Going Global: Building a Worldwide Digital Cash Network; Includes Direct Bitcoin Support

Send in Bitcoin, receive in Dollars

Today, at the North American Bitcoin Conference,  I announced the next phase of Abra’s global expansion: Next month, we’ll be enabling Abra worldwide, activating a global network of Tellers who can transact in over 50 currencies, including directly in Bitcoin. This means that anyone with a smartphone in any country can send or receive funds in most major currencies and can cash in or out of their Abra wallet, even without a bank account.

Bitcoin is key to these efforts. While Bitcoin has always been a large part of what we do, it’s been hidden in the background up until now. Last year we launched Abra in the Philippines and the US, and validated that we could release a digital currency product using Bitcoin that didn’t confuse the average consumer. Yes, my 70+ year old mother can use Abra with no help from me. Cool.

Now we’re adding direct Bitcoin support (for depositing and withdrawing) in the Abra App while maintaining the super-user-friendly experience from stage one. Once we launch, any Abra user can use Bitcoin via any third party Bitcoin Wallet to add and remove funds from their Abra App regardless of which currency they’re holding in their Abra Wallet.  (As a reminder Abra is a non-custodial digital currency wallet.  Abra has no access to the user’s private key, even in the instance where the consumer chooses to hold US Dollars.)

We’ll also be launching a network of Abra Tellers – what some people call our Human ATMs – to enable people around the world to use Abra.

So at global launch, we’ll support the following scenarios:

  • Bitcoin wallet: Buy, hold, and sell Bitcoin with Abra in addition to any of 50 fiat currencies
  • Bitcoin to fiat: Send Bitcoin to anyone worldwide, and the recipient can receive in any of our supported currencies, which they can then cash out via a Teller. The recipient doesn’t even have to know what Bitcoin is, as we’ll take care of the currency conversion.
  • Fiat to Bitcoin: Cash in via a Teller in any of our supported currencies (again, without needing to know about Bitcoin), send to anyone worldwide, and the recipient can receive and/or cash out in Bitcoin
  • Fiat to fiat: any user can send money in any of our 50+ supported currencies to any other user, and both parties can cash in and out via their local Teller.
  • Become a Teller using Bitcoin:  This is huge!  If you’re an existing Bitcoin trader you can now use that Bitcoin to become an Abra Teller and process deposits/withdrawals for people who don’t know what Bitcoin is (Build your own Travelex for digital currency!)

Abra Teller transactionOne of the things I’m most excited about is our support for the global Bitcoin trading community.  We estimate that $30-$40 million per week is now traded in person in “fiat vs Bitcoin” in over 75 countries. With our support for Bitcoin Traders as Abra Tellers, Bitcoin Traders can now hold Bitcoin in their Abra App but process deposits and withdrawals in any world currency that the Abra App supports. A consumer holding US Dollars meets a Teller, and processes a withdrawal to receive Argentinian Pesos. Neither party even knows that a dual currency trade transaction took place!  Wow.

This is a huge step forward in realizing our vision of anyone being able to send money easily to anyone else in the world, instantly, privately, and securely. We’ll be rolling our Teller program out globally, starting next month. Tellers can make money while helping their community send and receive money.

If you’re interested in becoming an Abra Teller, we encourage you to apply right away! Please make sure you have the latest app version downloaded, and submit your details right from within the app.  Our onboarding team will contact you as we review applications.  

We’re excited for this next stage in our development, and look forward to getting your feedback as we progress!

[For additional images, please see the Downloads section of our Press page.]

72 thoughts on “Going Global: Building a Worldwide Digital Cash Network; Includes Direct Bitcoin Support

    1. Ozan, for sure. I think Abra is perfect for the Turkish market… Lots of people moving around, no good domestic mobile money apps, largely cash market, etc.

      I hope you’ll register as a Teller! Let me know if you do.

      Bill

    1. Thank you for your interest, Vikram! Absolutely, Indian rupees will be one of the 50+ currencies we support and people in India will be able to do business as Abra Tellers with the next major release of the app. We encourage you to download the app and sign up to be a Teller today so you can be among the first to be added to the system when individual Tellers go live next month.

    1. Paul, yes India is definitely on our list. We’re very excited about the potential.

      The countries with local tellers will be changing rapidly for the next several weeks as we process the very large number of registrations we’re getting.

      However, my thinking is that a teller search web page makes sense so people can search for where Abra tellers exist.

      I hope that helps.

      Thanks!

      Bill

        1. Hi Sachin, thanks for your interest! You can download the Abra app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store and sign up to become a Teller through the option in the main app menu. You will be added to the waitlist and contacted after individual Teller support is released next month.

  1. Suppose the sender sends/deposits funds in his local currency. Is it possible for the recipient in another country to receive the funds in bitcoin?

    1. Paul, definitely. With the February release we announced yesterday that is supported. As a matter of fact all of these scenarios are supported:

      • Fiat send to any bitcoin wallet
      • Bitcoin send to any fiat wallet
      • Bitcoin send to any bitcoin wallet
      • Fiat send to any fiat wallet
      (fiat means any local currency in case you’re not familiar with that term!)

      If you receive in a fiat wallet you can also withdraw to a bitcoin wallet or to a teller. Oh my god I’m so excited about this I can’t stand it! 🤓

      I hope you’ll sign up as a Teller and please let me know if you do.

      Bill

  2. Bill, of course I’m considering to sign up at least as a Teller. In my country of residence (Poland) ABRA isn’t available yet so I couldn’t download the app, but I have already spread a word about it among my friends and business partners in other countries. Can’t wait to see it up and running, ABRA is destined to take the remittance market by a storm.
    Being a Teller makes me a money transmitter which in turn makes me have to comply with KYC and AML requirements. Did you as a company look into the legal matters in each country involved or is compliance the sole responsibility of the Teller? Should I get some guidance and support if the matter arise?

    1. Hi Paul, compliance is the responsibility of the Teller. Depending on how bitcoin sales are regulated in your country, you may or may not fall under “money transmitter” regulations. When an Abra Teller processes a “deposit” transaction, they are not actually transmitting money between two parties, they are only selling bitcoin to their customers (who may have this bitcoin converted by the app on-the-fly into the currency of their choice). If you have any doubts or concerns about the legality of being an Abra Teller in your area we encourage you to talk to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about your local laws concerning p2p bitcoin sales.

      1. Hi John,
        Thanks for the answer. I have overlooked it last week, so back to the rag today.
        So the Teller only helps his customer buy bitcoin. Does it mean that the Teller should have an operational amount of bitcoin at hand or the Teller can buy bitcoin for the customer on the fly from ABRA or whoever through Abra (i.e at linked Exchange, like Coinbase)?
        Where does the bitcoin conversion rate comes from in such an instance? From the partner Exchange? Which one is going to be the reference point?

        1. > So the Teller only helps his customer buy bitcoin. Does it mean that the Teller should have an operational amount of bitcoin at hand or the Teller can buy bitcoin for the customer on the fly from ABRA or whoever through Abra (i.e at linked Exchange, like Coinbase)?

          The Teller should have money in their wallet (denominated in the currency of the Teller’s choice) to process deposits and physical cash to process withdrawals. Tellers can get money into their wallet using banks in the US and PH (for now – more countries coming soon), and bitcoin or other Tellers everywhere else.

          > Where does the bitcoin conversion rate comes from in such an instance? From the partner Exchange? Which one is going to be the reference point?

          Abra sets the rate. This rate is shown in the app whenever one currency is traded for another.

          1. Ok, I get that, thank you. I’m dying to see ABRA finally go 1/50th global :)))
            Have you set the date already? Are those Tellers who’s applications are still under review making it before it all starts?

  3. Hi, Bill. I enjoyed your presenation at the Miami NA Bitcoin Conference. Will Abra be supporting the Nigerian Naira? I’d like friends in Nigeria to send me funds in their local currency and receive them at my end as USD. Thanks!

      1. Great to hear! We will be sure to reach out once the individual Teller feature goes live.

        Regarding Nigeria, the app will be available in that country but as of right now the naira will not be one of the supported currencies. If we receive enough demand then we might expedite adding it to the list of supported currencies.

    1. That’s a great idea Matt and something we’ll consider once we come up for air for getting all of these features out the door. I’d actually like to use such an API myself! 😉

  4. Hello Bill,

    What a great sollution for making Bitcoin world wide. What do you think about setting a countdown app on your website on witch we can see that ABRA is going active in by example “France” or “Belgium” … Also a list of existing tellers would be great. What about your communication with banks? Why not using the ATM’s of the existing banks.

    1. Thanks for the love!

      We’re going to be global in the next few weeks and our team is 100% busy getting ready. Timer is a super cool idea. Not sure if we would have the time or people to work on this but I’ll certainly pass on the suggestion! (keep em coming.)

      Abra works indirectly with banks via our Bitcoin exchange partners that provide the ability to move money into, and out of, our system via consumers’ every day bank account. We’ve launched this capability in both the US and the Philippines with more countries coming soon. In that model you can certainly use your ATM machine to withdraw your money once you’ve moved the money out of Abra and into your bank account. Look for more announcements on this soon.

  5. Hi Bill,
    In the meantime I have downloaded the app from iTunes and tried to learn some ropes. I’ve also signed up as a Teller. Since the app isn’t yet up in its full grace, a few things remain unclear to me. a) I wonder if I can hold funds in my wallet in multiple currencies? b) if yes, is there any fee for switching from currency to currency within one wallet? c) can I keep funds (both fiat and etc) in my wallet for some indefinite time and convert/cash out/ transfer at will? d) scenario ‘fiat to bitcoin’ and vice versa implies a real-time conversion rate implementation, who feeds this data?
    A few more notes. The map for searching a near-by Teller is a very good thing. In my opinion a Teller search by city/country would be a great plus. How do you feel about an in-app incentive/bonus in order to motivate users to invite new members and Tellers?

    1. Hi Paul,

      thanks (keep em coming!) Let me try to address your additional questions…

      a) I wonder if I can hold funds in my wallet in multiple currencies?
      Right now Abra is one wallet/one currency but we give you the ability to do a foreign currency conversion right in the app so you can change your currency any time you like (you do have to wait at least one block cycle for the exchange to settle.)

      b) if yes, is there any fee for switching from currency to currency within one wallet?
      Abra doesn’t charge a transaction fee but makes a small fee on the foreign exchange between any two currencies regardless of whether its the same user in a single wallet or sending between two different users.

      c) can I keep funds (both fiat and etc) in my wallet for some indefinite time and convert/cash out/ transfer at will?
      yes indeed.

      d) scenario ‘fiat to bitcoin’ and vice versa implies a real-time conversion rate implementation, who feeds this data?

      Indeed that is exactly what it implies! 😉 Abra uses traditional bitcoin exchanges in the background to help manage/balance liquidity. At scale we will use this liquidity system to set all of our exchange rates across all currency pairs for which there are liquid exchanges (in other words, the rate is not simply arbitrary.) The more efficient the exchanges the more likely that the base rate for any given pair is the current spot rate. In most instances the Abra exchange rate will be better than the bank wire rate, even with our small markup.

  6. my take: shud be useful app.
    drawbacks: seems centralized. Abra company is determing the exchange rates possibly. Instead of peers making bids and asks
    Longer term I predict it will get outcompeted by decentralized currency exchanges.

    1. Thanks Patrick. Abra uses traditional exchanges in the background to help manage/balance liquidity. At scale we will use this liquidity system to set all of our exchange rates across all currency pairs for which there are liquid exchanges (in other words, the rate is not simply arbitrary.) The more efficient the exchanges the more likely that the base rate for any given pair is the current spot rate.

  7. Follow up q:
    how does a person get cash out from the app if they don’t have a bank account? (“and can cash in or out of their Abra wallet, even without a bank account.”)
    Think that point is very important and shud be in the blog post

    1. Patrick,

      yes this is referred to in the post as the “Abra Teller” model. Tellers buy and sell digital currency on and off the phone in exchange for fiat.

      1. thanks missed it.. ‘We’ll also be launching a network of Abra Tellers – what some people call our Human ATMs – to enable people around the world to use Abra.’

  8. Am keen on being a part of this revolution in India. Have already applied through app to be a teller. I am a Bitcoin trader and a blockchain technology enthusiast. When are we starting operations in India? Will I be informed beforehand?

    1. Thanks Rahul. Yes, we’ll be supporting India at global launch time! Thanks for registering and we will definitely let you know when we’re ready for you to get started and hopefully with some lead time!

  9. Bill, I am curious how you handle any fluctuations in Bitcoin price if a user “parks” funds in their wallet for some time. Say it arrived as $200, but the Bitcoin price has changed, what are the assurances that the $200 doesn’t turn into $190? Thanks!

    1. Hi Steve, excellent question. If you choose to hold your balance in fiat the value of your bitcoin is fully protected vs the fiat value (meaning $200 stays $200 per your example.) If you choose to hold “raw” bitcoin (not fiat) your bitcoin balance will obviously fluctuate against all fiat currencies.

    1. Thanks David for your support. As someone who has been to almost every european country (something I’m quite proud of actually… lol) I’m really excited about getting Abra live in Europe. At global launch time we will support the Euro but not the Forint. Theoretically Tellers holding Bitcoin in Hungary can process withdrawals for customers holding Euros or Dollars and manually convert to forint for those customers but that is something that they’ll need to decide for themselves. We’ll certainly be looking to add forint support in a future release as I’m sure we’ll get lots of interest for it.

        1. Hi David, we will not support Euro bank deposits and withdrawals right away. You will be able to use Abra Tellers and bitcoin to add and withdraw money.

  10. Hi Bill,
    Abra app has huge potential worldwide and I’m looking forward to be part of it.
    (i) Are you thinking of an ‘Affiliate Program’ for say Master Tellers as an incentive for bringing more users to Abra App? ( Bearing in mind the teller has to keep the ‘fees’ very low for the success of the business model) ;
    (ii) Second, are you going to put a limit to number of Master / Ordinary Tellers within a location? ( too many will have wider appeal for Abra BUT viability concerns for the Tellers) ;
    (iii) Third, confirm that any country specific licences to conducting oneself as a Master / Ordinary Teller is sole responsibility.
    Best!

    1. Hi Stephen, thanks for your interest!

      (i) Are you thinking of an ‘Affiliate Program’ for say Master Tellers as an incentive for bringing more users to Abra App? ( Bearing in mind the teller has to keep the ‘fees’ very low for the success of the business model)

      We are considering something like this and are excited to give our customers the ability to help us grow while earning a piece of the action themselves. Thanks for the suggestion!

      (ii) Second, are you going to put a limit to number of Master / Ordinary Tellers within a location? ( too many will have wider appeal for Abra BUT viability concerns for the Tellers)

      Not at first, the market tends to do a good job regulating supply and demand through the price system.

      (iii) Third, confirm that any country specific licences to conducting oneself as a Master / Ordinary Teller is sole responsibility.

      Yes, Tellers will be solely responsible for complying with local regulations for p2p bitcoin trading. This activity is unregulated in most of the world, but if you have any concerns then we encourage you to talk to a lawyer who is familiar with the applicable local laws and regulations.

  11. My god Abra People. Even if the whole thing crashes and burns in a screaming ball of fire, well done you! Just stunning.

    1) Ok so a question I have is regarding regulation. I had the idea that you would need to hold a license / registration issues by a local authority. For example the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. Do you not need to hold such licenses? If you do need to hold them then arguably the regulating body can compel you to do things you might otherwise not wish to do,or could even prevent you from entering their market, which is why I am wondering.

    2) I have noticed that lots of bitcoin exchanges and the like are obligated to collect and maintain extensive KYC files on their users. Do you have such a requirement? If you don’t, it seems like the absence of such a requirement might upset a lot of people.

    3) In for example the UK, on the bitcoin side there is little to no KYC requirement. On the fiat side KYC fully applies. So for example as part of allowing a user to link their bank account to their Abra wallet, do you need to undertake KYC?

    Man I have so many questions. The disruption (‘creative destruction’) you can cause and the time and money you can save people. Spectacular.

    Take care,
    Mark

    1. Hi Mark,

      good questions (and sorry for the delay, somehow I missed your post. So apologies.)

      Q1:
      Abra itself is a non-custodial bitcoin wallet that helps the consumer protect the value of their bitcoin in fiat. As a non custodial wallet Abra is not an e-money company or money transmitter. We’ve carefully architected Abra to ensure that this remains true regardless of future regulation which is always a moving target as you seem to be aware.

      Q2:
      As Abra offers “bank in/out” via exchange partners in more countries as we do in the US and PH users will be asked to provide whatever KYC details those exchange partners require to load funds into your Abra App – in their country. The beauty of Abra is that this process should be seamless and transparent to the consumer without having to dig into all the nitty gritty details of bitcoin trading. in other words, ACH/Fasterpay the funds where we tell you to and the digital cash should magically show up in your abra app (cool.)

      Q3:
      for bank based transactions via our exchange partners, see #2 above. For cash transactions every Abra Teller is contractually obliged to follow whatever local regulation applies. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that Tellers know what they are doing in the markets they operate in for this reason.

      Thanks for your interest. We’re excited too!! 😉

    1. Greg, good questions. The teller must comply with whatever local regulation is in place for the peer to peer buying and selling digital currency. Most countries have no regulations for this and some countries require registration with authorities. We strongly encourage you to seek local counsel to determine which rules and regulations apply to you.

  12. I just got to know about Abra, I downloaded the app, applied for Teller and I’m liking it ! I emphasize in what one user mentioned: an appealing and unique afiliate program for the tellers would be great since the fees would need to be low !
    Q: suppose someone wants to send in Uruguayan Pesos to any other currency in the world, will he/she be able to through only Abra ? If not, at least with an international debit/credit card? In that case, which would be the benefits compared to sending money through a credit/debit card to another C/D card or any other way ?

    1. Hi! (sorry for the delay in responding, somehow I missed this one.)

      >>> suppose someone wants to send in Uruguayan Pesos to any other currency in the world, will he/she be able to through only Abra ? If not, at least with an international debit/credit card?

      All transfers using Abra are “app to app” so both the sender and recipient must have Abra on their iOS and Android phone. We are not supporting Uruguayan Pesos on day 1 but you can use US Dollars via Uruguay via the Abra App until we support the Uruguay Peso which we will likely support in a later phase.

      We haven’t yet made any announcements regarding debit/credit card support.

      >>> In that case, which would be the benefits compared to sending money through a credit/debit card to another C/D card or any other way ?

      With Abra you can send money from any one of 50 currencies to any other Abra user who can receive money in one of 50 currencies. In addition to our Teller network for deposits/withdrawals in cash, you can also deposit/withdraw via existing Bitcoin wallets. All with no transaction fees.

      I hope that helps.

  13. Hi. Mr.Bill.
    is South Korea in Abra global list?.
    I am a Bitcoin trader on Korbit exchange in South Korea.and already applied for abra teller a long time ago.
    Is Pakistan in Abra global list?.
    I have internet banking accounts in South Korea and Pakistan.
    Best Regards

    1. Hi Khawaja (I hope I got your name right!)

      yes, South Korean and the SK Won will be supported. The app will work in Pakistan but the Pakistani Rupee will not be supported in the initial global release. Thanks for your interest!!!

  14. I am writing from Nigeria. please i want to know if Nigeria is included in your global app launch because i have the app already and registered as a teller. importantly i have been incontact with miriam from abra

    1. Hi! Yes Abra will work in Nigeria but note that the Naira will not be supported in the first release. However, you will still be able to use Abra in US Dollars, Euros, Pounds and about 50 other currencies.

  15. So excited for this to launch — are you still on track for February? My other big question is whether there is debit card funding on the horizon? Keep up the great work!!!

    1. Steve, we’re getting close! Can you feel it?? Lol. Seriously, yes, we’re still on track for February.

      Re: debit card funding. It’s something we’re looking at but don’t have any announcements to make just yet.

      Thanks!

      Bill

      1. Thanks for the response Bill — one more question if I may. Since SegWit isn’t looking like a sure thing, have you looked into implementing payment channels as a centralized service similarly to what they are doing with the Yours Network? Ryan X Charles goes into some of the technical details here: https://youtu.be/UsqZY5ETGn0?t=38m12s . It’s my understanding that custody of funds would still be maintained by the user, but since only a fraction of the overall transactions would need to be settled on the blockchain, the cost of individual user transactions could be significantly reduced. Curious to hear your thoughts — thanks!

  16. When will I be able to click ‘add money’ and then see Bitcoin as an option? Lots of talk about this and it’s Feb 20 and it’s still not an option.

    1. A week later and nothing? Delays are almost expected when you are doing something new like this, but come on, you’ve got to keep the community updated.

        1. Hi Nathan, we’re now waiting for Apple to approve the updated Abra App in the App Store. We will flip the switch as soon as we get the go-ahead from Apple. Thanks!

  17. Hi, I’m from Philippines. I downloaded the app but its not working at all eve showing processing while starting or signing up.

  18. Hi! May I ask when will Abra be available in Singapore? I’m a current user here in the Philippines and I need to send/receive money in Singapore. Thanks!

    1. Hi Francis!

      Abra is available in Singapore as of today, with support for Singapore dollars. That said, as we don’t yet have any Abra Tellers live in Singapore, the only way for anyone in Singapore to add/withdraw funds is via bitcoin. We’ll be adding Tellers to the network globally — including in Singapore — over the next few months, so please check back. Thanks!

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