Customers of the institute — including students and employees — who want to use the cryptocurrency to pay their bills can use a portal similar to an e-banking application. By accepting Bitcoin the university aims to bring attention to its research projects and education programmes in blockchain technology.
External service provider
Research expertise notwithstanding, the institute has not implemented the payment application for the open-source cryptocurrency itself. Nor does it transact in Bitcoin or keep the cryptocurrency. Instead, the portal is provided by Bitcoin Suisse, a Swiss fintech company.
According to the announcement, incoming Bitcoin payments are converted into Swiss francs once a week, or daily if a CHF 10,000 threshold is reached. That way, most of the risk of exchange rate losses and currency fluctuations lies with Bitcoin Suisse. To cover the risk to the institute, customers incur a fee of 1% if they are paying in Bitcoin.
Lucerne University expects that at first few payments will be made in Bitcoin. Customers using this option will most likely already be familiar with the concept of financial services and blockchain, or at least be interested in learning more about the subject. Putting any number on the take-up would be a wild guess, a spokesperson said. We do not expect a big rush, but from the fact that the Crypto Valley ecosystem [in the region around the municipality of Zug] is getting stronger, we expect demand to grow. This is our first initiative in this area, but we are open to evaluating other cryptocurrencies and services.
According to the spokesperson, so far two customers have used Bitcoin to pay their bills from Lucerne University: one a student, the other a visitor to an event.