I’m back, and now dealing with China’s new Bitcoin restrictions

I'm back, and now dealing with China's new Bitcoin restrictions
JISHOU, HUNAN — While I was away, China’s central banking authorities decided to investigate (as they put it), China’s Bitcoin exchanges, resulting in all the exchanges sharply curtailing withdrawals of Bitcoin until further notice. As I have used Bitcoin as a way to move part of my salary (paid in Chinese yuan) to my bank in America, this new situation directly affects me. All is not lost, however, as I will detail below. One dilemma many expats face is moving money from one country to another. I am paid in Chinese yuan, and am permitted to transfer 70% of my very modest pay — by US standards — each month to the USA. At first, I used bank wire transfers, which required substantial paperwork, the assistance of a Chinese national’s bank account and relatively high fees. Then I learned I could create a Chinese PayPal account and send funds to my American PayPal account, paying about 4% in exchange fees. Not bad, but my experience with PayPal is, shall we say, less than positive. Beginning in 2013 I started using Bitcoin to move my money cross-border. I’d buy bitcoins with Chinese yuan, send the bitcoins to my Coinbase account, and ...

Using Bitcoin to top up your cellphone minutes

JISHOU, HUNAN — Here’s a practical use for Bitcoin: I just topped up my friend’s cellphone account by sending Bitcoin from my phone’s wallet. My friend Laura is in Beijing and for various reasons not pertinent to this discussion, asked me to top up her cellphone account. Normally. I could do it from my computer by logging into my online bank account services and sending funds to top up any Chinese cellphone number. Trouble is, the entire campus hasn’t had Internet access since 11:30 am (it’s now 4 pm), and she needed the funds right away. So, I could have walked to the campus China Mobile office — in the pouring rain — and put in cash money — assuming their Internet was working — but I decided to try a new service called Piiko a try. Piiko allows you to top up cellphone accounts worldwide just by entering the country code + phone number and paying with Bitcoin. I had about $20 in my cell’s Bitcoin wallet, so I tried sending half that to Laura’s account. It worked! Here are the details. To use it with your mobile phone, you need to have a Bitcoin wallet on your phone, ...
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