Bitcoin in Greece: What Happens when Banks Close

The Greek financial crisis still has flare-ups, but this time, Bitcoin may be giving extra options.

Greece is not quite a failed state, like Venezuela. But its banking and liquidity crisis has seen citizens struggling to access their cash and PayPal accounts. No wonder, but cryptocurrencies have been rising in prominence in the country, as an alternative source of liquidity and payments. 

The peak of the Greek crisis saw users restricted to 60 Euros per day, although some of the limitations have been lifted. But the crisis underlined a way in which Bitcoin could ensure more freedom: a prepaid card managed to circumvent the restrictions. SpectroCoin, formerly BTCGreece, is offering one of the leading cards:

As of 2017, even more prepaid cards are available, allowing spending even when local banks close down. 

At the same time, Greece lags behind on the running of full nodes, a sign of Bitcoin adoption in some cases. Greece has around 23 nodes, a tiny amount compared to Germany, which hosts upward of 1,800 full nodes. Nearby Bulgaria and Romania, countries with still shaky economic fundamentals, run respectively 56 and 46 full nodes and are hotspots for mining activity.

As European adoption of Bitcoin increases, the price of the leading currency is headed for a round number in Euros:

Greece has access to a total of six ATM in the biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. The most popular coins available include Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, DogeCoin, Monero and ZCash.

And yet Greece may be lagging behind the Bitcoin trend due to capital controls. As of November 2017, banks have capped SEPA transfers to just EUR 1,000 per month, limiting access to platforms such as CoinBase, Kraken, BitStamp and BitPanda, popular with European users. Some buyers have to resort to local services charging rather high fees compared to Kraken, up to 9%. 

The peak of Bitcoin news for Greece came in 2015, at the height of the banking crisis. The country's story underlines the potential of Bitcoin to gain prominence in case of instability of the economic system.