By and large, we’ve almost stopped talking about bitcoin as a form of currency. The tech-based asset that was originally pitched to the world as something that might replace money as we knew it is now treated as a resource or commodity. We talk more about potential innovation with the blockchain, and it’s potential to be a new internet, than we do about how we can actually use bitcoin.
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This is largely natural, because relatively speaking there aren’t that many ways to spend bitcoin. It simply hasn’t caught on with enough merchants, governments, or financial systems to be considered an everyday form of money – let alone one that could replace fiat currency. To let this fact sway you toward thinking bitcoin is entirely useless as money would be a mistake though, because it does have its uses. They just happen to be somewhat limited, and focused on specific areas.
These in particular are some of the most interesting ways you can spend bitcoin today.
It’s unclear exactly what made bitcoin catch on with charities, but it’s done so with quite a few of them. It may be partly that a lot of charitable contributions occur across borders, and international payments can be made easier by cryptocurrency, given that it takes exchange rates and transfer complications out of the equation. It may also simply be the fact that charities want to make it easier for people to donate, and thus set themselves up to accept payments however people want to make them. Whatever the case, there are numerous organizations – dealing with clean water, technological education, children’s health, and even anti-sex trafficking efforts – that now accept donations in bitcoin. This site keeps a running list of them, for those who are interested in reading more.
This category is somewhat more in flux, because a few major travel booking sites have accepted bitcoin at certain points, but not at others. In a broad sense though, bitcoin has proven to be fairly useful in booking travel arrangements, perhaps in part thanks to the same exchange rate benefits just mentioned above. Sites like CheapAir have allowed people to make travel arrangements and pay with cryptocurrency, and BTCtrip came to life specifically as a bitcoin-based travel booking platform. There appears to be some sustainability to bitcoin’s connection to this dynamic industry.
If you were to write out the benefits of using bitcoin versus ordinary cash or systems like PayPal, and then try to think of an industry that fit those benefits, you might just come up with betting. Tens of millions of people all over the world bet on sports and public events, and do so online, where until recently they had to rely on bookmakers to keep their credit card and personal identity information safe. Additionally, people have had to simply trust that bets will go through and payouts will be made as they should be. Bitcoin and blockchain technology can bring added security and accountability to the whole process, and are already beginning to do so, albeit mostly at newer and smaller sites. This list keeps tabs on some of the newer bookmakers making the rounds online, and if you feel like keeping an eye on it you’ll likely see some bitcoin-based platforms in circulation before too long.
Retail hasn’t been the most exciting space for bitcoin, and there haven’t been too many newsworthy links between companies and cryptocurrency. Outside of Overstock, there really isn’t a huge retail company that’s stuck with bitcoin for a meaningful amount of time. However, the notion that you can’t buy basic goods with bitcoin is a little bit flawed. This is because there are aggregator sites like SpendBitcoins that basically allow you to search for an item and find results that allow you to pay for said item – whatever it may be – with bitcoin. It’s hit or miss, of course, but in a way these aggregators serve as a massive network of bitcoin-based online retail.
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