Bitcoin is a technological tour de force - Bill Gates, Microsoft Co-Founder

Bitcoin, which belongs to the world of virtual currencies, is slowly seeping into the mainstream with its growing acceptance. The number of places where Bitcoins can be spent is increasing at a fast pace and includes some big retail players as well as many small businesses and retailers. The increased acceptance is boosting its footprint across the globe and gets it an official recognition as a mode of payment.  (See: How Bitcoin Works)

Shopping Destinations

The traditional shops and businesses along with modern day ecommerce companies are increasingly accepting Bitcoin as a mode of payment. Though Bitcoin spending options are fewer among “brick and mortar” stores as compared to online destinations, all manner of retailers are likely to see an upward Bitcoin trend in the days to come. Some retailers where Bitcoins can be spent include:

  • Dell, the well known multinational computer manufacturer, accepts Bitcoins for purchases made from Dell.com through its partnership with Coinbase. Coinbase is not only a Bitcoin wallet but also an exchange, where Bitcoins are bought and sold for U.S. dollars at the market rate. Customers after selecting their product and filling in the shipment details just need to select Bitcoins from amongst the various options available.
  • Overstock.com Inc (NASDAQ: OSTK), one of the major online retail destinations, welcomes shoppers paying in Bitcoins. Overstock.com is Bitcoin-ready for the full gamut of its offerings, from watches to furniture to bath accessories. Customers need to select Bitcoins as the payment option on the checkout page. Coinbase facilitates the buying process. The company’s Bitcoin sales were reported over $2 million (1% of total sales) after eight months (i.e. August 2014) of launching its Bitcoin payment platform.
  • Showroomprive.com, with its decision in September 2014 to accept Bitcoins as payment, became the largest company in Europe to do so. The online store offers a variety of products ranging from cosmetics to home ware. Paymium, a European cryptocurrency company, will be the payments processor for Bitcoin transactions.
  • WordPress, which started in 2003, is a web publishing service that allows users to create a blog or website and is the world’s largest self-hosted blogging tool. It has what is considered what is the easiest-to-use content management system (CMS) for blog and website creation. WordPress is open to Bitcoin as a form of payment
  • Another retail giant that accepts Bitcoins is newegg. It specializes in computer hardware, electronics, software, gaming, cell phones and accessories along with sporting goods and more.
  • The Latvian airline airBaltic became the world’s fist airline to accept Bitcoins, as announced in July 2014. Passengers can pay for their tickets using Bitcoins for reservations to over 60 destinations. The airline has a tie-in with Bitpay (third party payment processor) for euro price conversion into Bitcoins. Customers can avail the Bitcoin payment option to buy the cheapest tickets, known as airBaltic basis class. The airlines carried over 2.95 million passengers in the year 2013. Other than airBaltic, tickets of Air Lituanica can also be bought using Bitcoins.  Air Lituanica is another European airline covering major European cities.
  • In the travel category, CheapAir.com, became the first online travel booking agency to introduce a payment system via Bitcoins in November 2013.  The company in a July press release announced that its sale of flights and hotels in Bitcoin exceeded $1.5 million.
  • Expedia Inc (NASDAQ: EXPE), a major online travel booking company, started accepting Bitcoins for reservations of hotel bookings (there are around 45,000 listed hotels on the site). Expedia has teamed up with Coinbase for its Bitcoin processing. The company plans to expand the payment system via Bitcoins to other segments of its business, like flight bookings.
  • REEDS Jewelers Inc, headquartered in North Carolina with retail stores in 65 locations across 15 states (click for locations), is another big name that accepts Bitcoins. The chain was founded in 1946 as a single hometown store. The retailer also has an online presence. REEDS Jewelers Inc is the first fine jeweler to accept Bitcoins for online transactions, as well as in store shopping at all its retail locations. 
  • DISH Network Corp (NASDAQ: DISH), the U.S. satellite provider launched a platform for Bitcoin payments in May 2014. Dish network reported revenue of $13.9 billion in 2013 has a subscriber’s base of more than 14 million and over 30,000 employees.
  • Reddit Inc is a social networking, entertainment and news website where registered members can post links, texts and content. Bitcoins are accepted by Reddit (since early 2013) as payment for Reddit Gold which is a premium membership program and comes with additional features and products.
  • Home & Stone, a Brooklyn showroom offers premium bathroom and kitchen fixtures, sinks and hardware (cabinets, doors, etc) accepts payment in Bitcoins.
  • To give you more variety on the takers of Bitcoins, there is OKCupid, a dating site launched in 2004 and having over 12 million users. OKCupid was acquired by InterActiveCorp (IAC) (NASDAQ: IACI), an internet and media company, in 2011 (Disclosure: Investopedia is an IAC Company). Though OkCupid is free for people who wish to join, it offers a special 'A-List' premium subscription with has additional features and is paid. The payment can be made using Bitcoins.

A few other names accepting Bitcoins as payment are CeX (a platform to buy, sell and exchange a range of technology and entertainment products), TigerDirect.com (online retailer of computers and consumer electronics), Monoprix (French retail chain), Bitcoin Shop (products from cameras to makeup, Dogecoin and Litecoin are also accepted here), LuxuryBitcoinStore (products from iPhones to handbags), memorydealers (transceivers, hardware and memory), honest brew (UK-based online beer platform), etc. 

Using Gift Cards

To circumvent the problem of direct acceptability of Bitcoins at stores, people can shop at the same stores (for the most part) via gift cards. There are many gift card businesses that accept Bitcoins and these can further be used at a large number of outlets and stores, including Amazon, Wal-Mart and Nike. Some of the gift card companies are eGifter, Gyft, Giftcard Zen and GiftcardBTC. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before assuming the feasablity of purchases using this method. (See: Why Retailers Love Gift Cards)

The Bottom Line

The acceptance of Bitcoins is fast rising, with many new merchants and stores getting added to the list of Bitcoin takers on regular basis. Websites such as CoinMapSpendBitcoins and useBitcoins keep updated records of the places where Bitcoins can be used to buy products and services. However, the biggest step forward for “spending Bitcoins” has been the announcement by PayPal in September 2014 wherein it has entered into a deal with BitPay, Coinbase and GoCoin (payment processing companies for Bitcoin). PayPal announced that customers can spend Bitcoins via these processing companies at the PayPal payment gateway.  This move will result in multiple expansion of the Bitcoin base as the number of acceptors will rise from selected stores and outlets to all PayPal enabled gateways.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author had no holdings in the companies mentioned and no holdings of bitcoins

 

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