You’ve gotten your hands on some bitcoins, whether through mining, purchasing them through an exchange or marketplace, or being paid directly in BTC via Bitwage without your employer needing to sign up.
So where can you spend them?
More places than you might think. As bitcoin gains in popularity, more and more businesses are accepting it as payment, from small mom-and-pop stores in your neighborhood to some of the most massive online retailers.
But, of course, not every vendor accepts bitcoins (yet), so here’s Bitwage’s guide to finding those who do.
Perhaps the most obvious place to spend your BTC is with online retailers. Digital currency and digital shopping should go hand in hand, right?
While the titan of the online shopping industry, Amazon, still does not accept BTC, there are many alternatives that do. Overstock, which sells everything from toys to furniture to clothing, became the first major online retailer to accept BTC in January 2014. Prices are listed in dollars, but you can pay in BTC once you reach the checkout page. BitcoinShop, while not as well-known as Overstock, sells a similarly wide range of products, all available to be purchased in BTC. The Bitcoin Store is much like BitcoinShop, while BitPremier specifically sells luxury products.
OpenBazaar provides a somewhat more unique way to spend your BTC. It’s not an online retailer in itself, but rather a program you download directly onto your computer. It provides access to a peer-to-peer marketplace in which buyers and sellers connect directly to exchange goods (with a third party acting as a moderator), and all transactions are made in BTC. For more information on how this works, visit the link to their website provided in our list below.
For those looking to buy electronics, Newegg and TigerDirect both accept payment in BTC as well. In much the same vein, you can pay in BTC if you buy directly from industry heavyweights Dell and Microsoft. And, if you’re looking specifically for games, both Steam and Humble Bundle accept BTC at checkout.
In the travel category, Expedia, CheapAir, AirBaltic, Ships & Trips Travel, and TravelForCoins offer various travel services – including hotels, flights, and cruises – and accept BTC, meaning that you can plan and book your next trip solely with bitcoins.
As a side note, Purse provides one workaround (we’ll explain two more below) for buying items on Amazon using BTC. Check out https://support.purse.io/general-questions/name-your-discount/ for a step-by-step description of how you can not only make purchases on Amazon using BTC, but also save some money in the process.
Below are the various online retailers that accept BTC, as well as the link to Purse’s homepage:
Now that bitcoin has gained traction as a viable currency, you’re no longer limited to spending your hard-earned BTC only online. There is, perhaps surprisingly, a wide range of brick-and-mortar stores that will accept BTC as payment.
It probably isn’t a good idea to just walk into a local store and, after the cashier rings you up, let him know that you plan to pay in BTC. Instead, you can use CoinMap to find out ahead of time which stores in your neighborhood are bitcoin-friendly.
Let’s take a couple of examples here. Right now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Taipei, Taiwan. If I type in my location on CoinMap, I see that there are a total of eighteen establishments in Taipei that will accept my BTC in place of the New Taiwan Dollars in my wallet. Not surprisingly, one of these establishments is a local hacker space, but the list also includes a crafts store, bars, cafes, and a hotel.
Now, let’s take a look at my last city of residence, San Francisco. Here, the options are even more varied – a total of 145 businesses accept BTC. Clothing stores, art galleries, delis, cafes, hookah bars, restaurants – frankly, in San Francisco, I could make all my purchases, whether for necessities or fun, in BTC. For these transactions, I’d simply scan my BTC QR code as payment.
There are also a number of alternatives to CoinMap. SpendBitcoins, for example, provides maps and business listings tailored to your country, and you can search for specific products and services that can be purchased in BTC. If you have an Android phone, you can also try the Bitcoin Map app, which provides similar services to CoinMap and SpendBitcoins. Bitcoin Restaurants specifically lists restaurants in the US that accept BTC. Finally, if you have an Airbitz wallet, the company provides a business directory and map both on its website and through its app, although at this point, not every country is included in its listings.
Take a look at your local neighborhood and check out what options you have. You may be surprised by how far your BTC can take you.
See below for the various maps you can use to look for BTC-friendly stores:
Okay, so we’ve covered a lot of ground here and established that there are indeed many businesses, both online and on the ground, that will accept your bitcoins.
But what about those that don’t? Say, for example, you’re a bookworm like me, and there’s an out-of-print book that you can only find on Amazon. Or you’re a handyman and need to make a run to your local Home Depot. Unfortunately, neither Amazon nor Home Depot will accept your BTC.
Well, not directly, at least. But luckily, there’s a workaround – gift cards. Through eGifter and Gyft, you can use your BTC to purchase gift cards, and it’s here that the possibilities truly become endless. Scrolling through the list of stores for which you can buy gift cards, you’ll find nearly everything you could possibly think of – not only Amazon and Home Depot, but Whole Foods, Burger King, Starbucks, Nike, and even various airlines.
Until the rest of the world’s businesses come to their senses and accept bitcoins directly, this little life hack is a great way to get real-world value out of your digital currency.
Below are the links to these two BTC-friendly gift card sites:
Bitcoin Debit Cards
By purchasing gift cards with your BTC, you gain access to a wide range of retailers, both online and in-person. But what if there is a local store for which you can’t purchase gift cards, or you simply don’t want to carry a stack of them around with you as you go about making your purchases?
That’s where bitcoin debit cards come in – they essentially close the gap between bitcoin and traditional financial transactions. To put it simply, these cards take your BTC and convert them into traditional currency for use at any local merchant that accepts debit/credit card transactions.
There’s a wide range of bitcoin debit cards to choose from, but let’s look at a couple of examples.
SpectroCoin offers prepaid bitcoin debit cards in either virtual (meaning they can only be used for online transactions) or physical forms. The card is loaded from your SpectroCoin wallet and is available in several currencies, such as USD, Euros, and British pounds. This card is highly convenient – it can be used anywhere MasterCard or VISA is accepted. In other words, you can use it at nearly every ATM, brick-and-mortar shop, or online retailer globally.
Next is Coinbase’s Shift Card, which is available for US residents in 41 states. It can be used anywhere VISA is accepted, whether online or in-person. It’s linked directly to your Coinbase account and converts your BTC into dollars for transactions.
As our final example, let’s look at the Xapo Debit Card. This card is available to residents of many countries outside of the US, but not to US residents. It can be used anywhere VISA transactions are accepted and is linked to your Xapo wallet.
Below are the links to all the aforementioned cards:
Donations, tipping, and charity
Our final category is for all the altruists out there. Various sites allow you to show your appreciation by tipping or donating to the content creators and non-profit foundations you care about.
On Reddit, for example, you can reward unique or hilarious posters by buying them Reddit Gold with BTC.
The WikiMedia Foundation, which is behind free sites like Wikisource, Wiktionary, Wikiquote and, of course, Wikipedia, also accepts BTC donations.
Unsung, a charity focused on feeding the forgotten 49 million Americans who live in hunger, accepts donations directly in BTC.
Entirely bitcoin-based charities are even beginning to pop up. BitGive, for example, focuses on public health and environmental issues and has partnered with various well-known charities, such as Save the Children and The Water Project, to help make the world a better place.
Below are the links to the aforementioned tipping and charity sites:
All of your transactions, in bitcoin
I think we’ve answered the question we started with, and the answer is:
Online retailers of all stripes, brick-and-mortar businesses in your own neighborhood, and even various non-profits have caught on to the potential of bitcoin and opened up their transactions to those who wish to pay or donate in BTC. Through gift cards and debit cards, you can spend your BTC at even those vendors who do not directly accept the currency.
Through these avenues of payment, it’s finally become possible to use your BTC practically anywhere. Meaning, of course, that receiving any percentage of your wage in bitcoin (which is where Bitwage comes in) is more justified now than it has ever been before.