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Mint Offers Budget Tools for Tracking Bitcoin Assets

Mint Offers Budget Tools for Tracking Bitcoin Assets

Bitcoin is an electronic payment system that allows one party to pay another without the involvement of a financial institution like a bank, credit card processor, or online processor like Paypal. Since it's self-governing and outside of any government-regulated currency system, the value of Bitcoin has shown quite a bit of volatility. But people use it for all types of transactions including regular retail transactions at retailers that accept Bitcoin. You can even find Bitcoin ATMs in some places.

Coinbase is the largest Bitcoin exchange, where people trade Bitcoin. While some consider Bitcoin as a sort of currency, others consider it as more of a financial asset. Either way, it's important to keep track of it using budget tools. Mint.com is now working with Coinbase to allow people to use Mint budget tools to keep track of whatever Bitcoin they trade on Coinbase. This feature is likely to become increasingly popular as the trading of Bitcoin goes mainstream. Here's what you should know about how that is happening.

What Is the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust?

Brothers Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss are trying to get approval for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, an exchange traded fund (ETF). An ETF is essentially a mutual fund traded on a stock exchange. A person could, if the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust gains approval, invest in it, just as she would any other mutual fund. If this happens, personal budget tools like Mint.com will be able to track it alongside other investments.

The Winklevosses are also planning to launch an index that tracks the price of Bitcoin. The index, dubbed the "Winkdex" will be used to price the value of the assets held by the brothers' ETF, assuming it gains approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Said Cameron Winklevoss, "The creation of an index that better reflects accurate pricing is the next step in wider acceptance of Bitcoin as an asset class."

SEC Review of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust

The brothers made a third-quarter filing with the SEC last year for approval of their new ETF, and that process is ongoing. Right now, it looks good, because the SEC has "not gotten any show stoppers," according to the Trust's lawyer Evan Greebel, speaking with The Wall Street Journal. If the SEC grants approval, the move is widely seen as a way to bring more stability to Bitcoin.

An increasing number of businesses are accepting Bitcoin, but the volatility Bitcoin trading has exhibited may be holding back more widespread acceptance. Until recently, the lack of budget tools for tracking Bitcoin has made trading them less convenient. The approval of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust could convince more businesses to start accepting Bitcoin and increase the desire of ordinary consumers for budget tools for tracking it.

What Are the Implications if the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust Is Approved?

If the new ETF is approved, it will allow the ability to buy an interest in Bitcoin without having to actually buy the underlying Bitcoin. This would remove barriers for investors who want to participate in the Bitcoin market without trading it directly. An ETF would also open Bitcoin to full arbitrage opportunities, which would probably dampen some of the current volatility in the Bitcoin market. This could make banks less reluctant to provide accounts to businesses that operate in Bitcoin.

Using Mint to Track Bitcoin

If you haven't used Bitcoin before, to get started, you need to create a Bitcoin virtual wallet. Coinbase is the largest provider of Bitcoin wallets, and has a good track record for this service. Your Bitcoin wallet may be virtual, but you should protect it just as you would your regular wallet or any of your bank or credit card information.

At any given time, the Bitcoin in your wallet will be worth a certain amount of US currency in dollars and cents. Now Coinbase has teamed up with Mint.com, giving you budget tools to track the dollar value of your Bitcoin at any time, just as you track your other accounts using Mint. It's the most convenient way to integrate your Coinbase use into your suite of financial planning and budget tools.

Bitcoin is similar to currency in some ways and similar to investment assets in some ways. Bitcoin is subject to more volatility than your other assets, though hopefully some of that volatility will settle down if and when the SEC approves the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust. But the bottom line is that Bitcoin has a place in mainstream personal finance, and if you use Coinbase and Mint.com, you can easily track it right along with all your other financial transactions.