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Definition: digital coins

An earlier form of electronic traveler's check. Called "e-money" and "e-cash," the concept is that digital coins are downloaded from a participating bank into the user's computer, or an account is set up within the bank. Either the coins or the transactions that debit the account are transmitted to the merchant for payment, and all transactions are encrypted.

Many believed that digital coins would fuel a new online information industry that would allow customers to pay in smaller increments, such as five cents a lookup or 10 cents per download; even a fraction of a cent for more trivial transactions. However, the digital coin concept never took off. See First Virtual, Open Market and smart card.