The Rock Hostel is one of hundreds of hotels in the country using BitPagos to collect credit-card payments from foreign customers. If owner Rodriguez Pons accepted credit-card payments from American customers through the usual financial channels, customers would be billed in dollars, and when those dollars came to Pons's Argentine bank account, they would be converted at the official rate, about 30 percent lower than the black-market rate. It would also take 20 days for Pons to get her pesos. BitPagos helped counter these drawbacks by taking the credit-card payment in the United States and then using the dollars to buy Bitcoins, generally from Coinbase, before sending them to Pons immediately.
Bitcoin proponents like to say that the currency first became popular in the places that needed it least, like Europe and the United States, given how smoothly the currencies and financial services work there. It makes sense that a place like Argentina would be fertile ground for a virtual currency. Inflation is constant: At the end of 2014, for example, the peso was worth 25 percent less than it was at the beginning of the year. And that adversity pales in comparison with past bouts of hyperinflation, defaults on national debts and currency revaluations. "In the long run, Bitcoin will be very disruptive to the developed world," says Dan Morehead, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now runs a hedge fund focused on Bitcoin. Things are happening sooner in Argentina, he says, because its financial system creates hassles for the people there. But, he added, "Argentina is just a more extreme example of the situation in every country."