Cryptocurrencies are experiencing a moment of unprecedented attention and speculation for several reasons. 1) The value of Bitcoin has been steadily climbing through 2017, with Ether seemingly poised to overtake the cryptocurrency giant any day; 2) Blockchain technology has purposes above and beyond cryptocurrency, and has been hailed by some as the backbone of the future financial system; 3) The increasing number of people who see cryptocurrency as a form of investment similar to gold. If cryptocurrencies stabilize in value, buying Bitcoin or Ether has the potential to be a worthy venture.
Yes. Bitcoin has not been made illegal in any country to date, although some nations restrict its use more heavily than others. Bitcoin is often associated with crime, because it can be used to make criminal transactions. However, this is true of any currency. Bitcoin is harder for authorities to trace than digital fiat transfers, but easier to trace than cash, and most criminal transactions in the world are made with fiat, not Bitcoin.
On February 16, 2018, Coinbase admitted that some customers were overcharged in error for credit and debit purchases of cryptocurrencies. The problem was initiated when banks and card issuers changed the merchant category code (MCC) for cryptocurrency purchases earlier this month. This meant that cryptocurrency payments would now be processed as "cash advances", meaning that banks and credit card issuers could begin charging customers cash-advance fees for cryptocurrency purchases. Any customers who purchased cryptocurrency on their exchange between January 22 and February 11, 2018 could have been affected. At first, Visa blamed Coinbase, telling the Financial Times on February 16 that it had "not made any systems changes that would result in the duplicate transactions cardholders are reporting." However, the latest statement from Visa and Worldpay on the Coinbase blog clarifies: "This issue was not caused by Coinbase."
Volatility is perhaps the most commonly-cited disadvantage of Bitcoin in terms of its use case as cash. Ironically, that very volatility helped grow the network, providing traders with very lucrative opportunities in short time periods. However, for those wishing to store value and transact Bitcoin as an everyday currency, the volatility is a major drawback.
Theft isn’t the only way to part with your Bitcoin. There are frequent reports of people losing the keys to their wallet, and again, this is much like losing cash - there is no way to recover the funds without the keys. It’s estimated that approximately 20% of all existing Bitcoin has been permanently lost. However, given that Bitcoin is a finite resource, some argue that this simply increases the scarcity and theoretical value for other investors.
Ripple positions itself as a complement to, rather than a competitor with, Bitcoin - the site has a page dedicated to Ripple for bitcoiners. Ripple is a distributed network which means transactions occur immediately across the network - and as it is peer to peer - the network is resilient to systemic risk. Ripples aren't mined - unlike bitcoin and its peers - but each transaction destroys a small amount of XRP which adds a deflationary measure into the system.
Coinbase recently announced that its customers in supported jurisdictions can send, receive, buy, and sell the USD Coin stablecoin (USDC) on its website and mobile applications. This marks Coinbase first entry into stablecoins, which have a fundamental difference as compared to other cryptocurrencies. A USDC is pegged to the price of a single US dollar (USD). Coinbase explains that one USDC is represented by one USD on the Ethereum blockchain.
In 2014, the company grew to one million users, acquired the blockchain explorer service Blockr and the web bookmarking company Kippt, secured insurance covering the value of bitcoin stored on their servers, and launched the vault system for secure bitcoin storage. Throughout 2014, the company also formed partnerships with Overstock, Dell, Expedia, Dish Network, and Time Inc. allowing those firms to accept bitcoin payments. The company also added bitcoin payment processing capabilities to the traditional payment companies Stripe, Braintree, and PayPal.