Bitrefill, the startup that offers Bitcoin-funded prepaid cards for different services worldwide, launched a new bill-payment service that allows Salvadorans to pay for multiple basic needs using Bitcoin. The company made the announcement during the three-day conference Adopting Bitcoin carried in El Salvador, which brought together “the Bitcoin and Lightning community”.
Bitcoin has been a legal tender in El Salvador since September 7th, but many businesses were not sticking to the requirement of accomodating the digital coin as a payment method into their operations, Bitrefill’s CEO noted. Some have even stated they rather lose sales. Bitrefill aims to offer a solution for businesses so they can easily adapt to using Bitcoin and ease their current worries.
Bitrefill’s bill-payment method will allow Salvadorians to pay for 150 different services using Bitcoin, including internet, water, insurance, loans, taxes, mortgage, social security services, university expenses, and others. They also allowed payments overseas. 12 services are available at the moment on the website, and they will be adding the rest over the next few weeks.
The platform will be using Bitcoins Lightning Network and on-chain transactions, which allows low fees. “El Salvador can now live entire on Bitcoin”, stated the company.
The feature is offered in alliance with Puntoexpress, a local payment platform. The payment process was simplified for the users so they only need to provide an email address to redeem a voucher code and receipt.
El Salvador, A Bitcoin Land
Bitrefill reported they have processed 187,000 purchases in El Salvador during 2021, and 88% come from the country’s capital, San Salvador. There was a peak of 20,000 payments in September when the ‘Bitcoin law’ went into effect.
The majority of Salvadorians reportedly use the Chivo digital wallet, an app created by the government, as the preferred payment method for Bitrefill purchases.
Bitrefill’s CEO, Sergej Kotliar, stated that they now have headquarters established in El Salvador, a manager in the country, and they are hiring for all roles to cover the company’s needs. He shared his strategy is to be directly involved in the country by being present and maintaining contact with people who provide him with different approaches and information that the company can use to design other services.
The CEO thinks El Salvador could become an example model that other countries could follow. The company also stated in a tweet:
The most important part is that the 80% of unbanked people can now pay for almost everything online, products, services, bills, from the comfort of their home (or their relatives in the USA).
El Salvador’s adoption of Bitcoin has been a bumpy road. However, the Chivo Wallet surpasses 2.2 million users a few weeks after its launch, gaining around 8,500 new users per hour and reaching 3 million later on. The citizens received $30 each as an incentive for downloading the app, but some reported to Reuters they had problems using it and making withdrawals.
The government remains optimistic, although challenges lay ahead. We are yet to see if innovation and good strategies can help close the gap between the government’s vision and the tension around Salvadorians.
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