People are so caught up on what bitcoin could be - an investment, a stock you can trade, a technology that will shape the future of entire industries - that they can forget that it's also, as the "coin" in the name implies, a form of currency. It was designed to upend government money and become one of the foremost currencies in the world. Blockchain is important technology, but bitcoin was also supposed to help you pay for things without banks getting involved at all.
So, can you actually spend it? And what can you buy with bitcoin, anyway?
You don't need to worry about bitcoin overtaking the dollar anytime soon, but part of bitcoin's ascension as the foremost cryptocurrency has been that now, whether you mine bitcoin or buy bitcoin, there are a variety of places that will accept it as payment. Many of them are online, but you may be surprised to find that depending on where you are, you could be able to find a local bitcoin-accepting shop near you.
Granted, you shouldn't expect a sudden and rapid increase in stores who take bitcoin. It has a long way to go before becoming widespread. Volatility in price, combined with lengthy transaction times on the busy blockchain, make it more difficult for establishments to accept bitcoin payments. It's also made consumers wary of spending it; after all, why spend $30 worth of bitcoin if in the future it might be worth much more if you invest it?
Still, should bitcoin continue to survive and manage to hit an even higher peak, we may see websites and retailers start considering an expansion and letting you use bitcoin. If you're looking to spend instead of selling or trading your bitcoins, here are some of the things you can buy.
How to Use Bitcoin Online
Bitcoin, being a digital currency accessed online, is naturally more of a fit for being used via websites than via actual stores. And indeed, there are many more options for spending your bitcoin online. Some large companies have gone all-in on blockchain, so they are set up for bitcoin purchases on their sites. Other places have tinkered with the idea, dipping their toes in the bitcoin waters to see if it can give them a larger base of consumers.
Even as bitcoin has become more about long-term investing, it has still become far easier than it used to be for bitcoin owners to purchase goods online, with some sites developed specifically to accommodate bitcoin. There's one site that's entirely devoted to getting you pizza with bitcoin!
The market has also developed to the point that you can give gift cards with bitcoin. Popular gift card sites like Gyft and eGifter now offers the option to create and pay for gift cards using bitcoins. This includes gift cards for notable retailers like Dunkin Donuts, Best Buy, Target and Home Depot.
Whether purchasing something or using bitcoin to add funds to an online account, the process is fairly similar across the board for using it. Click "Pay with bitcoin," give the site your wallet information (often a QR code, especially if you're doing this on mobile), confirm your information, and place the order. This can be done through companies like ShapeShift, which allow for digital cryptocurrency trading. Some desktop sites may also provide the wallet address for you to send bitcoins to. Intuit has also developed a system called PayByCoin to help more businesses accept bitcoin payments. Even cash apps like Cash App and Square are trying out bitcoin to see if this is something worth getting in on the ground floor.
Try to make that order in a timely fashion, though; due to the severe volatility of bitcoin, some bitcoin merchants will only give you a 10-minute window to complete your purchase. After that, the price may update based on the new exchange rate.
Where Online Can I Buy With Bitcoin?
Do the proper research on whether a company is currently allowing for bitcoin use, as some may have integrated it at one point but may not be using it at the moment. Steam, Valve's video game distributing platform, stopped allowing bitcoin payments in December 2017, citing the volatility but admitting they may come back to it. Dell claimed it was a lack of interest that led it to stop accepting bitcoin in November 2017. But there are plenty of other places that continue to allow you to pay with bitcoins.
What can you buy with bitcoin online? Depending on the retailer you choose, quite a bit. Overstock.com (OSTK - Get Report) has more of an investment in it than anyone, using it to develop their own blockchain. Those looking for basic retail goods (apparel, furniture, home décor, etc.) can shop on Overstock, check out, and use the option to pay with bitcoin.
Electronics retailer Newegg has also been a big proponent of bitcoin. Computers, televisions, gaming consoles and more can be purchased with bitcoins on Newegg, with separate methods of payment depending on whether you are on mobile or desktop.
Bill Gates' thoughts on bitcoin have shifted over time, but that hasn't stopped Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) , a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio, from toying with the idea of incorporating it into their payment system. Microsoft users now have the option to add bitcoins from their wallet into their Microsoft account, but also make sure you know that when you redeem bitcoin for your account, it's only available to use in the Windows Store and Xbox Store.
Other companies are acting similarly to Microsoft by dipping their toes in the bitcoin waters, and only allowing it for certain payments. Expedia (EXPE - Get Report) is known for helping book hotels, flights, cruises and vacation rentals, but currently bitcoin payments are reserved for booking hotels. According to its website, Expedia has partnered with notable bitcoin wallet/exchange Coinbase for this, and there is a transaction fee. Should the bitcoin experiment succeed for Expedia, could expanding it for flights and cruises be next?
In the market for satellite television and want to pay your bill in bitcoin? Turns out this specific dream of yours can be a reality: Dish Network (DISH - Get Report) was an early adopter of bitcoin amongst larger companies, deciding to allow for transactions with the cryptocurrency back in 2014.
Bitcoin can also be used in some cases to make donations. Want to donate to Wikipedia? You can do it anytime and they connect with Coinbase to allow for bitcoin transfers.
There are many other websites that currently allow for bitcoin too, including but not limited to:
- OKCupid (dating site)
- CheapAir (travel/hotel booking agency)
- PizzaForCoins (pizza delivery)
- Zynga (Mobile apps/games)
- Etsy (e-commerce, some Etsy sellers accept bitcoin as payment)
How to Use Bitcoin at Stores
Bitcoin still hasn't hit a point yet where it's a common method of payment at your average retail outlet. We're not sure if or when it would reach a level of ubiquity even 1% close to the dollar. But whether as a novelty or because the owners truly believe it's the wave of the future, there are some places out there that you can physically go to and pay with bitcoin.
Despite not being widespread, there are several different ways for stores to accept bitcoin if you're wondering how to spend it - or if you're a business interested in integrating it. With computer software and mobile apps that allow for scanning of QR codes and wallet keys, initiating payments is far quicker than it used to be - even if transaction times on the blockchain can be a bit slow.
If you're just out for a walk and want to look for a local bitcoin purchase, look closely; some places that accept it may have a sign in the window that say "bitcoin accepted here!", complete with the bitcoin logo.
What Stores Accept Bitcoin?
Not sure if anything near you lets you pay with bitcoin? There are sites that try to keep a running archive of places that take it and let you search on a virtual map. Take, fittingly, Coinmap, a map that lets people add their businesses and edit information. You can see for yourself who takes bitcoin near you.
A number of large companies, like the online ones above, are simply dipping their toe in the water and seeing what happens. In January of 2018, KFC Canada debuted a limited time offer known as "The Bitcoin Bucket," a combination bucket with chicken tenders and waffle fries, for $20 worth of BTC. It's no longer on the market - because it quickly sold out. That's a pretty good sign if KFC ever wants to roll out the Bitcoin Bucket worldwide.
Subway is another popular chain that has given bitcoin a limited try - though in this case, the decision was made not by the higher-ups of the corporation but by franchisees. As early as 2013, Subway sandwich shops were being found that readily accepted bitcoin as a currency, including in Altoona, Pa. One franchisee that owns multiple Subways in Buenos Aires, Argentina is also notable for accepting bitcoins, which began at least in 2014, according to the Panama Post. Beyond that, though, Subway hasn't shown much interest in expanding their bitcoin endeavors.
Because bitcoin is so intriguing yet so risky, big companies tend to shy away from them. But that's also what makes it something smaller businesses may try and incorporate in an attempt to generate buzz with niche audiences. Do you think of bitcoin owners as people in particular need of jewelry? The people in charge of REEDS Jewelers seem to think so. All of their 65 locations (maybe not the smallest business, but compared to Subway...) accept bitcoin, as does their online store.
One running thread in the history of bitcoin is an insistence of using it for pizza. The first ever bitcoin transaction was for two pizzas, and PizzaForCoins.com was created a few years later. So it seems like a perfect fit that one of the more well-known locations in the U.S. that accepts bitcoin is, you guessed it, a pizza place. Helen's Pizza in Jersey City, NJ allows customers to buy a slice of pizza with bitcoin, and recently also began accepting Litecoin (LTC) as payment too.
For other local spots like Helen's that take bitcoin - maybe one closer to you - check on Coinmap and Bitcoin Restaurants. Of course, if the bitcoin price recently jumped and you'd rather just hold onto it, you wouldn't be alone.