Going international soon!

Seeing the overwhelming response and positive feedback from users outside of the US last night (after being TechCrunched), we are bumping internationalization up on our major features list.

Though several users have requested the ability to simply change the currency symbol and date format, we want to give them much more (our initial reaction was to take the easy route, but on further thought we see many problems with that). Our plan is to have full currency support. Here are our initial thoughts on how this will work:

  1. When you log in, you will select a native locale. For now this will set your currency and date format. Language will come later.
  2. When you enter a bill, you can specify which currency it was paid in. By default it’s your native currency. E.g. I live in Manchester and my native currency is GB Pounds, but I paid in Euros for the hostel for me and my buddy in lovely Nice.
  3. All totals on the site will be displayed in your native currency. E.g. I need to pay back a total of 98 pounds. Marty owes me 23 pounds.
  4. The amount of each individual bill will be displayed in your native currency, but will also show the amount in the currency in which it was reported. E.g. Hostel in Nice 41 pounds (EUR 60)
  5. Currency conversions will occur based on the exchange rate on the date of the bill, not the date it was reported. The rate will be an average over that day. E.g. You reported the Hostel bill today, 4 days after paying for it. We will take the exchange rate from 4 days ago.

Our goal is to remove the burden of dealing with multiple currencies. In general, our guess is that users want to view where they stand in their native currency – but would like to drill down and see what currency any given bill was reported in. Do let us know if we’re off the mark here. We’re still thinking this through and would love some feedback.

[Note: updated 1/30] The currencies that we are initially planning to support? All of them. At least, all actual backed-by-banks currencies. Beer as unit of currency, while a dim possibility, is not our top priority. The rule is this: if you tell us that you want us to include your currency, then we’ll add it.


18 Responses to “Going international soon!”

  1. Dan Says:

    I gotta ask – excellent efforts – just wondering what motivates you do to stuff like this? I mean, you must know that you’re probably going to be paying out of your own pocket with little scope for reward? Isn’t that painful?

  2. billmonk Says:

    Great question Dan. As altruistic as we may seem, we do have a plan to make money from this.

    Check out our faq entry on this very topic:

  3. Dan Says:

    Good answer. I see now that you could make a bucket out of this – especially if you can take a healthy cut if people offer to pay each other back by sending ‘gifts’ to each other. Services you might be able to take an affiliate cut out of. OK, nice idea. People – use this, it’ll be around for some time to come!

  4. Moof Says:

    Well, keep in mind “locale” is a bit of a misnomer, and really a bodge on unix systems.

    What you want is to set a language for the site to be in, and, separately, the default currency. As you said yourself, there is a huge english-speaking user base in India. What makes you think someone in India automatically wants the website to be in Gudjurat, or Hindi, or any of the other Indian languages? But I bet they still want their site to talk Rupees. Plenty of ex-pats live there too, as well as users who prefer to have their whole computer systems running in English. Or German, or, well, you get the idea.

    Keep in mind that the location of the currency symbol is more currency-specific than language-specific, but not always. Most Brits will write €300, whereas most Europeans will write 300€. I know brits say R100 for Rupees, btu I don’t know if that’s the way the indians do it. TBH, I suggest you dont’ try and accommodate these variations, but settle on one symbol position for each currency, preferably the way the locals use it.

    Conversely, handling locations of commas and points in numbers is a language-specific thing. Most european countries take 12.340,5 to be “twelve thousand three hundred and fourty and a half”. The Chinese, I believe, use 1,2340.5 for the same thing, and ISTR some indian countries use a comma for the fisrt ten thousand, and then for each subsequent set of three zeros, but I can’t track down the reference right now, so I could be wrong. This is probably best grouped up with the date format.

    What happens when the people sharing a bill live in different countries? Say my friend John came over to visit me in Spain from the UK. We go out for a meal together, and I pay 40 Euros, which we split evenly. Does it then say that John owes me 20 euros on my site summary, whereas it tells him he owes me 13.70 pounds on his site summary?

    Would there be an option to split off different currencies in the summary? It does me no good to know that I’m owed 200 euros, if 120 of those are actually pounds that I may well not get back til the next time I visit the UK, it gives a point of view that doesn’t allow me to compartmentalise my money the way I do when I have different accounts in different countries. I suspect I’m more of a special case here, but this is one of those “long tail” details the small community of ex pats has to deal with pretty regularly. And there’s plenty of space on that part of the summary screen for more columns of currencies, I doubt many people will go to more than 2 currencies or so, but some might do 3 or 4 (A swedish international businessman might have kroner, pounds, euro and swiss frankli, for example).

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, I’m posting them here for people to disagree with me, if necessary 😉 Other than that, you seem to be thinking it out fairly well, now.

  5. risa Says:

    i just gotta say, this is so fricken cool. SO COOL. man is this cool. it’s like software written by philosophers, seriously.
    except i tried to become a member, filled everything out, hit submit and got a blank page. what’s up with that?

  6. billmonk Says:

    Risa we’re sorry about that. Last night we were upgrading our hardware (adding a load balancer), and while we tried our best to make it invisible to our users, there were some disruptions. It should not happen now. Please let us know if it does: https://www.billmonk.com/contact/contact_bug

  7. Sunny Says:

    This sounds like an extraordinarily simple and effective change to make. Go for it ! 🙂

  8. Sunny Says:

    Simple to use I meant, not to make. :~p

  9. gpoul Says:

    Looks like a very interesting service, though the overview you get about it before signing up could be improved.

    What I was wondering was that you might want to only take an old exchange rate on avg throughout the day if the user doesn’t want to bother. Usually the money for someone having GBP was exchanged at a specific exchange rate that was noted on either the ATM slip or the credit card bill.

    I would suggest giving people the opportunity to enter this “effective” exchange rate. In addition, don’t make people calculate a 1:1.whatever exchange rate, but let them enter that they got for example 204 USD for 170 EUR and let your site calculate the exchange rate itself.

  10. Hunter Says:

    First of all, thanks for such a great service. I would just like to suggest that when the internationalisation features arrive, have a feature that allows us to convert existing transactions to a new currency by either exchange rate or in a bulk 1:1 operation (i.e. I’ve been using the service in $ even though I informally agreed with my friends that $1 on Bill monk represents £1).

  11. Ted Tschopp Says:

    I would love to be able to use the site to define my own currency. Say I mow the lawn for someone in exchange for 1 hair cut. I would just love to be able to establish those types of exchanges.

  12. Doug Stokes Says:

    You have to include JAPANESE YEN! I will not use it otherwise – and over here we have so many nights out that end up with a shared bill it is not funny. PLEASE, PRETTY PLEASE!

  13. Zahor Says:

    What about you friends down under – support for the Aussie $ would be great!

  14. Arthaey Angosii Says:

    Informal custom currencies would be great. My college roommates and I have indeed used beer as currency on a number of occasions, and we would certainly use this feature if it existed.

  15. crizette Says:

    This is cool! I suggest you also include Philippine Peso in the currency especially in our country, splitting tabs and borrowing money is very awkward.


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