Bitcoin has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception more than 10 years ago. There are now millions of people around the world that look to Bitcoin as a symbol of the future of banking and finance.
Its decentralized mechanism makes it attractive to people who don’t wish to give all the power for fiscal matters to central banks and governments.
However, it’s popularity and rapid rise in value hasn’t been enough for Bitcoin to become a universally accepted payment method. Concerns about the financial cost of processing a Bitcoin transaction, the relatively slow time that it takes to process a payment, and the volatile value of the token make it unattractive to many retailers.
For example, to confirm a transaction with SegWit and two blocks, it can take 20 minutes. A VISA or MasterCard transaction is typically verified within a second.
Meanwhile, the volatility of cryptocurrencies is problematic for retailers, as it means their profit and buying power can be lost (or significantly increased) within a very short period of time. Businesses tend to like stability, as it allows them to plan for the long term, so volatility tends to discourage them.
For comparison, Bitcoin can be 10 times more volatile than fiat currencies. At the time of writing, the 30-day Bitcoin volatility against the US Dollar is estimated to be 10.63%, according to Buy Bitcoin Worldwide. While in the last decade, the volatility of the Euro and the British Pound against the Dollar has never been above 1%.
Despite these concerns and criticisms, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are slowly beginning to be accepted by more retailers around the world. Between 2013 and 2018, there was reportedly a 689% increase in the number of outlets accepting Bitcoin, with another small increase by 2019.
For outlets that still don’t, services like Coinbase mean that it’s possible for some crypto enthusiasts to spend their tokens at any retailer that accepts Visa, thanks to its Coinbase Card.
So with this big increase in acceptance, where can Bitcoin now be spent?
It’s now possible to buy your morning coffee with your Bitcoin. The drinks chain is one of a number of retailers that accept the payment provider, Flexa.
Customers can make instant payments from their wallets using the Spedn app, which was also built by the company. In addition to Bitcoin, customers can pay with Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and the Gemini Dollar.
To pay, the customer just has to scan a QR card from their Spedn app, and the Flexa system takes care of the rest.
Las Vegas Casinos
While online casinos have been slow in the take up of cryptocurrencies as payment methods, several Las Vegas casinos are accepting bitcoin in restaurants, shops, and the front desks, although not on gaming-related transactions at present.
Microsoft was one of the earliest adopters of Bitcoin as a payment method. Users of the Xbox Store and Windows Store can purchase digital goods like video games, movies, and apps. However, they’re not permitted to use the funds for the purchase of physical goods from the Microsoft Online Store.
Bitcoin also can’t be used for gift cards, can’t be refunded, and transactions can take up to two hours to process.
Travel company Expedia used to accept Bitcoin for booking of flights and hotels but quietly discontinued its support in recent 2018. Instead, crypto enthusiasts that want to book a trip somewhere can do so with CheapAir.
The company doubled down on its commitment to crypto in 2018 when it moved to a new processing platform, adding several other tokens to its list of accepted payment methods. It has also begun producing guides on the best cities in the world to spend cryptocurrencies.
While there is still some way to go in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies becoming widely accepted, these big names are evidence that there is demand from both consumers and businesses to use the new digital currencies as payment methods.