Tempe dentist accepts Bitcoin, Ripple and other cryptocurrencies

- As Bitcoin becomes more popular, many large retailers have started accepting the digital currency.

Now, local businesses are accepting bitcoin as payment, too. One valley dentist, in particular, will take cryptocurrency.

Tempe dentist Dr. George Carr started accepting cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, last summer.

"When we put a video out that we were accepting it, I was surprised how many of my own patients legitimately have cryptocurrency, whether it be Bitcoin or the other coins like Etherium, Ripple, all these other ones, they have a bunch," Dr. Carr said.

"When I found out Dr. Carr was accepting Bitcoin, it was just kind of a fun, new way to pay him," said David Freedman, a patient.

Freedman also accepts Bitcoin at his digital startup, Freestar. He and Dr. Carr are part of a growing network of young entrepreneurs hoping to attract tech-minded clients.

"I think there's obviously a pretty big gap between maybe the younger and older generation where they think this is smoke and mirrors like the Internet when it first came out as well," Freedman said.

Dr. Carr takes crytocurrency for several reasons, including the fact that he can accept it without incurring a single bank fee.

"Right now, we probably pay an average, say, three percent for credit card fees and when you're doing a lot of money through credit card fees, that really added up. You can easily buy a car by the end of the year," Dr. Carr said.

Bitcoin transactions are also quick. There are no banks holding up the payment process and patients can pay with a simple tap on an app.

"I can literally put the address on my website and say, 'Hey if you want to send me $100, a $1,000, a $100,000, just send it to this address and boom, it's there," Dr. Carr said.

Bitcoin can be converted to cash immediately. But like many other crypto-investors, Dr. Carr is holding onto it and hoping for big returns down the line.

"In a rising market, of course the business owner is going to win because they are getting paid today and the value goes up tomorrow. So they end up making more money," said Geoffrey Smith, a Professor of Finance at ASU W.P. Carey School of Business.

Smith is a cryptocurrency expert.

"The system is supposedly set up to be extremely secure and so you could probably argue that it's even more secure than keeping your money in the bank," Smith said.

Cryptocurrency technology may not be as ironcald as advertised. In January, a large cryptocurrency exchange called Coincheck was hacked, resulting in a $500 million loss. Soon after, a virtual currency called Prodeum vanished into thin air.

Also concerning is Bitcoin's fluctuating value.

"The big problem is volatility so that you're accepting a currency that the value of it goes up and down quite a bit on a daily basis. So that's one of the big disadvantages is that you don't know what the true value is going to be," Smith said.

In late 2017, Bitcoin was trading for almost $20,000 US. By early March, it's value plummeted by half.

"In the end, if markets work as we think they do, then everything will settle down and it will just be another means of payment. But then again, it might explode and replace government issued currencies," Smith said.

"I don't know exactly what's going to happen. Is it a bubble? Is it not? Is it a short term sacrifice for a long term gain? Or are we just going to lose it all?" Dr. Carr said.

The American Dental Association reached out to Dr. Carr to teach other dentists about the value and risks of accepting digital currency. 

By the way, Dr. Carr accepts about ten different types of cryptocurrencies.

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