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These powerful tools allow consumers to exchange cash for bitcoin and other virtual currencies, and some allow for exchange of virtual currencies into cash. Virtual-currency ATMs are beginning to be installed in various sites around the country and world.
Banks are now taking a hard look at virtual currencies, particularly as these emerge as a serious competitor to traditional money-transfer providers. Explore the compliance and cost issues here.
The most widely used cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is catching on worldwide, spinning off an industry of money exchanges, self-service devices, payment systems, and more. It's also getting scrutiny from government regulators around the globe. Learn about the latest developments here.
The block chain is the decentralized, constantly updated public ledger that details the history of all transactions on a network since that network's inception.
Convertible virtual currencies are those virtual currencies that can be bought with and sold back for legal tender -- Bitcoin is just one example.
Bitcoin has become the best-known of the cryptocurrencies, but there are hundreds of these virtual currencies that are produced by solving mathematical problems based on cryptography – from Dodgecoin and Litecoin to Ripple, Auroracoin, and others.
Consumers, retailers, and others looking to buy or trade one virtual currency for either their country's legal tender (or for another virtual currency), or trade legal tender for virtual currency, can do so via an online digital currency exchange.
Many believe that virtual currencies can provide great utility for those without bank accounts – expanding opportunities, helping to raise the standard of living, and boosting global economic growth along the way.
In addition to smart phones and tablets, there are also retail POS systems and dedicated merchant terminals for accepting virtual currencies.
Some consumers are buying bitcoins and other virtual currencies and holding them as a long-term, high-risk investment. Investors are also investing in bitcoin-mining technologies.
Kiosks can be used to exchange legal currency for virtual currency (and vice versa), while others allow for purchases using virtual currency. See also ATMs and POS.
Mining is the act of generating new virtual currency by solving cryptographic problems, using computer hardware, now typically with ASIC-centric machines. Some users join mining "pools," cooperatives in which users contribute their computers' processing power and then share in the resulting cryptocurrency that is produced.
Follow companies looking to replace leather wallets with the digital variety, where consumers can store virtual currency for later use; these wallets also hold the private keys associated with virtual-currency addresses.
Can bitcoin and other virtual currencies change online e-commerce? Their ability to speed up the transaction process while eliminating many transaction fees certainly are advantages. Here's where we'll report on virtual currency and its changing role in e-commerce.
Companies such as Coinbase, BitPay and Coinkite allow retailers, restaurants and other merchants to seamlessly integrate virtual currency into their payment options, and to do so for online as well as brick-and-mortar locations.
A growing number of commerce-specific options aim to streamline the process that enables merchants to accept payment in bitcoin and other virtual currencies. These solutions can be in the form of ATMs, kiosks, apps, and more.
Regulations are rolling out slowly but surely in the fast-moving virtual-currency industry. Track the latest developments here as federal, state, and local governments strive to keep up with the technology.
Facilitating transactions across international borders could prove to be one major advantage offered by virtual currencies. Virtual currency's underlying technology allows anyone the ability to conduct low-cost, peer-to-peer payments without restriction, proponents say.
The restaurant and hospitality industries are well on their way to accepting virtual currencies. As major restaurant chains and hospitality venues add to their acceptance of virtual currencies, we'll report on it here.
By integrating the acceptance of virtual currencies into their shops, retailers ensure that they're not turning away business from forward-thinking spenders. As major retailers add to their acceptance of virtual currencies, we'll report on it here.
Users of virtual currencies must secure their wallets – via backups, encryption, offline devices (aka "cold storage"), hardware wallets, and other methods and technologies.
Stay on top of the latest software and apps that allow for the acceptance and processing of virtual currencies.
In the spring of 2014, the US IRS indicated that virtual currencies should be treated as property not currency, and the Australian Tax Office followed suit in the fall. Here's where you can read about tax-related issues with virtual currencies as they come to pass.
Here's where we'll post the latest numbers and trends as virtual currencies extend their reach around the globe.