How I've survived COVID lockdown thanks to cryptocurrencies

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Avatar for willow.willow.willow
1 year ago

It seems that most people in the Global North these days get into crypto space as investors. To these people, Bitcoin, Ether, and other coins are just like stocks they buy and trade. I didn't find myself into the cryptocurrency world that way, however. Rather, it has become an indispensable tool of survival when the lockdown began in the spring of 2020.

The first time I have heard of Bitcoin was almost 10 years ago at an Occupy encampment. In the freewheeling, anarchist environment, anyone could host classes, discussion groups, and workshops. I met the "Bitcoin guy," who was touting the potentials of the cryptocurrency as a way to liberate the 99 percent from the banksters and the Federal Reserve. (One of my biggest regrets is that I did not happen to have $20 on me at the time as he was selling paper wallets loaded with $20 worth of BTC in mid-October of 2011!)

I am severely underbanked. With a long history of homelessness in the past and too many overdrafts in my younger years, access to traditional financial system has been mostly out of reach for me. Unlike most people I know, I have no access to checking account, debit card, or credit card. So my life had been cash-based, and occasionally if I needed something from Amazon, I had to go to a drug store to buy a gift card.

When the lockdown started in the spring last year, I was devastated. My cash flow stopped and shopping options also became limited. And for some time, people were paranoid about cash. This was when I found ways to earn crypto and buy things I need with it. Now about 90 percent of my day-to-day shopping needs are fulfilled this way, so for all practical purposes I've been living on crypto for the past 17 months!

This article may be of value to anyone who wants to have some Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies but either don't have money to buy them or don't want to spend their money, as well as those who are unbanked/underbanked, or interested in extra digital cash.

Making money

There are too many scams out there that purport to help you make money. Almost all of them are, especially if they say something like "we will double your Bitcoin" (impossible) or "invest $50 and you will get a daily interest of 2 percent". Ignore anything that makes you spend money first.

Here are some legit programs that can make you money (your mileage may vary; you will need to commit your time every day):

  • Cointiply: Try their surveys (recommended: Theorem Reach and CPX Research). I've been able to make $10 to $20 a week (this, however, also depends on where you live and what demographic groups you may be in). Minimum withdrawal is $3 USD for Dogecoin, Litecoin, and Dash, and $5 USD for Bitcoin. I recommend you getting with Dogecoin or Litecoin as their transaction fees are lower than Bitcoin, which is an important consideration when you use crypto as actual money to shop.

  • BTC Surveys: This site is also connected to Theorem Reach. The minimum payout for this is $25 USD and only in Bitcoin.

  • Honeygain (caution: stay away for this!): This is a "passive income" app that runs in the background on Android, Windows, Linux (via Docker), and MacOS. Pays out in BTC (minimum $20 USD). It does require an active internet connection from a residential IP address (i.e., no VPN, corporate or university networks).

  • IP Royal is another passive income app similar to Honeygain (they can be run simultaneously together). However, it pays twice as much as Honeygain and minimum payout is only $5 USD in BTC.

If surveys are not your thing (or you find yourself disqualifying from them often), you can earn potentially more money by freelancing for crypto. Think of these as "Fiverr" of cryptocurrencies.

If you are a content creator, or otherwise already popular online, you can even have the consumers of your contents tip you or pay for subscription.

  • Cointree is a simple combination of online tip jar and Linktree-like social media "links in bio" page.

  • Flote is a cryptocurrency-centric and libertarian-oriented social media platform that looks like Twitter, but it also includes a Patreon-like subscription feature and a built-in BTC wallet to send and receive Bitcoin.

  • (this site!) is also worth mentioning.

Buying things and feeding yourself (USA-specific)

  • Mostly I have been shopping at Walmart as it is easy to purchase Walmart gift cards (Sam's Club gift cards are interchangeable with Walmart's) from sites like eGifter, Bitrefill, Coinsbee, and Bidali. Bitrefill is recommended as there is no additional fee for Walmart. Once you order a gift card, you can use this to reload the Walmart shopping app, which can be used at the store checkout, including at self-checkout machines.

  • Albertsons stores, including Safeway, Haggen, Carrs, Randall's, and Vons (Bitrefill): Buy a giftcard, but you will need to print it out on paper and then take it to the customer service counter at a store. Then they will exchange the paper voucher with a plastic card you can use at the checkout.

  • Kroger stores, including Smith's, King Sooper's, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Ralphs (Bitrefill)

  • Amazon: Bitrefill, Coinsbee, and Bidali all carry Amazon gift cards, which can be added to your Amazon account. Another option for Amazon is to use, which gives you some good discounts on items you buy (Purse takes BTC and BCH only).

  • Starbucks: get a gift card from eGifter, Bitrefill, Coinsbee, or Bidali. Add the number and security code to your Starbucks app, or go to Starbucks' website to transfer the virtual Starbucks Card balance to your existing plastic Starbucks Card.

  • Occasionally you need or want things from other places that only take Visa or MasterCard (such as when I bought new pairs of eyeglasses from Zenni Optical or when I needed to reload my public transit card). eGifter sells prepaid Visa virtual cards (for online use with U.S.-based merchants only; not reloadable) in the denominations of $25 and $50. This option is not preferred and to be used as the last resort, as each card is subject to a load fee of $4.95 (just like at Rite Aid or Walgreens). Since these virtual cards are non-reloadable, you may end up with some small odd amount left over. I usually donate the leftover funds to my church via Pushpay.

  • Most prepaid/no-contract cell phone services including AT&T, T-Mobile/Metro by T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Boost Mobile, Tracfone/Net10 Wireless, U.S. Cellular, Cricket, and Simple Mobile, via Bitrefill.

  • Domain name registrations: Porkbun is a great company that accepts BCH, LTC, BTC, and ETH for payment.

Watch the exchange rates!

So, you've just been paid $10. But the cryptocurrency exchange rates are often wild, going up and down every minute. You don't want to spend that $10 if it is now only worth $8.78. So always keep an eye on the graph. Spend your money only when the exchange rates are favorable to you.

Watch the miner fees!

This warning applies mostly to when you are shopping with Bitcoin (BTC). Depending on the level of network congestion, the cost of sending Bitcoin may be extremely high. As most e-commerce sites that take Bitcoin (and other coins) impose a time limit by which your transaction must be confirmed (or your order will be cancelled), paying too low miner fees would not be an option. Check this Bitcoin fee chart first!

This is one reason why I strongly recommend getting paid in Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Litecoin (LTC), or Dogecoin (DOGE) whenever you can instead of Bitcoin (BTC), as their transaction fees are lower and the speed of transactions being confirmed is faster (Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin miner fees are usually a fraction of a penny!).

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I recommended.

This article may be freely used under the terms of the Cooperative Nonviolent Public License, version 7 (CNPLv7). All other uses require express permission of the author.

First published date: Aug. 24, 2021, revised Sept. 29, 2021.

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1 year ago


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