Coinbase opens first US bitcoin exchange

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Bitcoin payment firm Coinbase will open the first regulated bitcoin exchange in the US today in a bid to boost the legitimacy of the cryptocurrency.

Coinbase already offers exchange services in 19 countries, but has needed five months to accrue the necessary licenses and approvals to open an exchange in the US. Now, the firm told the Wall Street Journal, it has regulatory approval in half of US states, including significant areas like New York and California. Coinbase will only offer exchange services to account holders in states that have given regulatory approval, working in the meantime to gain approval in the rest of the country. The company will take a small fee of 0.25 per cent from most transactions made after the first two months, and nothing before that point.

Coinbase added the New York Stock Exchange and USAA to its list of investors after a $75 million funding round last week.

Opening a regulated bitcoin exchange in the US could bring further legitimacy to the cryptocurrency which, despite plummeting prices since topping £1,000 in 2013 and troubled bitcoin exchanges overseas, has continued to grow in popularity due to the ease with which it can be transferred. According to Coinbase, 82,000 businesses accept the currency, double that of a year earlier, including e-commerce site Overstock.com Inc. and Expedia Inc.

The exact legality of bitcoin in the US has been undecided for some time, and the New York Department for Financial Services has been scrutinizing its use to come up with a so-called BitLicense for firms looking to offer digital-currency services in the state. Regulatory backing for Coinbase’s exchange could bring more confidence to the crypto-currency while financial regulators continue to consider its place in the wider financial system.

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