Tesla’s Elon Musk, bitcoin, and the future of how we pay

Yesterday, I used my credit card to pay at the grocery store and cash to buy bread at the bakery. I checked my debit account and reminded myself I needed to stop at the bank to withdraw some more dollars. I used money the same way I do everyday and the same way I have my entire life.

But could bitcoin and cryptocurrency change the way we have been paying, managing, and using our money for decades?

Tesla’s move on Monday seems to suggest the answer is yes, and even sooner than any of us may have thought.

Tesla, the car company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, revealed Monday that it had purchased $1.5 billion in bitcoin. It makes it the first car company to do so, putting 8% of its assets in bitcoin. The Securities and Exchange Commission Filing went further in their own commentary, stating, “Moreover, we expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future…”

Tesla’s move is significant for bitcoin itself: news of the purchase raised the cryptocurrency by 14% to a staggering 43,500. Musk had already influenced the rise of bitcoin back in December, calling it a “good thing” in a Clubhouse meeting and mentioning it on Twitter.

The move naturally raises questions about what other companies will follow, and how quickly. But it also is significant to us as individuals, how we will pay in the future, and how much nearer Tesla brought the future to us.

Bitcoin is basically what we imagine it is: virtual money. It functions completely on the web, is not created by any government, and allows a certain amount of anonymity (although each transaction is recorded, it only links back to an account number). 

Each bitcoin is cataloged on something called the blockchain and can be purchased using real money. People and businesses can receive payment with bitcoin. A computer creates bitcoin in limited supply; the last bitcoin will likely be minted in 2140.

Naturally bitcoin has its negatives. Anonymity is not always a good thing and it is a risky form of currency. Andrew Bailey, head of the Bank of England, pointed out how voliatale the currency is and how easily it would be for people to lose a lot of money. 

Tesla seems to think it is worth it though.

Tesla’s decision to change nearly 8% of its cash holdings to bitcoin suggests it believes cryptocurrency is not only here to stay, but here to change how each of us pay. 

It isn’t hard for most of us to imagine a world without debit cards, wallets, and cash. Most of us pay virtually for the majority of what we buy anyway, and a part of us understands that it won’t be much longer until we use our phone for each and every purchase. 

Bitcoin isn’t exactly the same though; even when I use my phone to pay at the store, I’m still technically using American dollars, and moving them from my bank account to the grocery store’s. Bitcoin is not specific to a particular government or something one can physically grasp onto; it becoming a normal form of payment wouldn’t only revolutize what you and I do at the grocery store, but literally the concept of money itself. 

Bitcoin is taking virtual money a step further, and Tesla just made that reality a closer one.

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