International Payments are Stuck in the Stone Age
International payments in the year 2019 do not work well.
It costs an inordinate amount of money to just use your money.
If you need to exchange currencies as a tourist you pay a massive fee, in the airport or other tourist exchanges the spread is massive over the best competitive rate. You may lose 10% just changing your money.
If you use an ATM in a foreign country, many places will assess a large fee, which can amount to a 1–10% of the cash you take out.
And if you pay with a credit card, it might work, and it might not. I have several “international-friendly, no-fee” credit cards. In person they work better. If you need to make online purchases, or purchase international flights, they don’t work much of the time.
I called one airline who told me they just reject US credit cards if they are booked online. And then some booking sites error out. And the website tells you to call your bank, and the bank then tells you to call the website. It’s taken me hours just to not be able to book flights online with functional “international-friendly” credit cards.
Also, if you leave a country with any coins, you can’t really exchange those. I haven’t found a currency exchange place that will exchange coins from other countries.
Additionally, the fraud-detection systems of banks do not handle travel well, even if you tell them. So your charges are marked as fraud, even if you make them.
The system of pipes and duct tape behind the scenes that is the global payments system does not work well.
As I’ve thought about this more it’s clear to me why something like bitcoin could be so useful. Even if it reaches only 1–5% of it’s potential, it can transform international commerce.
When you are in the US and able to use your money easily, it’s not clear why bitcoin could be useful. But when you have money and can’t use it, or it is difficult to use it, and all the banks and credit cards and currency exchange shops are doing is introducing hurdles to using your money…. it becomes clear why bitcoin can be valuable.