It’s official: El Salvador is the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender.
The country passed the necessary legislation back in June, and today it went into effect, with President Nayib Bukele calling the moment historical.
In practice, the new legislation means Bitcoin is now equal to El Salvador’s legal fiat currency, which is the U.S. dollar, and Salvadorans can legally use Bitcoin for cash payments. Furthermore, businesses operating in the country will have to start accepting payments in Bitcoin if they have the technology to do so.
Bukele also announced (via Twitter) that the country purchased a total of 400 bitcoins so far, worth $20.3 million at writing time.
El Salvador’s move to accept Bitcoin is notable for several reasons. Besides giving Bitcoin more legitimacy as a global currency, it could help Salvadorans who live abroad send remittances at lower cost (Bitcoin transfers typically cost several dollars, regardless of the amount transferred). On the other hand, Bitcoin’s volatility could cause problems for users. Bitcoin’s price has risen or fallen sharply on numerous occasions, often in a matter of hours.
El Salvador’s move to buy bitcoins is also notable. As the country adds more bitcoins to its treasury, its fate gets increasingly tied to the price of Bitcoin which, again, is known to rise and fall tremendously over fairly short periods of time. The country is already feeling the effects of its decision, having been downgraded by ratings agency Moody’s following the pass of the Bitcoin law.
The price of Bitcoin rose sharply over the last 48 hours, from roughly $50,600 to $52,900 per coin, but it has since fallen back to around $50,800.