The number of places where you can spend bitcoins is growing every day. In 2014, several major online retailers even began accepting Bitcoin directly, paving the way for major acceptance progress in 2015.
The major ways you can buy with Bitcoin are:
- Via certain online merchants to purchase goods and services direct;
- Via merchants offering gift cards (if you want to buy something from a merchant which does not yet accept Bitcoin directly);
- Via certain physical merchants which accept Bitcoin directly;
- Certain other situations for small communities.
Many websites accept direct payment in Bitcoin. How to pay is covered by the website itself during the checkout process, but generally involves copying a Bitcoin address and sending a transaction for the amount indicated by the merchant from your wallet to that address. Some merchants also provide QR codes for use with mobile payments.
Currently, the list of major online merchants which accept Bitcoin direct is impressive, including Microsoft, Expedia, Dell, Newegg, Tiger Direct and Overstock.
A full list of major enterprises currently taking Bitcoin as payment can be found here.
Third party merchants (on behalf of merchants that do not yet accept Bitcoin directly)
If you intend to purchase something online but the website in question does not accept Bitcoin, it is possible that the website is supported by a gift card merchant which does accept Bitcoin.
This means that you can purchase a gift card for the relevant outlet with Bitcoin, then spend the funds on that gift card on the outlet’s main website as normal.
Gyft is the main proprietor for gift cards and supports a wide range of merchants including Amazon. You can also search online for alternatives to Gyft if you require a specific, less popular merchant. A great example is Pockio, where you can also buy gift cards in other currencies like Dogecoin and Litecoin.
Physical (bricks-and-mortar) merchants
Throughout many countries in the world, a growing number of physical shops are accepting Bitcoin. They can be found in all market sectors, from clothes to building materials to restaurants and coffee houses. In fact, the large majority of physical Bitcoin merchants are to be found in the food and beverage industry.
Got a place in mind which doesn’t take Bitcoin? You can also use services like Gyft above to purchase gift cards for physical merchants not accepting Bitcoin, such as Starbucks.
To see where you can spend Bitcoin in person, take a look at Coinmap.com. This website uses mapping to give physical locations of merchants throughout the world and is readily searchable.
You can also check out resources such as Spend Bitcoins UK for thorough, country-specific listings.
Digital currency alternatives to popular merchants such as eBay and Amazon are becoming prevalent. These private-seller services allow goods and services to be purchased directly via Bitcoin and other currencies. Examples include Cryptothrift and BitPremier.
What can I buy with Bitcoin that I can’t buy with fiat?
Buying Starbucks gift cards are cool, but that probably isn't what most people dream about when they first learned about cryptocurrencies. The whole point of digital currencies is to do things old fiat currencies cannot or will not.
Gambling, particularly online gambling, is a great example of this. Bitcoin is based on math, is infinitely divisible and easily transmitted. There are now many Bitcoin-based digital casinos out there, and while their technical legality in many jurisdictions remains up in the air, most of the sites don't discriminate against IP addresses originating from certain countries and so far the authorities have turned a blind eye to the sites.
The exact nature of the math behind Bitcoin has allowed Bitcoin casinos to reduce their profit margin even further, all the way down to a 51/49 % split. Even better, bitcoin gambling can fit nearly any budget. Since everything is done using math behind the scenes, it is entirely possible to play poker hands for tens of thousands of dollars, or a fraction of a cent. This opens up online gambling to anyone with a Bitcoin wallet, even if the player only has a tiny amount to spare.
If gambling isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other things you can do better with Bitcoin than with fiat.
Buying and selling commodities such as gold bullion has become uniquely accessible and flexible thanks to Bitcoin – merchants such as Amagi Metals currently specialize in providing support to Bitcoin buyers and sellers.
Donating to charities, media outlets and content providers has never been easier. There are thousands of organizations out there accepting Bitcoin, and sending them money doesn't waste a dime on middlemen or regulatory institutions.
This is allowing charitable organizations both large and small – even those located in needy communities in remote locations – to put donations to work direct, without the worry of political corruption or delays hampering their humanitarian efforts. The potential of Bitcoin in this respect is only just starting to be realized.