Cryptocurrencies have become a mainstay of financial news since Bitcoin made headlines in 2017 for its exponential growth in value. Bitcoin has been around for several years, but it was only last year that it reached peak values. It remains as volatile as ever, opening 2018 with a 28% decline in January. It’s still more valuable than the rest of the altcoins, and it may take more time before it reaches stability.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a digital currency. It is decentralised, meaning no one authority has control over it. It runs on a technology called blockchain, which is basically a public ledger where transactions are recorded. This database is public but encrypted so that it is impervious to hackers. We have an in-depth article: What is Bitcoin.
What can you do with Bitcoin?
Aside from keeping Bitcoin as an investment opportunity, you can actually use it as a currency. Last year has seen a surge in users purchasing Bitcoin, and with it some shops who opened their stores to accepting Bitcoin.
The market for Bitcoin is still in the volatile stages, so many actual stores are still wary of accepting Bitcoin. As of now, there are more online businesses (and the online counterparts of actual stores) than physical businesses that are open to Bitcoin as payment.
Who accepts Bitcoin?
It seems, though, that more businesses are slowly opening up to accepting cryptocurrencies. In February 2018, Brisbane Airport announced that customers can now use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin in their shops and restaurants. (source)
Below are just some of the retailers and businesses in the US, UK, and Australia that accept Bitcoin, and the products and services that you can avail with it:
- eGifter – Electronic gift cards
- Etsy – Depends on the merchant. Use the payment option “other” to pay with Bitcoin.
- com – Hotel bookings only
- Gyft – Electronic gift cards
- Microsoft – Games, movies, and apps in the Windows and Xbox stores
- Reeds Jewelers – Fine jewelry, watches, diamonds
- Shopify stores – Depends on the merchant, but all Shopify stores have the option to accept Bitcoin
- Subway – Selected stores only. It was actually in 2013 when a customer successfully bought a Subway sandwich using Bitcoin.
- Virgin Galactic – Space travel (yup, you read right!)
- Zumi – Electronics and mobile accessories
It was rumored late last year that Amazon will start accepting Bitcoin soon, as it was reported that they have registered three new cryptocurrency domains. As of now, there has been no official announcement from the e-commerce giant, but experts speculate that the decision of Amazon to accept Bitcoin will boost the cryptocurrency’s value further.
There are also services like Shakepay that will let you convert your Bitcoins for fiat currency for a fee.
Risks and illegal uses of Bitcoin
Early Bitcoin users might be familiar with a website called BitDazzle, which was purported to be the biggest online marketplace for Bitcoin. It was launched way back in 2013 as a partnership between Cashie Commerce and Coinbase, and lets small businesses sell products for Bitcoin. They claimed to have over 1000 merchants when it launched; however, it never fully took off. A year after they launched, their Facebook and Twitter accounts went inactive. Since the Bitcoin trend only began recently, the timing of BitDazzle might have been off. We can probably expect similar online marketplaces like it to pop up this year.
Be careful about trading Bitcoin, though. Australia’s openness to Bitcoin has also opened talks on legislating laws for the regulation of digital currency, with a proposal to require registration for currency exchanges (e.g. CoinJar). If you are a user of Bitcoin, it’s good to update yourself on the government’s efforts to regulate cryptocurrencies. Because it provides anonymity in transactions, illegal uses of Bitcoin—such as in black markets and the illegal drug trade—remain a risk.