I’ve written before how much easier it is now to buy Bitcoin in the Philippines.
In my quest to explore all the local options for dealing in Bitcoin I signed up to Coins.ph. As a platform for Bitcoin trading, Coins.ph is fast, convenient and trustworthy. Moreover it has the best BTC/XTC prices I’ve seen in the local market. But Coins.ph is more than just a Bitcoin trading platform. In fact, based on the feature set it currently has, it would be accurate to say it aspires to be the Paypal of the Philippines.
Here’s my experience in kicking the tires of the site’s various offerings.
Coins.ph has the best price for BTC in the Philippine market.
I’ve compared it with other local exchanges, notably LocalBitcoins but usually Coins.ph beats all of them hands down.
The process of buying and selling BTC is intuitive. The interface is cluttered and clean. Basically you have two wallets (BTC and PHP) and you can see the balance of both as well as convert any amount from one wallet to another.
Moreover the current price of BTC (which changes in real time) can be found close to the the display of each wallet, allowing you to see all of the information you need at a glance.
This is by far the easiest way to buy and sell BTC that I’ve found in the Philippines.
I have not tried withdrawing money so I can’t comment if it’s as easy to get it out as it is to get it in. Putting money in though is a snap. There are a variety of options available, ranging from bank deposits to paying at a 7-11. Most of them though entail a small fee. Yes, you need to pay in order to add money to your Coins.ph account.
It’s silly in the first place that there should be a fee for depositing. The service wants to handle some of your cash yet makes it less enticing for you to deposit with the,
Coins.ph though does have one way of depositing which is free, which is what I use. If you deposit cash via BDO then there is no charge imposed on your deposit.
Again the process is straight forward, once in your account you select the BDO Cash deposit option and you’ll get a reference number which you should also include when you make the deposit. Coins.ph automatically registers the deposit and will credit the amount to your account. You do not need to email the deposit slip or call up the site to ask if they received the amount. Everything is automated, fast and convenient.
I do wish Coins.ph allowed electronic bank to bank transfers as free deposits, this would be the most convenient for me (as well as I suspect a lot of the site’s users).
The current methods though are quite good already and present a professional approach to dealing with bank deposits and credits to an account.
Initially you are only allowed a small daily transaction amount. (The initial level is PHP2,000.) If you will be dealing in larger amounts you’ll need to qualify for a higher level. This is done by forking over more of your personal data, such as a copy of your government issued ID.
The concept of tiered levels based on how much personal data you provide is commonplace for financial websites. For example, Kraken does the same thing.
What is new in the Coins.ph verification system is that you are asked to take a selfie as well and send it to the site. This makes sense, anyone could steal the ID of another person but stealing a selfie is, figuratively and literally, a bit more difficult. The selfie requirement enhances the site’s confidence that you are really the person you are claiming to be.
I did encounter a mild hiccup in verifying my ID. The site said it accepted IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines) cards. However when I uploaded my IBP card the site rejected it saying it the submitted ID did not have my birthday. Most IBP cards do not have the birthday of the lawyer printed on them. (It’s only been in the past few years that the card has been redesigned to provide more detail on the card holder.) My IBP card does not have my birthday on it. If I had known it would be rejected then I would have just submitted another ID; which is what I had to do in the end.
A small annoyance but it’s vexing when you do exactly what the site tells you to do (the site says it accepts IBP cards) only for the process to fail.
As I was annoyed I thought it a good time to test out Coins.ph’s customer service – I messaged them on the trouble I was having with my IBP card.
I’m happy to report that the site customer service is fast and efficient. They messaged me that they were sorry and that the best thing to do would be to upload a new ID. The solution to my problem really wasn’t that difficult but I was gratified to see the quick level of response.
It boosts customer trusts in a site or business when feedback is prompt.
I contacted customer service a second time when I thought my account had not been properly credited with a bounty. (Coins.ph currently has a promo where if you do certain things on the site, like paying a bill, you get a small amount of money.) Actually I was an idiot in this case as the amount had already been credited, I had not seen it in my transaction history. Even then, the reply to me was prompt and helpful.
Actually the sites help function (and it’s overall design, see more in the next section) are very reminiscent of Kalibrr; so much so that I wonder if the sites are owned or designed by the same team.
Web design and layout
An endearing feature of the site is its clean interface. It’s easy to understand what everything does and where you need to go. Descriptive, vaguely cartoon like graphics help establish the laid back atmosphere as well as flesh out the site sections such as Wallet, Cash Out, etc.
Overall its a very Web 2.0 feel (lots of information and categories are segregated in rectangles, sometimes information floats onto the screen briefly) which reminds one of Kalibrr.
Paypal like features
The great promise of Coins.ph is that it can be like Paypal for the Philippines, a convenient way to send money to people digitally. Unfortunately I was not able to test this as I do not know anyone else who has a Coins.ph account.
IMHO, if the site wants to increase its adoption rate it should deal away with the annoying charges on putting money into your site account.
I use this quite a lot as you get PHP5 back for every bill you pay with the site. As with the other features of the site I tried, bills payment is easy to understand and execute via the web interface.
Another plus is that you do not need to enroll a bill first before you can pay it (unlike, for instance, in BPI Express Online). You just need to plug in the bill details and you’re good to go. No more having to go through a cumbersome bill enrollment process.
My creditors (Skycable, Meralco, etc.) have not complained they haven’t been paid so I guess the site works!
Coins.ph is a nifty site. It’s certainly best in its class for the features I use it for (BTC trading, bills payment).