When it was launched in 2009, bitcoin was supposed to be a medium for daily transactions, making it possible to buy everything from a cup of coffee to a computer or even an apartment. But its trajectory veered soon after launch, and the cryptocurrency quickly became a conduit for criminal activities.
What can you buy with bitcoin if you’re not a criminal? The list is longer than you may think—and getting longer by the day.
- Thanks to growing awareness and popularity, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can now be used to purchase a wide range of products and services.
- The number of retailers and payment processors accepting bitcoin has increased in recent years, although there are still some major holdouts.
- Among the products that can be purchased using bitcoin today are electronics, luxury watches, and even cars.
Bitcoin Goes Mainstream
Over the years, retailer and consumer acceptance of bitcoin has mirrored its wild ride in crypto markets. In the wake of its dizzying upswing in value in 2017, many retailers announced that they would begin accepting it at their stores—only to back away from the decision later. In recent times, however, more and more companies have come around to the idea of integrating bitcoin into their operations.
There are two reasons for this:
- The first is improvements in cryptocurrency technology. Innovations like the Lightning Network are being touted as solutions to scaling the number of transactions in the cryptocurrency’s network and making them faster and more efficient.
- The second is that cryptocurrency is no longer confined to an obscure corner of the financial services industry. The crypto exchange platform Coinbase’s public listing, new price records, and positive mentions by regulators and policymakers are proof of its potential.
And so, the vision of Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s mysterious inventor, may very well come to pass, and bitcoin will live up to its original promise of being a currency for daily transactions.
How to Buy with Bitcoin
The easiest way to buy anything with bitcoin is to use a crypto debit card. Such cards are preloaded with the cryptocurrency of your choice. While you spend crypto, the retailer receives fiat money as payment. Crypto debit cards partner with payment-processing giants like Mastercard and Visa to ensure that these transactions occur seamlessly.
What You Can Buy with Bitcoin
While the number of institutions accepting bitcoin is growing by the day, large transactions involving it are rare. For example, very few real estate deals using cryptocurrency have been reported. Even so, it is possible to buy a wide variety of products from ecommerce websites using bitcoin. Here are some of the most active categories.
Some car dealers already accept bitcoin as payment. The list spans a pretty broad range and encompasses luxury dealers that sell Lamborghinis (a favorite with bitcoiners) to those offering more utilitarian vehicles like Subarus. Electric carmaker Tesla has become the biggest and most recent name to join the list of companies that enable you to purchase cars with the cryptocurrency. Tesla founder Elon Musk is a crypto enthusiast, based on his Twitter feed, and has said that he supports bitcoin.
Technology and Ecommerce Products
Several companies that primarily sell tech products accept bitcoin on their websites. Among them are Newegg, AT&T, and Microsoft.
Microsoft accepts bitcoin only at its online store, not on its Xbox gaming platform. It also doesn’t allow ads promoting cryptocurrency or crypto-related products on its site.
Overstock, an ecommerce platform selling a wide array of merchandise, was among the first sites to accept bitcoin; its founder, Patrick Byrne, was an early proponent. Many other sites, big and small, also allow you to purchase products with bitcoin. Two examples are Shopify and the Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten. Home Depot also accepts bitcoin.
Notable holdouts to date are Amazon, arguably the world’s biggest online retailer, and eBay. As far back as 2014, Amazon said it had no plans to engage with bitcoin. That reluctance is puzzling since platforms owned by the company, like Twitch, allow and even encourage the use of bitcoin.
EBay mulled allowing cryptocurrency use on its platform after the run-up in bitcoin prices in 2017. It has even bought large banner advertisements at cryptocurrency conferences. But the San Jose, Calif.-based company still hasn’t confirmed whether it will approve cryptocurrency-based transactions.
Meanwhile, PayPal, which was once an eBay subsidiary, now allows customers to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency in their accounts.
Jewelry and Expensive Watches
A number of luxury goods makers and retailers have begun accepting bitcoin as a form of payment. The online luxury retailer BitDials offers Rolex, Patek Philippe, and other high-end watches in return for bitcoin. Luxury watchmaker Franck Muller even produced a watch encrusted with gold and diamonds and containing a QR code from the bitcoin genesis block. Some other jewelry stores have partnered with payment processors to facilitate crypto-based purchases from their stores.
All cryptocurrency media outlets accept bitcoin for subscriptions or other services. Among mainstream outlets, the Chicago Sun-Times became the first major publication to accept bitcoin on its platform in 2014. That same year, magazine publisher Time Inc. began accepting cryptocurrency for digital subscriptions. Bloomberg News, which has been a leader among national publications in covering cryptocurrencies, also accepts bitcoin.
For the most part, the insurance industry has moved cautiously in embracing cryptocurrency. But things are beginning to change. While life insurance is still off-limits, insurance providers have begun accepting premium payments using bitcoin for other products in their portfolios.
In April 2021, for example, Swiss insurer AXA announced that it had begun accepting bitcoin as a mode of payment for all of its lines of insurance except for life insurance (due to regulatory issues). Premier Shield Insurance, an agency that sells home and auto insurance policies in the New England states, also accepts bitcoin for premium payments.
How can I buy something with bitcoin?
The easiest and most convenient way to make purchases using bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is with a cryptocurrency debit card. These cards, which are available from major crypto exchanges and other providers, also allow the holder to withdraw cash from participating ATMs. Many participate in major networks, such as Mastercard and Visa.
How does a bitcoin debit card work?
Bitcoin debit cards work much like regular prepaid debit cards, except that instead of cash, they are preloaded with bitcoin or another cryptocurrency of your choice. When you use them at a store, the money is withdrawn from your card in cryptocurrency and paid to the merchant in fiat money, such as dollars. When your balance gets low, you can reload the card.