BThis year has been something of a watershed, with a number of merchants – some of them retail giants with billions of dollars in revenue – deciding to accept bitcoin in exchange for goods and services. Many of them are online e-commerce sites, but an increasing number of bricks-and-mortar stores are also now accepting cryptocurrency.
While in the past trying to find a bitcoin-accepting merchant for the item you want was often tricky or even impossible, there are now growing options for people who don't wish to pick their way through hundreds of listings just to find products vaguely approximating those they want.
The best way to find bitcoin-accepting merchants is via marketplaces and aggregator sites that gather large numbers of supporting establishments together at once. CoinMap.org also offers a visual way to locate bitcoin stores in any geographical area, and new businesses are appearing all the time. However, CoinDesk has summed up some of the more notable examples of both online and real-world stores in the guide below.
In previous guides, we’ve told you how to mine bitcoin, and how to buy it. However you acquired your digital currency, if it's not purely an investment, you’re going to want to spend it at some point. So, what can you buy with bitcoin?
Online e-commerce sites
Global computing giant Microsoft added bitcoin as a payment option for a variety of digital content across its online platforms in December 2014. According to the company’s payments information page, US-based customers can now use bitcoin to add money to their accounts, which can then be used to purchase content like apps, games and videos from its Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox platforms.
Dell, the multinational computer technology specialist, announced in July that it is accepting bitcoin through a partnership with Coinbase. As an introductory offer, people buying with bitcoin will get a price reduction of 10% on high-end Alienware PCs. With annual revenue approaching $57bn, Dell is roughly four times the size of DISH Network – the previous biggest bitcoin-accepting business.
Overstock became the first major retailer to accept bitcoin when it made the announcement back in January 2014. The firm offers everything from furniture to jewellery to electronics. Prices are in dollars but there is an option to pay in BTC on the checkout page. Initially a US-only offering, the firm opened up bitcoin purchases to over 100 countries in September.
Newegg, also a retail giant, is a Los Angeles-based company that recorded $2.8bn in annual revenue in 2013. It specialises in computer hardware and software, but also sells a variety of appliances and goods.
Showroomprive.com took the crown of largest European company to start accepting payment in bitcoin in September 2014. The merchant, which sells a variety of products including clothes, fashion accessories, cosmetics and homeware, is to accept bitcoin via European cryptocurrency company Paymium. At the time of the announcement, its websites in France and the Netherlands were accepting bitcoin, with other countries to follow over coming weeks. It has not yet announced a plan to integrate the digital currency with its mobile app platform.
TigerDirect, the online retailer of computers and consumer electronics now accepts payments in bitcoin. This is handy, perhaps, for miners who can buy kit with coin they have mined.
Monoprix is a major French retail chain that has announced plans to start accepting bitcoin payments on its merchant website this year. The company further indicated that it is also working on a mobile payment solution for physical stores and bitcoin could eventually be used there too.
Bitcoinshop.us offers products from air-conditioners to watches, all priced in bitcoin (and, as of July 14th 2014, litecoin and dogecoin too), for those wanting to make a purchase. The catch: it only ships to people in the continental US.
Memory Dealers carries a range of networking hardware equipment and computer memory. It has been a 'bitcoin believer' from the beginning.
AirBaltic, the Latvian airline, may be the first to accept payments in bitcoin, after starting accepting the cryptocurrency on 17th July. A company representative said that the bitcoin payment option is offered for basic class fares, excluding China, Indonesia, India, Iceland, Jordan, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Russia, Taiwan and Vietnam. After initially and controversially charging a fee of 5.99 euros per bitcoin transaction, airBaltic changed its mind and now has no fee.
Air Lituanica, another Eastern European airline, is now accepting bitcoin for flight tickets as part of its ongoing bid to embrace new and innovative methods of serving customers.
CheapAir.com, the California-based online travel booking website, started taking bitcoin in November 2013 and announced in July that it has completed more than $1.5m in bitcoin sales on flights, around 200,000 hotels and Amtrak railway bookings via its platform.
BTCTrip is an online flight and hotel booking service that was one of the first in its industry to serve the bitcoin community. As of August 2014, the firm also accepts payments in dogecoin and litecoin.
The UK’s Theatre Tickets Direct has recently started accepting bitcoin, offering a ticket booking service for mostly London shows, such as West End theatre and musicals.
Honest Brew is a UK-based online beer platform that specialises in craft beers from its own and guest breweries – including quirky labels like Weird Beard, BrewDog and Pressure Drop.
Coco Mats ’n More offers bitcoin-logoed doormats for fans of the cryptocurrency, as well as 'Bitcoin Accepted Here' mats for merchants wanting to advertise the payment option.
CoinDesk frequently discovers interesting local sellers: Keystone Pet Place will handle all your pet's needs, The Java Nomad will ship you fresh coffee beans from Bali and Persian Shoes will sell you handmade shoes and bags from Iran. Several local, niche merchants accept bitcoin only and will not/cannot accept fiat currency.
The good news is that there are hundreds of small retailers accepting bitcoin too. One of our favourites at CoinDesk (We'd love one in our office) are these beautiful, hand-made Water Filter Crocks. Coinmap and UseBitcoins.info keep up-to-date databases of these shopping destinations.
Using bitcoin to obtain discounts
Purse.io is a peer-to-peer marketplace that matches individuals wanting to buy items on Amazon at a discount with others wanting to buy bitcoin with a credit card or via PayPal. The service claims potential discounts of up to 20% for bitcoin shoppers. Read our review of the service here.
Bitcoin gift cards
If you can’t find physical or online stores that accept bitcoin directly for the item(s) your require, the easiest way to turn your digital currency into ‘real-world’ goods and services is via gift cards.
Plenty of gift card businesses accept bitcoins and these cards can be used at a surprising number of major retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Target and Nike. For US customers, companies like Gyft, eGifter, iTradeBTC and GiftCardZen have the widest range of options.
In the UK, Gift Off lets customers use 15 cryptocurrencies to buy gift cards for 177 retailers, such as Amazon, Marks & Spencer, Ryan Air, and American Apparel. The service is currently rolling out to the EU too, with France and Germany being first to receive a more limited number of gift card options. More countries and retailers are planned to follow soon.
Note: many gift cards are only valid in their country of issue, which is usually the United States (although overseas shoppers may still make purchases with gift cards from US retailers in many cases). Other countries have their own options; for example, Australians can see what’s available at Bitcoin Gift Cards. You will usually pay a little more to trade your bitcoins for gift cards (around 5-10% is normal) but on the upside, you don’t need to deal with exchanges or transfers.
Physical stores that accept bitcoin
REEDS Jewelers, a large jewelery chain in the US, is one of the most notable merchants to accept bitcoin as a form of payment. The firm is headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, and has 64 retail locations in the eastern US, as well as an online presence. The retailer, which has been in business since 1946, is allowing its customers to pay using bitcoin both in-store and online.
CeX, a UK technology exchange and retailer, launched a one-store bitcoin-only payments initiative in Glasgow this May, as well as Scotland’s first bitcoin ATM. It has now rolled out ongoing bitcoin acceptance to 30 stores across Britain, with more to follow soon.
The Sacramento Kings NBA franchise accepts bitcoin for products including tickets, jerseys, hot dogs and beer. The team says it will accept the currency online and at the Sleep Train Arena, its home stadium.
The San Jose Earthquakes, a soccer club from California, implemented bitcoin integration at the team’s Buck Shaw Stadium on 25th May. Coinbase is acting as the stadium’s bitcoin payments processor, leveraging the exchange’s tablet app to accept payments. Game attendees can use bitcoin to buy tickets at the box office and additionally pay for concessions at certain locations and buy merchandise at the stadium gift shop.
Perhaps stretching the definition of a store, a private hospital in Warsaw, Poland, which is run by the Medicover Group, will soon let patients pay their bills in bitcoin. The medical facility is probably the first to accept payments for the full range of healthcare services, including major surgery.
Check out CoinMap.org for a large number of smaller bricks-and-mortar bitcoin stores across the globe.