Coinbase has launched its USD Wallets, which allow users to send and store dollars with Coinbase. When purchasing some bitcoin, users will then not have to wait for a bank transfer to clear before their order is complete.
Until now, the only other way to purchase bitcoin instantly on Coinbase was via credit card, for which it charges a fee.
Only verified accounts are eligible, and the service is currently available in 15 states plus Puerto Rico. Coinbase says that it is working on expanding access to all states.
Coinbase doesn’t charge fees for ACH bank transfers between Coinbase and user bank accounts (although the user’s bank will).
One may speculate that while the feature may add value in select situations, it is really the initial step of a larger future strategy for payments. Namely, the company has 1.8 million users according to published stats. While they joined for Bitcoin purposes, the new feature may soon allow them to make instant, no-fee dollar transfers amongst each other. For Coinbase, this is simply an internal accounting exercise–just like inter-user bitcoin transfers.
They have already become licensed as money transmitters, and the large user base may strategically have enough critical mass to form, to some degree, a self-sufficient ecosystem. Coinbase can then effectively function as an online payment processor competing with the likes of PayPal, who charge for inter-user transfers.