Opening a Bitcoin Wallet in Thailand / Philippines?

I’ve always been a bit of a fish when it comes to investing, stocks / shares / bonds etc. (why don’t they teach us this in school?) and had only vaguely heard of Bitcoin. A friend of a poker friend bought a ton of the cryptocurrency in late 2013 when it was on a huge upswing, then it TANKED big time.

investing-in-bitcoin-thailand-philippines

View the value of Bitcoin currency on XE.com

So being scared off by that I never considered opening a Bitcoin account in Thailand. Then recently more and more people started talking about Bitcoin. I saw news articles about how it’s back and on a two year high.

Dante had asked me if I knew about it (always lazy to do his own research) and I said I’d look into it when I got time. Then the price of Bitcoin jumped another 21% in 4 days 😀 I was too slow.

Learning about Bitcoin

About the same time a friend from Vietnam came over to Thailand, and needed some Baht in cash. He couldn’t be bothered to deal with 180 Baht ATM fees using his foreign card. I suggested he go to the SuperRich currency exchange by Asok BTS and swap VND for THB there.

Instead he said ‘never mind, I’ll do a Bitcoin trade‘, and whipped out his smartphone. After a few seconds he handed it to me to put in my Thai bank and account name. Within minutes the money was in my account to withdraw for him.

LocalBitcoins.com

He explained that he used LocalBitcoins.com to quickly trade Bitcoins for cash anywhere in the world. You just enter how much you want to trade, pick one of the traders (go for one with 100% feedback and 100+ trades) and then your Bitcoins are held in escrow until you get the money (they send first).

Pretty cool. Now I was really motivated to open a Bitcoin wallet myself, and never deal with money changers or ATM fees again (all I needed was a friend with a local bank account, and my phone).

My first Bitcoin account

So I started looking into opening a Bitcoin wallet in Thailand, he recommended Coinbase as one of the most well-known international wallets. So I went for that.

Coinbase.com

It turned out Coinbase have quite high withdrawal fees in my case though. To cashout Bitcoins to Thailand I’d first need to convert it to Euros incurring an uncapped 1% fee.

bitcoin-fees-philippines

Maria’s reaction to Coinbase’s fees

Then when I wired those Euros to my Thai bank account I’d get charged again – Kasikorn takes a 0.25% foreign currency exchange fee, minimum charge 200 baht, maximum 500 baht – so to withdraw say 3 Bitcoins (about €2000) I’d be paying about €33.

Finding a Thailand Bitcoin wallet

So I started Googling around for a Thailand based Bitcoin wallet, found Coins.co.th, and transferred some of my Bitcoins there to test it out. Bitcoin transfers are free, you just copy paste the wallet address (a one-line alphanumerical code) and hit send.

Coins.co.th

Coins.co.th use inter-bank transfers within Thailand instead of wires, so there’s no wire fee, and on their end they only charge 20 baht for withdrawals.

You need to verify your ID and upload a selfie of yourself holding it (bit weird) but the site looks safe and legit. Once verified I tested a cashout and it arrived within the hour.

For safety you can keep the majority of your Bitcoins in a more well-known wallet like Coinbase and just transfer some over to Coins.co.th whenever you need to withdraw.

Coins.ph

The same company are also based in the Philippines (Coins.ph) and have a mobile app of the same name. Perfect for me living in Bangkok and doing visa runs to Manila every 2-3 months.

coins-ph-bitcoin-app-philippines

The Coins.ph app

There isn’t a Coins.co.th mobile app yet but the PH one uses the same balance interchangeably. So if I ever need to send money to someone in the Philippines or do a trade, I’ll be using that.

Both the TH and PH sites use two-factor authentication for added security.

Bitcoin security

Before when I was using my Kasikorn online shopping card to pay for things online I’d have to enter a one-time password (OTP) sent to me by text message.

That was really annoying because when outside Thailand the texts don’t arrive, and I could never work out how to use international roaming. I don’t think Truemove has it.

No More SMS OTPs

With Coins you don’t need a TH or PH phone signal, only an internet connection. Just install the app ‘Google Authenticator’ and it sends you the OTP in that app, not by SMS.

There’s been a spate of hackings of Thai bank accounts because hackers can spoof your phone number to receive the OTP by text. Google Authenticator stops that happening – no one can do anything without physically having your phone – but Kasikorn don’t support it.

Using Bitcoin to Pay for Stuff Online

As well as being like a second bank account (in case a Thai bank employee steals my balance, I’ve read horror stories about that too) I can use my Coins.co.th account to top up my mobile or pay utility bills.

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Coins.co.th mobile top up

Mobile Credit

I tested it and it delivered phone credit to my True SIM card in seconds. I’ll never have to go to 7/11 and queue up for phone credit again in my life. And I can send load to a Pinay in need.

Utility Bills

I haven’t tested it on an electricity / water bill yet, but it supports a range of stuff. You can pay for your Thaicupid date’s credit card bills or university tuition fees too 🙂

Businesses

Over time more businesses will accept Bitcoin payments, so far some massage spas are already accepting it (wonder how many Bitcoins for a handjob?), tailor shops, bars, Muay Thai gyms – the full list is on the Coins.co.th website. I expect AirBnb and Agoda to accept it soon too.

OKCupid already accepts Bitcoin, so FilipinoCupid shouldn’t be far behind. If you’re a blogger, the Thaifriendly affiliate program even pays out in Bitcoin.

Buying Bitcoin as an Investment?

Your Bitcoin balance on the Coins website will fluctuate every day based on the rising and falling value of Bitcoin currency. It’s pretty fun to watch.

bitcoin-2016-graph

Bitcoin value increase Nov 2015 – Nov 2016

Bitcoin has more than doubled in value over the last year (1 BTC is worth $750 today, up from $330 this time last year) and it’s a pretty steady uptick, hopefully it continues to rise.

Another thing I’ve considered doing in Thailand is a time deposit with Citibank, you lock away a lump sum of money for a fixed amount of time and collect high interest. But it’s a hassle to open a bank account in Thailand as a foreigner, some banks reject you without a work permit, and there’s a ton of paperwork.

If Bitcoin keeps rising like this it seems a way better investment than any savings account. In the time it took to write this blog post so far my balance has gone up 1000 baht.

Making Money Online Trading Bitcoin?

You can also make side income as a trader on LocalBitcoins.com, start by posting trade at close to the market value to build up positive feedback, then adjust the margin as you get more customers.

For example at the time of writing 1 BTC = 25921 THB. Most people will pick the first trader because he has 3000+ trades and can do up to 100k at a time. He’s buying each bitcoin for 25440 THB so he earns about $14 profit every trade, and it only takes a few seconds.

making-money-online-bitcoin-trades

LocalBitcoins.com traders

Just get alerts on your phone every time someone requests a trade (you get 30 mins to respond) and post ads at times of the day when you’re awake. A couple trades a day and you have enough to live off in South East Asia. If you have bank accounts in several countries, you can reach more customers.

No More ATMs?

I haven’t tested it out yet but you can also send money to the Philippines using the app and withdraw it at certain ATMs without the need of an ATM card.

Same applies to Thailand, there are options for  bank cash pickup and cardless ATM withdrawal.

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Sending money to Thailand with Bitcoin on Coins.co.th

Bitcoin in the Philippines & Thailand – History

Coins.ph came first, established in 2013 by Ron Hose and Runar Petursson, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Based in Manila, today they provide the Bitcoin payments option for Metrodeal and CashCashPinoy.

Bitcoin in the Philippines has had a much smoother history than Thailand, where the first Bitcoin exchange, Bitcoin.co.th, went offline at one point after indications from its central bank that Bitcoin is illegal. That decision was then reversed.

Subsequently Coins.ph launched Coins.co.th in 2014, becoming the second provider of Bitcoin in Thailand.

Invite a Friend

Use the links on this page to get 1000 free bits to test out Coins. Top up your phone on me 🙂

Then invite a friend that may be interested in Bitcoin in the Philippines / Thailand – you each get 1000 free bits. The more people that start using Bitcoin, the stronger it becomes as a currency!

Get $10 free when you buy $100 of Bitcoin on Coinbase via this page (avoid the withdrawal fees by transferring to a more local wallet). Then invite a friend for another $10 each.

jspill

Jspill is a guest poster at Nomad Philippines. View latest posts.

19 Responses

  1. jspilljspill says:

    I’m still fairly new to Bitcoin so if I’ve missed anything or made any errors let me know in the comments.

  2. -Cam says:

    This is actually something I know quite a lot about. I have experience mining, buying, and selling a number of cryptocurrencies for 3 years. BTC is not an investment. Only put in what you are willing to loose.

    That being said, it is possible to make money off of BTC. However the way to do this is NOT to hold BTC in some random wallet Thai or Filipino wallet. If you don’t own the private keys you don’t own the BTC. This painful leason has been learned by people over and over again as their exchanges and third party wallers have been hacked. I put a link to a story about a 70 million dollar hack that occured a few months ago because people can’t seem to understand this concept.

    The best way to make moeny off of coins is to 1) become familair with the price cycles 2) sell it for Cash in countries that have a lot of cash BTC demand. 1) Is simple but somewhat risky. Basically every few months there will be a BTC scare or hack which causes price to dip 20%. Then a month or two later the price will go back up. Another key driver of price increases are the Chinese, which brings us to number #2. Selling btc for cash. There are many countries with currency controls or high inflation. In many of these countries locals want to buy btc so they can get their cash out of the country. BTC is a great way to do this but most exchanges will ask you questions if you start to buy a lot. If you a communist party member in a country where corruption has a death penalty questions are really bad. Thus you are often willing to pay an extra 10-20% premium for question free BTC to cash transfers.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    http://qz.com/753958/the-65-million-bitfinex-hack-shows-that-it-is-impossible-to-tell-a-good-bitcoin-company-from-a-bad-one/

    • jspilljspill says:

      Thanks! Well surely only putting in what you can afford to lose applies to anything? There have been plenty of stock market scams and people losing everything.

      If you mean it isn’t an investment because you don’t really own the BTC and it could be hacked, I did write that you could hold most of your balance in Coinbase. That article about large BTC providers being hacked ranks Coinbase above Bitfinex:

      “Coinbase, the first regulated bitcoin exchange in the US, maintains a community page for its users and has offered its founders up for interviews. Bitfinex has done none of these things. There are no “About Us” pages to peruse, or trade-press profiles of founders.”

      And Bitfinex did reimburse the victims – http://www.coindesk.com/bitfinex-reimburses-first-bitcoin-exchange-hack-victims/

      I agree the idea of directly making money by selling it / being aware of price cycles is better though.

  3. -Cam says:

    Bitcoin is a very new asset class and as a result has an incredible amount of uncertainty. There are so many things that could cause bitcoin to go to zero in the next few years. Here are some quick examples:

    1) A superior or competing coin could take over. BTC is only the most valuable coin because it was first to the market. There are MANY coins that have much better designs and features.

    2) BTC fails due to the internal governance challenges that it is facing such as the block size debate.

    3) State governments regulate it to hell or make it illegal. Some countries were already smart enough to do this such as Russia (It’s technically legal but there is a defacto ban). The ECB has also voiced concern over cryptocurrencies being able to interfere with its ability to control monetary policy. BTC is very bad for governments because if it grows big enough it will make their currencies worthless. Once they fully understand this more and more countries will ban it.

    4) 51% attack. The bitcoin rules can be changed if 51% of miners agree to implement a change. Currently over 55% of the btc mining pools are located in China. If their government wanted to they could take control of those companies and destroy BTC in a matter of weeks. Alternatively, the NSA could use some of its super computers to mine BTC and do the same.

    So when all of these factors are considered, it becomes very clear that holding BTC is pure speculation. I am not saying that BTC or cryptocurrencies in general will fail, but I think that their future is a lot more uncertain than many advocates make it out to be. At this point BTC is a tool/speculation vehicle not an investment. Moreover, if you truly want to speculate, I’d look into altcoins because they have much high upsides.

    • jspilljspill says:

      Well finishing up every month for the last 2 years seems pretty steady at the moment. According to TechCrunch “there are many reasons to be optimistic about Bitcoin right now. The two dominant Chinese exchanges have seen many sign ups and buy orders”.

      If a new competing coin were to emerge, wouldn’t people just sell BTC and buy that instead? Excuse my ignorance. Same with it going to zero over the next few years – it’s not like you’d just sit back and watch your money disappear overnight, you’d sell it. And isn’t the US Dollar facing eventual collapse too? What other type of investment is both more stable, and has the same potential upsides (e.g. doubling in a year, as BTC has).

      Similar thing with governments cracking down on it over time – just sell up if it looks like that’s going to happen? Coins works in Thailand and Philippines, both would have to ban it at once.

      I don’t disagree it’s pure speculation, but anything would be because I have no idea about investing in general. What’s better? Altcoins sounds interesting, I’ll look into that.

      • -Cam says:

        I’m cautiously optimistic. Optimistic enough to buy when it dips but not enough to buy and hold after a large rally (such as the one we’ve just witnessed). And if you are looking for a speculative investment that might double you’d be much better off with some of the alt coins. That is where the real money will be made.

      • -Cam says:

        Etheruem is is worth buying at ~10.25 in my opinion. This is not financial advice

  4. kick2dantekick2dante says:

    so does this mean swimmin > jspill when it comes to investing?

  5. kez says:

    You forgot to include the spread between buy and sell prices at Bitcoin exchanges. This is what makes Bitcoin more expensive than other international money transfer options. You need to do the Math assuming a static Bitcoin price and currency exchange rates to see the real cost of EUR to THB using Bitcoin exchanges.

    • jspilljspill says:

      Yes I did, noob mistake. It’s about 2% on Coins, so more than Coinbase. It seems better to post a trade on LocalBitcoins in order to cash out.

      • kez says:

        If you are interested in altcoins, I suggest you learn about Monero. I bought a little Bitcoin to play around with, then sold it as it doesn’t really offer me improvement over Visa for paying for stuff, and banks for international transfers. It is a speculative store of value only, and I already see other cyrpto as being technically better, and will likely take over in 5-10 years.

        Check out the Monero reddit and Stack Exchange, and this video:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEVm1dMn5Ks

        Disclaimer, I do not own it, just see it as having potential, more so than Bitcoin.

  6. guy says:

    sounds like a great way to get rich! shipping them half my money now, retiring by 2018!

  7. SouthernAdventurer says:

    I’m liberterian so Bitcoin is like our holy grail but even I don’t have any. I’m avoiding it for the same reason I am avoiding the stock market right now, there is a huge asset bubble right now. The big fortune 500 companies like Apple, Lowes, Home Depot, etc have all tripled since 2011 without the fundamentals to back it up which is a clear sign of an unhealthy bubble caused by speculation.

    The fed is going to be raising interest rates in Dec when this happens two things happen. One the value of US Dollars goes up compared to other currencies and two it causes speculators to get out of the market. We have been 8 years since the last economic collapse and are due another (1991-01, 01-08). Its always best to be liquid (US Dollars) when the bubble pops. I could have bought stock in Mar 09 for pennies on the dollar.

  8. jspilljspill says:

    Just asked Coins support how much they’re charging to buy bitcoins, as it looks about 2 – 2.5%. This was the reply I got (lol at the smileys):

    We charge 1% fee from your order amount as a standard fee and we are doing our best toward working to reduce the fee for all of our users. 🙂
    Regarding the price margin, it varies a lot according the the price calculation based on different markets in the world but we are trying to offer the best price at all time possible. 🙂
    When you are residing in Thailand, it would, presumably, be more convenient for you to cash out immediately in Thai Baht without risking the foreign exchange conversion charge like you would experience if you were to sell with other foreign Bitcoin operators and have the money transferred to Thai bank account if you have one. 🙂
    We also try our best to provide wide variety of convenient outlets for both our Thai and no-Thai users.
    Hope this answers some of your questions.

    Not sure I believe her, she’s cute though – http://i.imgur.com/v9DOcf1.png

  9. jspilljspill says:

    Bitcoin jumped a lot with Trump’s win, off to Nana to celebrate

  10. jspilljspill says:

    so bitcoin almost doubled since I wrote this post and has never been higher in history

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