Almost 20 Ghent shopkeepers currently accept bitcoins payments. Bitcoin is a virtual currency created in 2009. This successful development is explained by the growing interest raised by the new currency but also by the work of volunteers from the “Gent Bitcoin-city” association. They have organised an inaugural evening on April 18th. “Bitcoin is a digital currency which can circulate from person to person without bank intervention,” explain Andreas Wauters and Roeland Creve, instigators of the Ghent project. “Shopkeepers incur no costs when they are paid via tablets or smartphones.”
Using the website “Bitkassa”, the bitcoins are immediately converted into euros and paid into the company’s bank account. The company can also choose to keep the balance in bitcoins. The system has already been tested in Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where sixty stores currently accept bitcoin payments.
At the end of September, the first ever bitcoin ATM in Belgium was installed in Ghent. The number of stores accepting bitcoin payments then went up from 3 to 18, including restaurants in the student district and the old town centre, a gift shop and a skateboard shop.