On May 22, 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz became the first man to ever order pizza with bitcoin bringing cryptocurrency out of the dark corners of server rooms and into the real world. According to the Kaspersky 2018 money report, over 13% of consumers asked say they have used cryptocurrency to make a purchase, and that number is set to grow exponentially as new technology provides easier and faster ways to make transactions.
How can merchants accept cryptocurrency?
As crypto enthusiasts know, almost every transaction in crypto trading takes time. From recording on the blockchain to finding buyers to make your conversions, the process is complex. But, new technologies, from companies like Flexa, are set to change all of that.
Several bitcoin exchanges have launched user-friendly wallets and cards that can make cashing in your crypto a breeze, allowing for near-instantaneous transfers from bit and alt coins into cash in the bank. Leaders such as Bitpay have been doing it for a few years now. So, how do we go from the average crypto enthusiast paying and accepting payment in bitcoin, to putting this power in the hands of the average retail cashier?
As crypto enthusiasm spreads, demand for Point of Sale solutions grows. Bitpay, Gocoin, Btcpay, and Palmpay all have options for merchants who want to accept bitcoin. In some cases, the coins are exchanged directly, in others, they are converted to cash first. But most will require some technology adaptations such as kiosks or pay devices. Many retailers are asking for a truly seamless experience, where a cashier can accept crypto as easily as US Dollars.
Enter Flexa’s Spedn wallet which gives users the ability to spend Bitcoin Core, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and GUSD just like cash money. In fact, they’ve simplified it so much that a list of power retail outlets from Game Stop to Lowes and Regal cinemas are adopting the system. The wallet only works within Flexa’s retail partner’s network, but that currently includes over thirty thousand stores.
As these options come online in more and more places, it’s up to us as the Crypto community to use them. It’s the most basic of all economic principles, as demand increases, supply will rise to meet it. This may be the single biggest key to gaining widespread acceptance for cryptocurrencies as a means of exchange among consumers and merchants.
That brings up the question, just how many merchants accept crypto?
By their very nature, crypto transactions are hard to track and with so many altcoins gaining acceptance there is no complete list of all crypto-friendly shopping experiences. According to Marketing Director Veronika Mishura, Coingate, a popular bitcoin transaction provider, as of 2018, had 4500 vendors accepting as many as 50 cryptocurrencies, a 700% increase over the past six years, but this is just a drop in the proverbial bucket.
The largest list I could find outside of Flexa’s claim to have 30,000 crypto accepting partners is on Coinmap.org. Their map app shows hot spots for every reported cryptocurrency trading point on the globe and it tops out at just over 15,000 as of July 2019.
Encouraging this growth is important and we can help make that a reality by asking our favorite retailers if they accept bitcoin and other currencies. While mentioning this to a barista in your favorite locally owned coffee shop might get somewhere, with larger companies, going online and voicing your opinion through surveys and customer feedback options is more likely to get your request to the right people.
So, which coins are the easiest to spend in the real world?
To date, Bitcoin is the undisputed leader when it comes to merchant adoption, with Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, and Dogecoin being other popular options. Virtualcoinsquad offers a fairly extensive list of crypto friendly vendors, with coins accepted, making it a great place to find out where you can spend your favorite cryptocurrencies.
Increases in wide acceptance of multiple coins are bound to be driven by consumer actions. So, if you’re a fan of an altcoin accepted at a store near you, why not fire up your favorite wallet and make a purchase or two? The market is very responsive to trends.
Meanwhile, for serious shoppers all sources agree that if a business accepts any crypto at all, it likely will accept BTC, making it wise to carry a portion of your portfolio in Bitcoin if you intend to do a lot of shopping. Otherwise, I advise you to do a bit of online research, before setting out on your shopping spree, to avoid disappointing results.
So what does the budding crypto investor spend all those coins on anyway?
With a growing number of major retail chains adopting some form of crypto acceptance, this question may soon be irrelevant, as everything from DIY tools and materials to groceries becomes easily accessible to anyone with enough cryptocurrency on hand.
As of today, the majority of “real world” purchases with cryptocurrencies are still made online where web hosting and web services account for nearly half, at 26 and 19% respectively. Meanwhile, consumer goods bring up the rear with only 3% of crypto purchases being made for tangible items. Other popular categories include software and advertising.
One way to get in on the action is to set up some of your favorite services to be paid from a bitcoin or altcoin wallet. The more we use these services, the higher the demand will be.
Where in the world is crypto most useful?
While writing on Steemit.com, I had some personal experience with this as I helped members from Nigeria to earn their first money in Steem coins. With nothing but spotty smartphone service, these entrepreneurs would thumb type 500 to 1000 word blog posts in the hopes of earning the equivalent of a few cents in USD. It was life-changing for these people, many of whom had no access to banks.
There are dozens of countries worldwide where cryptocurrency transactions are commonplace and more countries are seeing the benefits. Take for example Latin America, where unstable currencies are driving consumers to seek alternative means of making purchases, receiving payments and safeguarding their hard earned capital. This is especially true in Venezuela, where the Bolivar has been made nearly worthless through steep inflation and devaluation.
Trackable cryptocurrency transactions in Latin America alone have exploded in 2019, with more than 8000 transactions recorded in the first quarter. There are over 20,000 crypto owners just in the nation of Argentina. According to Coindance statistics, nearby countries are also getting on the Crypto bandwagon. Notably, activity in Colombia is steeply on the rise.
Travelers from developed countries can have a big impact on crypto acceptance globally as well. While on vacation, why not make it part of your plans to encourage crypto friendly businesses where you visit? Besides, how cool will that look on your Insta feed when your lunch was purchased courtesy of your favorite altcoin?
So, what does the future look like?
When the IMF tweeted on this subject on April 10, 2019, the majority of respondents indicated they expect to be using cryptocurrency for everyday purchases in the future.
So, while the world’s money “experts” continue to downplay the value of cryptocurrency as a transactional medium, it would seem the citizens of the world have different ideas about the future of money. This is good news for those of us in the crypto community, as more acceptance has meant higher valuations and bigger profits from trading.