To most people, cryptocurrencies are typically thought of as high-risk investments for millennials and Silicon Valley insiders. However, what is getting somewhat lost amid the hype and speculation is that most decentralized digital currencies, such as bitcoin, were created to ‘do something’ and so have a wide range of powerful use cases. Here are some:
1. Low-cost money transfers
The most well-known benefit of cryptocurrencies is their ability to send and receive payments at a low cost and at a high speed. For example, a recent $99 million litecoin (LTC) transaction took only two and a half minutes to process and cost the sender only $0.40 in transaction fees. If this money transfer had gone through a financial intermediary the fees would have been much, much higher and the transfer would have taken several days, or longer if this was a cross-border transaction.
The low fees associated with transactions using digital currencies such as litecoin (LTC), stellar (XLM) or bitcoin cash (BCH) make them excellent payment systems for international money transfers.
2. A censorship-resistant alternative store of wealth
While you probably don’t think your bank account and assets could be frozen, the reality is that this occurs more often than people realise — especially in jurisdictions with dubious rule of law. All it can take is for someone to be accused of financial misconduct or making powerful enemies. When that happens, people can find themselves with little to no access to cash, even if they’ve done nothing wrong.
This is where one of the most unique and powerful uses of crypto comes into play. Cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, act as a censorship-resistant alternative store of wealth that only the individual with the private keys to the wallet has access to. Hence, no personal bitcoin wallet can ever be frozen by the authorities.
3. Invest in innovative early-stage startups
The emergence of digital token-based fundraising has allowed anyone with an Internet connection to become an investor in innovative early-stage tech startups, while at the same time providing new startup ventures with much-needed seed capital.
Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are a new form of fundraising that provides startups with the opportunity to raise capital by selling a newly-created digital token to early backers of the project in exchange for established cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH). The price of the newly-issued token then acts as proxy linked to the success or failure of said startup once it starts to trade in the secondary market.
In the past, access to these deals would have only been available to experienced venture capitalists, but the advent of cryptocurrency has opened these opportunities up to a much broader spectrum of investors.
In some cases the digital tokens of the most successful ICOs have increased in value by several thousand percent and cryptocurrency-based fundraising has helped startups to raise over $12 billion in the past 18 months.
4. Make private transactions
Privacy-centric digital currrencies such as Monero (XMR), Zcash (ZEC), and PIVX (PIVX) enable users to make anonymous financial transactions.
That means individuals can make money transfers without having to explain to a bank why they are sending a large sum of money, what the sources of the funds are and who they are sending it to, which can delay the transaction and involve unnecessarily bureaucratic processes.
5. Send non-cash remittances
Another powerful use case for cryptocurrencies is non-cash remittances. Nigerian blockchain startup SureRemit, for example, enables its users to send non-cash remittances from anywhere in the world to selected African nations.
Diaspora Africans can purchase SureRemit’s native RMT tokens, which are then used within the SureRemit app to make non-cash remittances such as mobile data top-ups or utility bill payments for their relatives in Africa.
SureRemit raised $7 million during its initial coin offering in December 2017 and plans on using this money to improve its platform and expand into new markets.
6. Get paid to post content
The world’s first incentivized social media and blogging platform, Steemit, enables publishers to receive financial rewards in the form of cryptocurrency for posting content and for curating on the network by upvoting high-quality content.
Steemit financially empowers its users by rewarding them for contributing to the platform as opposed to taking its users data and selling it to third-parties like Facebook does. For this reason, Steemit has become particularly popular in emerging markets where it boasts a high number of users.
7. Rent out your spare hard drive space to the cloud
Decentralized blockchain-based cloud storage solutions such as Storj enable users to earn cryptocurrency in exchange for renting out their hard drive storage space to those who need it on a peer-to-peer basis.
“Storj can be faster, cheaper, and more secure than traditional cloud storage platforms. Faster because multiple machines are serving you your file simultaneously, cheaper because you are renting people's spare hard-drive space instead of paying for a purpose-built data center, and more secure because your file is both encrypted and shredded. There is no need to trust a corporation, vulnerable servers, or employees with your files. Storj completely removes trust from the equation,” the company states on its website.
Storj and other decentralized cloud storage solutions, such as Siacoin and Filecoin, not only provide a cheaper and more secure alternative to existing corporate cloud storage platforms but also provide users with a new revenue stream.
8. Travel the world
Due to the explosive growth of the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the past nine years, it is now possible to travel the world by spending cryptocurrency.
Established travel agents such as CheapAir and Destinia accept bitcoin as a payment method to book flights, car rentals, and hotels and for those who prefer to stay in an apartment when traveling can book accommodation using bitcoin (BTC) or ether (ETH) on CryptoCribs.
The growth of the bitcoin ATM market also means travelers are now able to convert their cryptocurrency into local currency in most major cities around the world.
9. Travel into space
Richard Branson’s commercial space travel company, Virgin Galactic, announced in November 2013 that is accepting bitcoin payments for space travel bookings.
While the California-based company has not yet managed to successfully launch a commercial space flight, several future astronauts have already paid for their tickets — worth $250,000 — in bitcoin, including bitcoin advocates Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
10. Buy a lambo
Last but not least, you can also use your cryptocurrency to buy a Lamborghini. The bitcoin luxury marketplace De Louvois enables the “crypto rich” to purchase sports cars including the cryptocurrency community’s favorite status symbol, the Lamborghini, using bitcoin.
The marketplace also offers a range of other luxury goods such as art, fine wines, and real estate for those whose digital pockets are deep enough.