South Korean BTC services provider Coinplug comes up with a prepaid Bitcoin card service available in approximately 24,000 convenience stores across the country.
Eight thousand 7-Eleven stores are said to be already offering the service. According to Coinplug, their ‘okBitcard’ will become available to customers in other leading store chains as early as end of January 2015. Considering the total number of stores engaged, this is going to become the world’s biggest ever prepaid Bitcoin sell-out campaign.
Coinplug is having paper cards printed already, and they will be offered to store visitors at the end of February. Card values are 10.000, 30.000 and 50.000 KRW (South Korean wons) respectively, or $10 to $50 in dollar equivalent. The prepaid cards can only be activated by shop assistants immediately after purchase – such is one of the measures planned to be taken to prevent possible theft attempts.
Though cards do not physically exist at the moment, customers can still purchase bitcoins at the stores’ counters. In this case, instead of getting a prepaid card as shown on the picture above, they will receive a printed receipt with a PIN-code on it.
Offering specifically physical cards instead of SMS services or using payment terminals, Coinplug aims to make the customers’ life easier. Richard Yun, the company’s COO, says prepaid Bitcoin cards are more handy and convenient to purchase for average consumers, especially the ones having little or no experience buying bitcoins via Internet exchange platforms, or trying to possibly avoid visual and verbal contact with shop assistants and other staff. According to Yun, even nowadays many people, including youngsters(!), find it somehow difficult to purchase bitcoins. On the other hand, many see prepaid Bitcoin cards as a great gift idea.
Every time a user purchases an ‘okBitcard’ at the counter, they receive a receipt from the cashier with a unique PIN printed on it. As soon as the user activates their ‘okBitcard’ using whether the okBitcard app for mobile devices or the okBitcard website, a personal Bitcoin wallet is generated for them instantly.
Basically, the paper card as such does not necessarily carry value in bitcoins; instead, its value is measured in fiat currency. So, when a customer redeems their prepaid card, the company’s system just exchanges a sum in regular money into the required amount of digital currency.
Apart from coming to thousands convenience stores in South Korea, Coinplug will also sell their ‘okBitcard’ in another store chain in Asia. This time the cards will be distributed via about 5,000 kiosks located in stores in Taiwan, all thanks to cooperation with BitoEX Bitcoin platform.
Cryptomarket and CoinPip, companies based in Malaysia and Singapore respectively, are also known to have previously offered prepaid Bitcoin cards to their customers. Their businesses were, however, not as large-scale as the one introduced by Coinplug. Pre-loaded cards give average consumers two great possibilities: the first is to purchase small amounts of bitcoins easily and conveniently at regular retail locations, and the second is enabling them to perform quick P2P Bitcoin transactions with no need to go online or create a permanent BTC wallet.
Another option Coinplug is currently experimenting with are the so-called “online-to-offline” (O2O) payments. In Mr. Yun’s opinion, this technology, enabling Android-based digital wallets to send and receive BTC using the near-field communication (NFC) functionality, belongs to the now-emerging trend of new global payments.
Among other Coinplug’s projects is the launch of the second Korean-made Bitcoin ATM; the manufacturer is Nautilus Hyosung. The company has announced they will set the ATM up in Korea University’s computer science department foyer.