Despite some recent legal setbacks in the community and a complete lack of regulatory clarity, Bitcoin’s march to the mainstream continues forward as the value of a single Bitcoin hovers between $800 and $900. But getting into the virtual currency remains something of an obstacle for the average person. Now, a new Web service called Card for Coin is doing its part to take a few bricks off that barrier to entry.
Founded by Matt Luongo, a 25-year-old software developer and co-founder of research search engine Scholrly, Card for Coin lets users sell their unused Starbucks gift cards in exchange for Bitcoin. (Starbucks is not officially affiliated with the site.) Simply enter in your card details into the site, and Luongo checks the balance. He’ll then offer you “a percentage of the balance” (usually between 60 to 70 percent) in Bitcoin (BTC), says Luongo. Once the customer agrees to a price, Luongo transfers the BTC to customers using popular Bitcoin exchange Coinbase. After that, “customers can throw away their card,” he says.
While the 30 to 40 percent cut is likely too steep for seasoned Bitcoin investors, Luongo believes the simplicity of his service gives newcomers an easy way to get into the world’s most popular and valuable cryptocurrency.
“It’s a great way for beginners to get Bitcoin quickly – usually signing up at an exchange takes a while, but trading BTC for services or goods is much faster,” Luongo tells Digital Trends in an email. “There’s no minimum balance on the cards (e.g. < $5 is fine), so I think that makes the value proposition better as well.”
Luongo, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and describes himself as a “coffee-house philosopher,” says the inspiration behind Card for Coin came from his desire to support local coffee shops, as opposed to a large national chain. “Every Christmas, I get a bunch of Starbucks gift cards,” he says. “I’m big into specialty coffee, so I usually avoid Starbucks – but since people know I like coffee, those are the cards I get!”
After Tonx, an online coffee retailer, launched a service that exchanges Starbucks gift cards for its own Web-store credit, Luongo, who “co-works” with Tonx CTO Scott Rocher, took the idea and adapted it to create his own take on a Bitcoin exchange. “Bitcoin is so important right now, so I thought, ‘Hey, why not go straight to consumers?’” Luongo says.
While Luongo says he is “very interested” in Bitcoin alternatives (so-called altcoins) like Litecoin and Dogecoin, they are “a little bit more difficult to work with … since they don’t have quite the same infrastructure” as Bitcoin. Still, says Luongo, “if there’s demonstrated demand,” he would work to accept those altcoins. He’s also looking into accepting gift cards from other retailers (like Amazon).