Admist Greece’s ongoing financial crisis, the government has stopped online payment transactions from going ahead using Greek debit or credit cards.
The move follows the imposition of a 60 euro ATM withdrawal limit, and the week-long closure of the country’s banks, based on fears that Greece will abandon the euro as its currency.
With such restrictions in place, there is evidence Greeks are turning to Bitcoin as a way to protect savings.
For example, customers on the Greek iTunes page will see a “Payment is declined” message when attempting to download an app, either paid or free, and told to update their payment method.
The same online payment restrictions mean Greek cards cannot be used for purchases on Amazon, or any other e-retailer that has previously served Greek customers.
There are also restrictions in place for PayPal payments. However, those with Greek iTunes accounts located outside Greece can still use the service, and transfer money using PayPal.
With banks shut, frantic Greeks are turning to online trading platforms to see if the digital money Bitcoin is a better bet than the euro.
Ten times as many Greeks are registering to trade bitcoins on the German marketplace Bitcoin.de than usual, according to CEO Oliver Flaskaemper. Bitcoin trades from Greece have shot up 79% from their ten-week average on Bitstamp, the world’s third-largest exchange.
Even trading platforms in China are getting interest. LakeBTC, headquartered in Shanghai, is seeing a 40% increase in visitors using computers in Greece.
Over the weekend, the Polish exchange Bitcurex got flooded with emails from Greeks. Among their questions:
“Is Bitcoin a legal currency in EU?”
“Can I use Bitcurex as a bank account?”
“Do you have a Bitcoin ATM network in Greece?
Bitcurex then started marketing directly to Greeks on its website: “Sign up at Bitcurex and trade for 3 months for free. No Fees for Greece!”