Universal Bitcoin Payment System OneBit Enters Alpha Testing

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In April, Bitcoin Magazine reported that startup OneBit was developing a Bitcoin wallet app that lets users pay at any store with contactless mobile payment by seamlessly and transparently accessing the credit card payment networks. OneBit securely converts users’ bitcoin on the fly into any major local currency and pays merchants via their NFC payment terminals, at zero fees.

Now, OneBit developer Toby Hoenisch has announced on Reddit that OneBit has entered alpha testing, and the first handful of alpha users are doing test transactions around the globe. In an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, Hoenisch answered many questions from the participants.

Hoenisch confirmed that OneBit has zero fees.

“You will be able to pay world wide, at market rates at any shop that accepts credit cards via NFC!” he said. “But before we launch OneBit we want to make sure that our security is top notch. And for that we are talking with a bunch of highly motivated investors to bring bitcoin main stream.”

The OneBit website states that the developers plan to go into closed beta soon and invites readers to sign up for early access.

Though OneBit was first developed at a Mastercard Hackathon, Hoenisch said that OneBit doesn’t have an official partnership with Visa or Mastercard.

“But we also don’t need one,” noted Hoenisch. “Mastercard and Visa operate as a franchise business with thousands of issuing partner banks. So far they have not issued any guidance on how to deal with companies like ours. Therefore it is up to the issuing bank to decide if they want to do business with us.”

Hoenisch added that so far bitcoin is perfectly legal in most countries, and OneBit obviously won’t be available in countries where it is illegal to use bitcoin. Of course, some countries have heavier regulations and impose costly compliance measures to bitcoin operators. This is, according to Hoenisch, the case of the United States.

“We are not based in the US and due to the complexity of the US legal system, we will rollout in the US only after Europe,” said Hoenisch.

OneBit is a hosted bitcoin wallet. “You will need to deposit bitcoin before you can make payments,” said Hoenisch. “But then you will be able to do instant payments.” To allow instant payments, OneBit needs to control the bitcoin in the wallet, but users don’t need to deposit more money than they intend to use.

Currently, OneBit works only with NFC terminals. Commenting about how much NFC usage there is around the globe, many participants confirmed that NFC payment terminals are widespread in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria and Scandinavian countries. Not so much in the United States – but that isn’t an immediate problem since OneBit’s initial rollout plan doesn’t include the U.S.

OneBit promises to be nothing short of revolutionary: allowing bitcoin holders to pay merchants via the OneBit wallet app and the credit card payment systems already installed, without requiring the merchants to take direct steps to accept bitcoin, would instantly open up many more physical points of sale to bitcoin users.

Photo Vodafone Germany / Flickr

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