Everyday crypto: A tale of 2 payment systems

20 March, 2019

Money is a strange thing. On the one hand it is an invaluable tool that allows people to buy the things they need and want. On the other hand, it can be the cause of plenty of strife. And so much about money is black and white. For example, some people have a lot of it while others have next to none.

Many of the same characteristics of fiat are observed in the cryptocurrency space as well. There are some parts of the world that embrace cryptocurrency for everyday transactions. Other parts of the world, not so much. For every world leader who thinks crypto is a good idea there is another who thinks it was born out of the pits of hell. It is very strange indeed.

In this post, we want to talk about two different regions where people take opposite approaches to cryptocurrency. In fact, they take a very different approach to payment systems altogether. One is Japan, the other is Australia. It is a tale of two payment systems born out of the way people view everything from cash to crime.

Japan's a 'Fake News' stablecoin

We begin our tale in the Land of the Rising Sun. According to several prominent news sources whose reputations most of us trust, bankers in Japan are preparing a blockchain payment system that will result in a government-backed stablecoin being introduced later in 2019. It was reported that the coin is intended to push Japanese consumers away from cash, which they prefer, and toward digital payment systems instead.

Everything about these news stories appeared on the up and up. Unfortunately, it all turned out to be fake news. Japan and its banking system have no intention of creating a stablecoin at this time. They are planning something, but it has nothing to do with cryptocurrency.

Apparently, upwards of 80% of all commercial transactions in Japan still take place with cash. It is an ingrained part of Japanese culture that does not appear to want to fade away. In the simplest possible terms, Japanese consumers prefer cash over every other option.

Why cash? It is not so much a question of why the Japanese prefer cash but why they have not embraced electronic payment systems. Experts say it is because the Japanese take a different view of both money and crime. And yes, they are related in terms of explaining Japan's cash-based economy.

There are three primary reasons Japanese consumers stick with cash:

  • Low Interest Rates - The Japanese have been subject to negative or low interest rates on their savings for as long as most people can remember. As such, people tend to hoard cash instead of depositing it in a bank. It is very valuable to them because they live under the notion that all they have is all they can have.
  • Demographics - Next, Japan's median age is second only to Monaco's at 47. That means their population is older than almost every other country in the world. And as you might have guessed, older people are more reluctant to adopt digital payment systems. They prefer to stick with what they know, which is cash.
  • Low Crime Rates - Finally, Japan has one of the lowest crime rates of any developed nation. People are not afraid to carry cash as a result. Subsequently, they do not see a need for electronic payments.

Japan's banking system would obviously like to reduce cash transactions because they are not as efficient as their electronic counterparts. In an effort to do just that, five of the country's largest banks are working on a new payment system they have dubbed J-Coin. This is the root of the cryptocurrency confusion among observers.

Not a monetary system

When crypto enthusiasts first heard about J-Coin their interest was piqued for obvious reasons. When they heard that J-Coin is a blockchain-based system, they jumped to the conclusion that it involved a cryptocurrency. That led to a further conclusion that the resulting crypto would be a government-backed stablecoin.

None of their assumptions proved correct. Rather, it turned out that J-Coin is neither a cryptocurrency nor a blockchain monetary platform. It is a traditional electronic payment system utilizing the same technologies that power mobile payments via fiat.

Those behind the project could have - and probably should have - used different words to announce their plans. They should have stayed away from describing J-Coin as a digital currency platform. Why? Because as soon as you put the words 'digital' and 'currency' in the same sentence, people think crypto.

In the end, J-Coin is nothing more than an electronic payment system similar to Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Android Pay, et al. Japan is nowhere near ready to introduce a stablecoin let alone convince 80% of its citizens to completely abandon their cash in favor of crypto.

Australia's complete crypto lifestyle

The other end of the crypto spectrum is observed in many parts of Australia, where you can use cryptocurrency to buy just about anything. For this section of our tale of two payment systems, we turn to North Queensland. In that corner of Australia the cryptocurrency of choice is Bitcoin Cash.

One particular city in North Queensland is so enthusiastic about Bitcoin Cash (BCH) that you can now find more than 40 merchants who accept it as payment for goods and services. To illustrate just how easy it is to live on BCH in that area, CoinSpice's Hayden Otto recently chronicled a day of activities in which he kept himself busy using nothing but BCH to do so.

Otto and his group used BCH to pay for their laundry. They used it to dine and drink. He and his party even spent BCH to take a helicopter ride and follow it up with motorcycles. The group basically spent the entire day playing in and around their local area using nothing but BCH to pay their way.

A large local following

It is remarkable to know just what can be done in North Queensland with cryptocurrency. It is even more remarkable that BCH is the crypto of choice among locals. But as CCN's P.H. Madore explains, BCH has a strong local following in the region. One of the big reasons is incredibly low transaction fees associated with the coin.

Adding to that is the fact that so many North Queensland residents were Bitcoin owners before the original fork that created Bitcoin Cash. As such, they were grandfathered into Bitcoin Cash and essentially given 'free money' through the fork. They don't mind spending that free money, and merchants don't mind taking it from them. Madore says that local merchants seem to understand Bitcoin Cash too, implying that there is something inherent to Bitcoin they don't understand.

Several lessons to learn

We have seen contrasting situations in two separate countries. In Japan, the adoption of cryptocurrency has been painfully slow to the point of being virtually nonexistent. In Australia, consumers have embraced crypto with open arms. In this contrast there are several lessons we can learn.

1. Market forces prevail

The first and most important lesson is that, in the absence of government interference, market forces will always prevail. There is no demand for crypto in Japan because consumers do not really want it. That doesn't make Japanese consumers any less sophisticated or intelligent than consumers in any other country. It is simply a matter of preference. They prefer cash, so that's what the market supports.

2. Everyday crypto is possible

The second lesson is that everyday crypto is not just a theory. It is very possible. While you and I might limit our cryptocurrency transactions to playing Mega Moolah with a bankroll funded via bitcoins, dozens of merchants in North Queensland are offering everything from food and drink to laundry services payable with BCH.

3. Getting people on the same page

The third and final lesson is the reality that everyday cryptocurrency will require getting people on the same page if it is to ever become the norm. It works in North Queensland because both merchants and customers take the same view of BCH. They are on the same page.

The exact opposite is observed in Japan. Bankers want consumers to start using more digital payment options and less cash. Some merchants might even agree with the bankers, but the majority of merchants and the general population are in no rush to abandon cash. They still view cash as their best option for doing business.

If crypto is to ever take hold in Japan in the same way it has in other parts of the world, consumers are going to have to get on the same page with merchants and bankers. Otherwise, the market will continue to dictate that cash be the preferred form of payment.

Money is a strange thing. It means different things to different people, whether you are talking about fiat or a cryptocurrency. In the end, how each of us views money influences how we feel about things like Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong. Cryptocurrency is just another way to pay for things. Those who embrace it seem to love it entirely. Those who don't are more ambivalent all the way around. It is all good.