Bitcoin
Posted 01 Jun 2015 in business and website

A few years ago I opened a US bank account so that US clients who wanted to pay by bank transfer could avoid needing to make an international transaction. This worked well until last month when clients started reporting their transfers were being rejected. I rang the bank (Chase) and after being transferred between a few departments was told I needed to come into a US branch with my passport to discuss the problem, which couldn’t be handled over the phone. Quite inconvenient because I don’t live in the US and didn’t plan to visit in the near future.

I expect the problem is receiving transactions from multiple client bank accounts raised some automated red flag, but won’t know for sure until next time visit the US. So now my US bank account was frozen without warning or explanation - as you can imagine I was not a happy camper.

This experience made me more sympathetic to the Bitcoin Libertarian philosophy where there is no centralized authority to get in the way of doing business. Consequently, I researched how the protocol works and added support for Bitcoin to my data store and invoice system. I originally budgeted a week of time to figure this all out but found the protocol much simpler than expected and in the end took just a weekend, certainly easier than an earlier integration I did with the PayPal API. The only complexity is that because transactions are anonymous I needed to generate a unique bitcoin address for each client so that I know who the transaction is from. This is how it works:

  1. Find the current exchange rate between the clients currency and Bitcoin
  2. Generate a bitcoin address to receive this transaction
  3. When expected transaction is received at this address mark as paid

That’s it. Blockchain.info has a well documented API that can handle each of these steps. For exchange rates there is the Ticker API and for managing and monitoring addresses in steps 2 & 3 there is the Receive API.

Also then to display a QR code for the required transaction I used the Google Chart API:

If you experience any problems with this support for Bitcoin or have suggestions to make it more intuitive, please get in touch.

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