Banco Masventas, a bank in Argentina, will partner with Bitex, an Argentina-based exchange, to allow customers to send or receive bitcoin for international transactions instead of using the SWIFT network.
The bank announced the news Monday on its website. The announcement reads, in part: "The service allows you to reduce costs associated with international transfers as there are no international banks as intermediaries." It also notes that account-to-account payments are available for "more than 50 countries" and can be completed within 24 hours.
Although the transfers will be made in bitcoin, the partnership with Bitex allows the bank to quickly convert Argentine pesos into bitcoin and back to local currency. Customers, therefore, aren't dealing with bitcoin directly.
Because it's through a bank, it's not quite the anonymous – or even pseudonymous – system that privacy advocates might envision. To send to another account, customers must not only give bank details of the person they're sending to, but also provide proof of their own address and a copy of their ID. Moreover, they'll be charged an international transfer commission of 3 percent plus VAT (value added tax).
Yet given Argentina's history of economic problems, users may be happy to pay the fee. Journalist Nathaniel Popper wrote in 2015 about how Argentina's volatile financial system made it an ideal laboratory for bitcoin. The country's inflation rate stood above 25 percent last year and 40 percent the year before. Obviously, that's high compared to the rest of the world, where inflation hovers around 2 percent. And it may be enough to rattle customers who remember when inflation skyrocketed above 3,000 percent in the early '90s.
Over the past few years, however, the country has reduced controls on currency exchanges. Those controls had hindered Argentinians' ability to easily exchange pesos for dollars without paying a hefty fee. Still, freer access to the US dollar isn't likely to reduce consumer demand for international payments in bitcoin, especially when those payments can be made quicker and cheaper. Argentina has generally been receptive to that cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology behind it. For example, the government has been publishing official bulletins on the Bitcoin blockchain since June 2017.
Translations by Google.