Bitcoin has frequently been described as the future of money. It certainly has that potential — peer-to-peer payments are far more efficient than money transfers between bank accounts that may take days to complete, and each user truly has full custody over their own assets.
Since the first Bitcoin was mined in January 2009, people around the world have used it for a range of functions, including a store of value and an investment instrument. Some enterprises now also accept Bitcoin as a mode of payment. In a recent blog post, Ethereum inventor and co-founder Vitalik Buterin recounted attempts over the years to use cryptocurrency as payment in real-world settings, beginning at a San Francisco sushi restaurant in 2013.
In this article, we’ll look at a handful of major companies that let customers spend their money using the cryptocurrency with the largest market cap.
Major Brands that Allow Crypto Payments
Microsoft accepts cryptocurrency as a method of payment when users top up their accounts. This involves using BitPay’s payment service, which can be selected during the checkout process. Microsoft’s partnership with BitPay stretches back to 2014, making it one of the earliest major companies to give consumers a taste of what it’s like to use cryptocurrency in real-life transactions.
Similarly, the wireless carrier AT&T began accepting Bitcoin as payment in 2019 by integrating BitPay’s services, allowing customers to pay their monthly bills with cryptocurrency.
ExpressVPN began accepting Bitcoin payments in 2014, the same year Microsoft gave crypto the green light. The company frames this as respect for user privacy, aligning with the crypto space’s pseudonymous nature, where users’ identities can be masked if they so choose.
Users of the Starbucks app can use iPayYou’s Bitcoin wallet to pay for purchases at the coffee chain’s locations. The partnership makes it possible to convert volatile cryptocurrencies into fiat currency in real time. Notably, Starbucks is utilizing blockchain technology for a range of applications, including their NFT-based Odyssey membership program, as well as NFT collections that are part of Odyssey.
Chipotle is another major food and beverage chain that accepts cryptocurrency from customers. Its “Buy the Dip” promotion campaign made a splash in July 2022 when it gave away US$200,000 in free crypto. The fast casual restaurant group accepts Bitcoin alongside more than 90 other digital currencies, including Ether, Solana, and Dogecoin. This wasn’t the first time for the company to wade into the crypto space; it ran a “Burritos or Bitcoin” promotion that gave away US$100,000 in Bitcoin to customers.
While Twitch no longer accepts Bitcoin as payment for subscriptions, streamers can add a button by NOWPayments to accept Bitcoin donations from their viewers. Given that millennials and Gen Z are the demographics that accept cryptocurrency the most, and that those age groups are Twitch’s core audience, the match makes sense, and streamers around the world can receive donations efficiently while they create entertaining content.
Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten has enabled its customers to recharge their Rakuten Cash balance using Bitcoin and other blockchain-based assets. This was significant because Rakuten Cash can be used at a variety of brick-and-mortar outlets, including major chain restaurants, convenience stores, and pharmacies. The company was the first in Japan to use crypto assets for digital payments.
Paying With Bitcoin
The examples mentioned above all rely on a middleman to make the process of paying with Bitcoin as smooth and intuitive as possible. That additional layer mitigates the chance of errors that lead to, for example, digital assets being sent to the wrong wallet address.
As Buterin noted, “a good user experience is not about the average case, it is about the worst case.” That’s why a range of solutions have been developed to partner with major brands and provide cryptocurrency payment services.
While cryptocurrency still only accounts for a small share of retail payments, it does appear here to stay, and may grow significantly in the near future. BTSE’s exchange offers an easy way to convert the asset of your choice — crypto or fiat — into Bitcoin and a range of other tokens.
To learn more about Bitcoin, visit our explainer that unpacks its origins, uses, and major milestones.
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