Philippines-based bitcoin wallet app targets remittance market

bitcoin keyring

Coins.ph has released a mobile bitcoin wallet app that aims to address payment problems faced by emerging markets, especially the Philippines.

The Android-only  app works as a mobile remittance service by converting bitcoin to Philippines pesos, as well as allowing users to buy and sell bitcoin through various channels, top up prepaid mobile phones and pay bills without the need for a bank account.

 “With our bitcoin wallet, customers enjoy similar perks to those they would get from having a bank account, minus the barriers for setting one up,” said CEO Ron Hose. “Most importantly, keeping a Coins.ph wallet is free.”

The remittance market is a key focus for apps like this, with around $23bn-worth of incoming transfers to the country in 2013 and an additional $30-$60m sent domestically.

Competitors like Rebit.ph and BuyBitcoin.ph are also adding features and building relationships with financial services businesses, in an attempt to sidestep existing international transfer options and make it easier and cheaper for underbanked users to make payments. As much as 75 per cent of the Phillipino population remains ‘unbanked’ and fewer than 5 per cent have credit cards.

Coins.ph users don’t need to link their accounts to bank accounts to buy and sell bitcoin. The can select an outlet from the app’s long list of banks and payment processors, with useful notes advising how much each charges in fees. Some processors (generally the most expensive) will deliver cash door-to-door, others allow for customer pickup

Users can also send bitcoins directly  from an existing balance or perform a cash-to-cash remittance, depositing cash in any bitcoin ATM around the world. The app provides a QR code for the ATM to scan, and pesos are delivered automatically to the preferred destination by the next business day.

Coins.ph is also developing a system for bill payments, allowing a family member in a country like Qatar or Canada to pay utility or tuition bills directly from the app or website for Philippines-based relatives.

The company has plans to expand throughout Southeast Asia, hoping to tap into the region’s 620 million unbanked population. Earlier this year it opened a second exchange, Coins.co.th, in Thailand.

The mobile app, Android-only at present, is available for download from Coins.ph or the Google Play store.

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