Coinbase, one of the more prominent exchanges for buying and selling bitcoins, is opening up wider access to the digital currency in Europe.
The company announced Wednesday the international expansion of its service into 13 countries across Europe. People in those countries can now use Coinbase to buy and sell bitcoins, and businesses can accept payments by linking a European bank account to a Coinbase account.
The services are available in Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia, after Coinbase held talks with regulators and financial authorities there.
Coinbase operates three Bitcoin services -- an exchange for buying and selling bitcoins, a digital wallet for storing them, and a payment processing service that makes it easier for merchants to accept them. People almost anywhere in the world could use the wallet, but the exchange and payment services were limited to the U.S.
With the expansion, Coinbase hopes to grow the use of Bitcoin among businesses in Europe and facilitate cross-border payments.
"We think launching in these additional countries is a major step for the entire Bitcoin community, and will help continue Bitcoin's growth as a global payment network," Coinbase said.
It will also help Coinbase compete against BitPay, another bitcoin payment processor used by more than 10,000 merchants around the world. Coinbase has around 36,000 merchants and retailers using it for payments, including brands like Overstock.com, Expedia and more recently eBay payment processor Braintree.
Coinbase is characterizing its European expansion as a beta launch, allowing people to buy and sell up to 500 euros' worth of bitcoins a day, for now. That's just over 1.3 bitcoins, according to Coinbase's current exchange rate.
Coinbase would not say which European banks it is working with, citing competitive reasons.
More retailers are accepting Bitcoin as an alternative to traditional payments. But regulators around the world are unsure what to make of it, and its legality varies by country and how it is used.