5:00am

Wed January 22, 2014
Business

Welcome To The Colorado Gas Station Where You Can Fill Your Tank On Bitcoins

The Bitcoin revolution is steadily marching toward a merchant near you. At the first gas station in the U.S. to accept Bitcoins, Funyuns, energy drinks and a full tank of gas are a brief digital money exchange away.

Once reserved for hackers, gamers and online activists, the peer-to-peer digital currency is quickly gaining legitimacy. In Colorado, you can buy a scuba trip for your family, a checkup for your dog, an acupuncture treatment for your mom, a bottle of wine for dinner, or even the mundane: gas for your car.

About two dozen businesses in Colorado currently accept Bitcoin, according to coinmap.org.
Credit http://coinmap.org

At Greeley’s Cosmic Market, a large Bitcoin poster hangs in a shop window proudly proclaiming: “Take The Power Back! Let The Banks Eat Cake!” A large yellow sticker near the credit card machine says “Bitcoin” in black letters.

On a recent Saturday most customers didn’t even know what Bitcoin was.

In a nutshell, Bitcoins are a decentralized digital currency that uses cryptography to control transactions rather than a central authority. There’s no government agency or central bank, like the United States’ Federal Reserve, keeping tabs on the millions of Bitcoins exchanged daily.

But that doesn’t bother owner Shahzad Sarwar, who works by day as a computer programmer. For him, offering payment via Bitcoin comes from a deeply held philosophical belief.

“I don’t believe in making money from money,” he said. “So this really gets the banks out of the system, and governments out of the system.”

There’s also an economic incentive. The peer-to-peer system has no transaction fee, standing in sharp contrast to credit cards.

“The amount I spend in credit card processing is close to $35,000 every year,” he said. “That’s a shocker when people first hear that.”

Shahzad Sarwar demonstrates a Bitcoin purchase at The Cosmic Market.
Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

A growing number of businesses are now accepting Bitcoin. Two recent announcements from the Sacramento Kings and Overstock.com give enthusiasts hope. The currency is also being touted as a possible banking solution for Colorado’s marijuana dispensaries that work largely in cash because banks are reluctant to offer accounts to the businesses.

Sarwar won’t be throwing out his credit card terminal anytime soon. So far only about one dozen customers have made purchases in Bitcoin since he started offering it. Many of those customers were enthusiasts who sought out Sarwar’s gas station to support the currency.

As for the majority of customers clueless about Bitcoin?

The way Sarwar sees it, his gas station is just part of an educational campaign. Call it bringing Bitcoin to the masses.

“They go home, and they Google it. Slowly it’s an awareness campaign in itself,” he said. “Just putting the posters up and just saying ‘Bitcoin accepted here,’ it’s getting people to go out and learn about it.”