Friday promotion, in which users are rewarded for sharing their username, or $Cashtag, on social media. Unfortunately, this has essentially created a Rolodex of potential victims for criminals.
Square and PayPal are doing what they can to address the problem. Lena Anderson of Square says that they are “aware that there has been a recent rise in scammers trying to take advantage of customers using financial products, including Cash App. We’ve taken a number of proactive steps and made it our top priority.”
One “proactive step” Square has taken is to roll out a customer service phoneline, not only to make it faster and easier for customers to vet potentially fraudulent transactions or report scams, but also because scammers have been creating fake customer service phonelines to target users and collect their personal information. The phoneline is currently available to only some customers, but Square plans to scale it up to be available for all users over time.
Until these companies come up with more robust security systems, there are several things you can do to avoid scams. While you might get a cash bonus from Cash App, it’s probably not worth it to share your $Cashtag on social media. Only share your username with people you know. Never share your personal or banking information with strangers. Examine all transactions carefully. Some scammers are stealing money by making a payment request from an account that looks legitimate, but may have a slightly different spelling or one-letter change in the name.
No legitimate agents of these services should ever ask you for your sign-in code, or to download software, and you shouldn’t click on any links in messages promising cash prizes. Never send small payments in exchange for a promised reward – if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Don’t use digital payment apps to pay for or receive payment from sales on Craigslist, Offer Up, or Facebook Marketplace.
If you think you’ve been scammed, changed your PIN number immediately and contact the company and/or the FTC.
Which generation has cried the most over money?
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Financial stress is tough on everyone. Here’s who has cried the most about money woes, and a few tips on how to alleviate some of that stress.
There’s been serious critique in the last several years about the educational system and what basic knowledge young people should be taught in the United States. Home Economics (Home Ec) comes to mind (everyone should probably know how to cook or sew a button), as well as financial literacy.
There are many young Americans who grow up not really having a deep understanding of budgeting and fixed and variable expenses… But it may not be their fault. Perhaps, Mom and Dad (or other guardians) have always been paying for all of their expenses, making sure they had a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food in their fridge. Because, that is what you’re supposed to do as a parent, correct?
So, while there’s no reason to blame anyone, often the process of learning what it costs to live and pay your bills is a rite of passage.
The current state of debt and financial fears also doesn’t mean that Millennials and Gen Zers weren’t educated around savings or working. Many young people have had part-time jobs (although much less in comparison to Gen X or Baby Boomers) but they may also be able to use the majority of that income for discretionary spending – which never created room for feelings of lack when they didn’t have to pay rent or a mortgage.
This scenario can ultimately create a challenge when you are finally out on your own and now have student loan debt, credit card debt, utility bills, and required car insurance. Especially if you are young person moving to a big city for exploration and/or new opportunities, where the cost of living can be quite high.
If you are feeling nervous or sad around finances, you are not alone. If you have cried over your personal balance sheet or your bank statements, you are also not alone. According to yahoo!money, a recent online survey of 1,004 Americans by CompareCards.com found that “7 in 10 Americans said they have cried about money in their lifetimes. Many cited worries over their job or making ends meet. Younger Americans appear the most vulnerable to financial tears. About half of millennials and half of Gen Zers said they cried at least once in the past month over money.”
So how can you cry LESS about money? Well, the first thing is to not be too hard on yourself. But you will also want to create a plan that works for you. Each person deserves financial freedom and not a bank statement that makes them cry on the regular.
Here are some financial literacy resources that may help you figure out how to navigate your way out of crippling debt.
Dave Ramsey Books – The Total Money Makeover – A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
Bravely Go with Kara Perez – Feminist economics + inclusive personal finance
Debt Relief Programs – you’ll have to do your research but there may be a program that is right for you and an agency that can help you set up a realistic payment program for you
Student Loan Forgiveness – it is worth looking in to your options if you are feeling overwhelmed with student loan debt and there may be ways for your loans to be forgiven
Financial Advisor – consider working with a professional that can help you with your budgeting, investing and retirement savings/funds
And you may still cry because this is big adult stuff… But hopefully you trust yourself to do the research, explore, ask, and find options that work for you to gain a little more control over your financial situation.
If you are not already doing so, it may be as simple as starting with a budget to better understand your income and outgoing expenses. Being informed can help you to plan better for the future and make you feel less like crying.
Stripe Treasury is modernizing banking, and Shopify is already onboard
(BUSINESS FINANCE) Stripe released a banking-as-a-service product that allows users to create bank accounts for their customers. Their first big user: Shopify.
Startup technology company Stripe is bringing banking to the 21st century. Recently, the company released a banking-as-a-service (BaaS) API called Stripe Treasury. This enables Stripe’s platform users to “build a full-featured, scalable financial product” for their customers.
Stripe Treasury lets you embed financial services into your marketplace or platform. In doing so, businesses can create bank accounts for their customers that easily send, receive, and store funds.
For instance, you can create an FDIC insurance-eligible account that earns interest and supports remote check deposit. You can make a one-time payment or set up recurring payments to pay bills. And, you can transfer funds through domestic or international wires.
“Everything about running an online business has been transformed by technology, but business banking has largely been left behind,” said Karim Temsamani, Head of Banking and Financial Products at Stripe. “But we’re changing this, just like we set out to change payments a decade ago. Offering a user-centric banking experience should be as easy as spinning up a virtual server—that’s what we’re starting to accomplish at Stripe with our bank partner network.”
By partnering with a network of global banks, Stripe Treasury can make it easier for businesses to embed banking services into their platform. Currently, Stripe’s partner network includes Goldman Sachs Bank USA and Evolve Bank & Trust as US partners, and Citibank N.A. and Barclays as global expansion partners.
According to recent Stripe research, accessing financial services for businesses today is an extensive process. To set up a bank account, it can take online businesses an average of seven days. To open an account, about 23% of businesses need to send over a fax, and about 55% of businesses are required to physically visit a branch to open an account.
From the research, Stripe also received feedback from users wanting a “digital solution for financial services” they can use directly from the software platform that powers their operations. So, Stripe Treasury is Stripe’s way of removing some of those barriers to create a solution.
“Together, Stripe and Goldman Sachs are focused on relieving the frustrations internet businesses find in making banking work for them,” said Hari Moorthy, Goldman Sachs Global Head of Transaction Banking. “The millions of ambitious, fast-growing businesses in the Stripe ecosystem will soon discover a dramatically improved end-to-end digital banking experience.”
Right now, Stripe Treasury is still invite-only, but it does have one big user. Major e-commerce platform Shopify will be the first to partner with Stripe Treasury. It will use the BaaS API to power Shopify Balance, the company’s business account built for independent businesses and entrepreneurs.
“At Shopify, we’re focused on reducing the barriers to entrepreneurship. As part of that mission, we will soon launch Shopify Balance to empower our merchants to take control of their finances,” said Tui Allen, Senior Product Lead for Banking at Shopify. “We’re excited to partner with Stripe to provide our merchants with critical financial tools and products for their banking experience, specifically designed for their businesses’ financial needs.”
With Shopify Balance, Shopify customers can open a bank account directly through Shopify. And, Shopify Balance will include a one-stop-shop account within the Shopify admin. Customers will be able to view cash flow, pay bills, and track expenses.
Shopify Balance will also have a Shopify Balance Card. With these physical and virtual cards, merchants can make a purchase in-store, online, or through their mobile wallets. They will even be able to withdraw money from ATMs. Additionally, there will be plenty of perks like cashback and discounts on everyday business spending.
The financial services Stripe Treasury offers do look like they can help businesses minimize the lengthy process used today to complete everyday banking needs. It might also create a new revenue stream for businesses by allowing them to perform like a bank.
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