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Media Release

Conference of State Bank Supervisors
1129 20th Street, NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC, 20036

Massachusetts Division of Banks
1000 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02118-6400

 National Study Finds Consumers Aware of Virtual Currency, But Have Concerns    

One out of two surveyed knew about virtual currency, but only three percent have used it.

Washington, D.C. - The Massachusetts Division of Banks, in collaboration with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), jointly released a national survey to study consumer awareness of virtual currency.  During May 2014, more than 1,000 on-line consumers were polled about their knowledge and usage of virtual currency, including Bitcoin. The survey showed that:

  • Fifty-one percent of respondents had heard of virtual currency, although awareness varied by gender, race, income, and education levels. 
  • Individuals with higher incomes or higher education levels were 60-80 percent more likely than lower income or less educated consumers to know about virtual currency. 
  • Men were more likely than women to be aware of virtual currency. 

Consumers learned about virtual currencies mostly from the internet or television.  This is in contrast to how consumers traditionally obtain information about financial products from banks and credit unions.

  • While there was awareness of virtual currencies, there were a limited number of individuals willing to buy or use virtual currency.
  • Only three percent of respondents reported having purchased or used virtual currency. 
  • Younger respondents were most likely to have purchased Bitcoin or another virtual currency.
  • Hispanics and African Americans consumers indicated they would be more willing to purchase virtual currency than White consumers. 

Overall, 65 percent of all respondents indicated that they were unlikely to ever purchase or use virtual currency.

Consumer attitudes about virtual currency may be influenced by concerns about whether or not these currencies are secure, insured, or regulated.  More than 65 percent of consumers polled said that these concerns were important factors that would influence their decision to purchase any virtual currency. 

In March 2014, CSBS launched the Emerging Payments Task Force to examine developments and regulatory issues in the area of emerging payments. “The Task Force is studying payment systems and virtual currency developments to help state regulators develop coordinated regulatory approaches,” said CSBS President John Ryan.  In April 2014, the Task Force issued Model Consumer Guidance to support state regulators’ efforts to provide consumers with useful information about virtual currencies. 

The goal of the survey is to better understand the public’s awareness of and attitudes toward alternative currencies. “State regulators welcome innovations that lead to greater choice and lower costs, but we also want to understand any consumer and marketplace risks as we evaluate  the overall benefits of virtual currencies,” said Massachusetts Commissioner of Banks and Chair of the Task Force David J. Cotney.

“We welcome the work of the task force as consumers need reliable and credible information about the potential impacts virtual currency may offer,” said Massachusetts Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony.

For additional information about the survey and results, read the complete 2014 Virtual Currency Survey Report. The online study was conducted by ICF International, as commissioned by the Massachusetts Division of Banks in collaboration with the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS).

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