Research: what about the adoption of the Chivo wallet in El Salvador?

El Salvador recognized bitcoin as legal tender last year and has since made the Chivo wallet available to the public. The National Bureau Of Economic Research (NBER) conducted a survey to examine the state of the wallet ??? and bitcoin ??? adoption and usage.

NBER conducted the study in conjunction with CID Gallup and surveyed a total of 1,800 El Salvadoran households in February.

The survey found that two-thirds of El Salvadorans were aware of the existence of the Chivo wallet and half of them have tried it. However, three-quarters did so mainly because of the $30 reward. Almost half of the users have spent the amount and just under 20% have not yet.

After claiming the amount, more than 60% of the respondents no longer used the Chivo wallet. Just under 40% of the people who installed the app used it more often afterwards, which corresponds to about 20% of the total population.

About a quarter of those surveyed later topped up their Chivo wallet with new money. Almost half of the users have bitcoin on their Chivo wallet and the other half use it for dollars. Some 43% made at least one withdrawal from a bitcoin ATM, but 57% have never done so.

According to the research, the Chivo wallet is still little used for payments. Most users only make a few transactions per month. El Salvadorans who do use Chivo on a regular basis report that their use of cash has decreased by 10% and their use of credit cards by 11%.

However, it is not possible to pay with bitcoin in most shops. Because although bitcoin is legal tender and should therefore be accepted everywhere, only 20% of retailers seem to accept it. These are mainly large companies. You cannot pay with bitcoin at the other 80% of the shops. About 11.4% of the shops actually sold something for bitcoin. Among them, 88% had payments converted to dollars and 12% received and stored the amount in bitcoin.

Taxes can be paid through the Chivo wallet, but only 5% of users did. And although many families in El Salvador depend on transfers from abroad (remittances), only 11% reported using the Chivo wallet for this purpose.


The numbers don’t seem overwhelmingly positive, but Bitso, the company that helps El Salvador with the wallet, nevertheless calls it “a strong signal of increasing adoption.” They point out that in 2017 only 29% of El Salvadorans had a bank account. Compared to that, the adoption rate of 20% of the total population in less than a year is not a bad start.

It should also be noted that the investigation focuses on the Chivo wallet offered by the El Salvadoran government. The use of other bitcoin wallets that are commonly used internationally was not investigated. As a result, an important part of the bitcoin community may have remained out of sight.

After El Salvador recognized bitcoin as legal tender last year, the Central African Republic also recently announced that they will recognize bitcoin as an official currency.

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