BOC Considers Digital Currency

The Bank of Canada is weighing the merits of establishing a digital currency as interest in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin reaches a fevered pitch.

In a research paper released by the central bank Thursday, authors said there are merits to creating a central bank digital currency as society starts to move away from cash, and the bank's potential to reap profits off issuing that cash could be threatened.

The report said a central bank digital currency (CBDC) could become a cheaper alternative to debit and credit cards and other forms of payment, making it easier for competition to emerge in the retail and large-value payment sectors.

Some of the benefits overlap with those of bitcoin, ether and the myriad of other digital currencies based on cryptography that have emerged, though one of the central benefits of bitcoin and the like is that it is decentralized and not controlled by any bank.

The value of bitcoin, the best-known cryptocurrency, has skyrocketed this year, rising from about $1,000 U.S. per coin at the start of the year to crest at over $11,000 U.S. per coin this week.

The interest has led to many new entrants into the sector and a few stumbles in the rush to get in on the rising valuations.

The report Thursday said given the complexity and uncertainty around introducing a central bank digital currency, central banks should proceed cautiously and incrementally.