Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer currency that's been gaining in popularity, appears to be getting ready to take the leap from the digital world to the real world.
Exchange service BitInstant is creating a Bitcoin-funded card that would function as a standard debit/credit card and would be honored where ever MasterCard is accepted, according to the transcript of an interview allegedly conducted wth BitInstant co-founder Charlie Shrem. During the interview, published by Coding in My Sleep, Shrem says the card might launch within the next six to eight weeks.
The cards would be issued by a "major international bank" with which BitInstant has partnered and funded at a rate of 1 percent, Shrem said. Transactions of less than $1,000 will be funded after the first confirmation.
Shrem posted a mockup of the card, which will feature a QR code on the front and a printed Bitcoin address on the back for funding. Shrem said he expects the first 1,000 cards to be given away for free, while subsequent cards will cost about $10.
Bitcoin sprang up in 2009 as a peer-to-peer currency that intentionally avoided the prying eyes of law enforcement officials. In order to acquire Bitcoins, users access exchange sites to transfer actual currency, such as U.S. dollars, into the digital option.
In June 2011, the currency attracted the attention of Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, highlighting the role Bitcoin plays in an online marketplace known as "Silk Road," which allows customers to buy illegal drugs.