Cash, Credit or Crypto? Retailers Accepting Bitcoin as a Payment Option
Bitcoin made headlines globally again when El Salvador recognized the cryptocurrency as legal tender – leading to speculation on whether other nations will follow suit. Bitcoin – whose market cap briefly hit $1 trillion in May 2021 – is the most widely traded and accepted cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin’s value plunged significantly when Elon Musk, citing the power consumption needed to mine it is too hard on the environment, declared that Tesla, Inc. (Tii:TSLA) would no longer accept the cryptocurrency as payment.
However, there remain several major corporations readily accepting crypto as a form of payment.
Microsoft Corp. (Tii:MSFT) was one of the first major corporations to accept Bitcoin, having announced the cryptocurrency as a payment option to buy apps, games and other digital content from Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox Games, Xbox Music or Xbox Video Stores back in 2014. The tech giant temporarily suspended Bitcoin transactions briefly in 2018 due to its high volatility and fees but has doubled down on blockchain (the technology upon which cryptocurrencies are built). Microsoft recently announced the launch of the ION Decentralized Identifier (DID) network, which uses Bitcoin’s blockchain to create digital IDs for authenticating identities online.
Coffee enthusiasts purchasing their favorite java using the Starbucks Corp. (Tii:SBUX) mobile app have the option of paying in cryptocurrency. Consumers can convert supported loyalty and rewards points, Bitcoin, frequent flyer miles, and gift cards in the Bakkt app into U.S. Dollars to reload their Starbucks Card saved in the Starbucks app. Bakkt, a digital wallet app to track, spend and send digital assets like cryptocurrency, loyalty and reward points or convert them to cash, also announced partnerships with Best Buy Co., Inc. (Tii:BBY) and Choice Hotels International, Inc. (Tii:CHH).
Through its partnership with Coinbase, a Bitcoin platform, shoppers visiting Overstock.com, Inc. (Tii:OSTK) have the option to pay with the cryptocurrency under the Payment Information section of the online retailer’s checkout page. Overstock, one of the first companies to accept crypto payments, announced it was converting its blockchain investment subsidiary into a blockchain-focused investment fund, leading to speculation that the company is more of a crypto play than a retailer. Overstock’s founder and former CEO, Patrick Byrne, made headlines in 2019 when he sold his 13% stake in the e-commerce company he launched to invest in precious metals and cryptocurrency.
Those looking to invest in cryptocurrency can buy, hold and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash using the PayPal Holdings, Inc. (Tii:PYPL) mobile app. The online payments platform jumped on the crypto bandwagon last year and is expected to soon allow its users to transfer cryptocurrencies away from its platform to third-party wallets. Venmo, PayPal’s mobile wallet subsidiary, also lets customers buy and sell cryptocurrencies. In the case of Venmo, users are limited to $20,000 in cryptocurrency purchases per week and $50,000 in a 12-month period.
While Amazon.com, Inc. (Tii:AMZN) has yet to facilitate cryptocurrency as a payment option on its online retail platform, consumers shopping at the company’s Whole Foods subsidiary may opt to pay with the digital currency. Through a partnership with Flexa, a regulated, pure-digital payments network that uses blockchain and other technologies to convert a consumer’s cryptocurrency to U.S. dollars in real time, Whole Foods shoppers can use the app to pay for their goods using Bitcoin.
While the jury may still be out regarding the long-term viability of cryptocurrencies, retailers – perhaps hedging their bets in the event Bitcoin and its peers are here to stay – will likely continue to ride the digital currency wave.