USAA Accounts Can Now Track Bitcoin

The bank's more than 11 million members can now see how much cybercurrency they own via the website, and soon the phone

A 25-bitcoin token. One bitcoin is currently worth around $400. (Photo: AP) A 25-bitcoin token. One bitcoin is currently worth around $400. (Photo: AP)

USAA, one of the 25 largest financial-services companies in the U.S., has over 11 million clients, or members, and you must have a military-family connection in order to join. This means its members, many of whom are stationed overseas, have a keen interest in the security of both their financial holdings and that of the U.S. military.

And they are trendsetters.

As of this week, the bank’s online system is now capable of showing Coinbase account information to members online. Soon, this access will be available via the USAA mobile app. USAA's embrace of cybercurrency information is a first for a U.S. bank. 

And this seems to be good news for the 11,000-plus USAA members and staff who have accounts with Coinbase, where bitcoin can be bought, sold, received and stored. It follows a pilot program started late last year at the bank, which has about $222 billion in assets (including managed money).

“It’s pretty neat to see my bitcoin balance immediately when I log on,” said Coinbase member Carl Mehner, a senior information security analyst at USAA, in a report about the program on the bank’s website.

According to USAA, each bitcoin currently is worth over $400, down from a high of $1,242 in 2013.

“Traditionally, USAA is very good about getting in front of emerging technology trends,” explained Jon Cholak, the lead investment associate for USAA’s Corporate Development team, in the bank’s online report. “What we’re developing is at the forefront of the financial services industries.”

As for security concerns that members may have in adding this information to their online account database, USAA says it uses Open Authentication technology, which means USAA receives an access token to retrieve Coinbase account information and never stores Coinbase account credentials.

Some USAA staff and members like bitcoin so much they mine for it, which means they use software to solve math problems and are issued a certain number of bitcoins for their work.

“Bitcoin could easily be the currency of tomorrow,” according to Donald Berg, a software engineer at USAA, who started bitcoin mining in 2013.

(Earlier this month, Genesis Mining launched the first fund to invest in hardware used to create bitcoins. It registered the fund with the SEC under the name Logos Fund, which aims to attract high-net-worth individuals, investment funds and accredited investors who would rather not purchase and manage their own hardware to mine bitcoin.)

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