Bitcoin Bank Circle Opens Its Doors

Journalist:
September 29, 2014

After months of working with customers in an invite-only phase, today Circle opened their initial service to the world. Circle is a new kind of Internet-centric consumer financial service, one that the average person would find enjoyable and powerful, built on the promises of Bitcoin – instant, global, secure, free transactions.

The Circle announcement states their objectives:

Create an experience that is fast, beautiful, and enjoyable to use. Online banking applications stink. We wanted an elegant design aesthetic that would appeal to digital natives.
Reduce the friction that so many people – even sophisticated, technology-savvy people – often experience in acquiring and spending Bitcoin. Starting today, people can onboard into a Circle account and begin using digital money within minutes, not days. And Circle eliminates the labyrinth of fees and complex user interfaces designed for traders.
Make digital money the same as other major Internet services for consumers: instant and free. We wanted our service to be instant for onboarding, instant for depositing and converting money, and nearly instant for sending and receiving payments – anywhere on the planet.

Circle is available in seven languages, which collectively cover approximately 40% of the world’s population, and support for other languages and internationalization features is planned. New iOS and Android Circle apps, still in development, have been demonstrated at the Sibos international banking conference.

But the most interesting and consumer-friendly aspect is that all of the money in Circle accounts is insured at no cost to the customer. Circle offers insurance coverage via Marsh, one of the largest insurance brokers in the world, to every customer. Circle customers will have 100 percent coverage of their full deposit value.

The long-term value of digital money

Since all that is free, you may be wondering about Circle’s business model. In May Circle’s CTO Sean Neville answered the question “Where’s the hidden fee, what’s the catch, how do you make money?” as:

“We’re interested in the long-term value of digital money, not optimizing for minor short-term profit. We will have future, higher-level products that we fully intend to be revenue-generating, but this first basic product needs to be free. That’s the cost of mainstream consumer adoption.”

Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire unveiled Circle Financial Services consumer oriented platform at Bitcoin 2014 in Amsterdam on May 16, 2014. Watch a short video here.

I applied for a Circle account the day after the first announcement, and received my invitation a couple of months after that (after today’s announcement, you don’t have to wait for an invitation – just go to circle.com and open your account).

After creating my account, I was impressed by the sleek and professional quality of the Circle user interface. It mostly explains itself, and there are clear instructions one click away. If the instructions are not clear, or if you need an answer that isn’t covered by the online help, Circle customer service staff are helpful and responsive – I emailed them a few times, including on Sunday, and always received a reply in a few minutes.

US account holders can link US credit cards and bank accounts to their Circle accounts. This feature is not supported yet for all international customers. I was, nonetheless, able to link my European credit card to my Circle account, and Circle customer service confirms that other international customers have been able to do the same.

Images from Circle and Shutterstock

Last modified (UTC): September 29, 2014 18:35

Tags: Circle
Giulio Prisco @giulioprisco

Science writer, software developer, Bitcoin/crypto enthusiast.