“But you can’t buy a coffee with Bitcoin,” the Bitcoin (BTC) critics chanted. Gibraltar, a tiny British Overseas Territory in Europe just blew a hole in that FUD as popular coffee chain Costa Coffee now accepts Bitcoin over Lightning.
Hotel Chocolat, Card Factory and the Gibraltar bakery also accept Bitcoin as a currency in the British Overseas Territory. The well-known franchises take advantage of Bitcoin’s Lightning Network (LN) to accept customers’ money. The LN is ideal for microtransaction cappuccinos, postcard payments or ice cream investments as reporter Joe Hall found out during a Gibraltar shopping spree.
Payments are instant, frictionless and charge merchants less than the typical Mastercard or Visa payment rails. Neil Walker, managing director at Sandpiper GI — the group managing the retail franchises — told Cointelegraph that when using a Lightning-enabled card, “It's no different to using a contactless credit card.”
“It is just as quick you can tap and pay contactless credit cards, you can tap and pay lightning, scan a QR code. And whilst I haven't timed it, I reckon it's almost exactly the same speed.”
CoinCorner, a Bitcoin exchange on the Isle of Man, partnered with Sandpiper GI, to help in equipping merchants with Bitcoin Lightning point of sale (PoS) devices.
Walker shared that even for Bitcoin naysayers, the ease with which customers and merchants can transact is a no-brainer. He told Cointelegraph, “whether you believe in Bitcoin or not, you can use the lightning network to cut your transaction costs and to pay via mobile.” Given that it’s a neutral payment rail, he said that customers can traverse currencies easily:
“For a long time, the idea of paying with bitcoin seemed alien to both businesses and individuals, but with the launch of The Bolt Card and the ability to “tap and pay” via lightning, the user experience is quick, easy and familiar to everyone.”
Gibraltar welcomes 8 million tourists onto the rock per year, from countries including the United States, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Plus, Walker estimates that roughly 15,000 cross-border workers cross over from Spain to work in Gibraltar on a daily basis. Gibraltar uses the Gibraltar pound while Spain uses the euro, so currency conversion, remittance and tourism could be strong drivers for adopting a global, borderless currency.
To pay for a coffee in Gibraltar, customers can now scan a QR code or simply tap to pay using an NFC-enabled Bitcoin Lightning card. The most popular payment choice among Satoshi spenders is the Bolt Card, a CoinCorner innovation. Molly Spiers, head of marketing at CoinCorner told Cointelegraph that the “Bolt Card has been a driving factor for Bitcoin adoption.”
Bitcoin adoption in British Overseas Territories is booming, boosted by the ease of tap-and-go payments. Over on the Isle of Man, an island whose population doubles Gibraltar’s 35,000, Bitcoin adoption “has exploded over the last 6 months,” Spiers told Cointelegraph. “We've gone from around five businesses accepting Bitcoin, to now nearly 10x that!”
While the Isle of Man has made itself the mantle, “Bitcoin Island,” Walker quips that Gibraltar could be called “Bitcoin Rock.” Indeed, the household names of Costa Coffee and Hotel Chocolat join a growing list of merchants that accept Bitcoin in Gibraltar. Essardas Luxury, for example, has accepted Bitcoin since early 2021, while smaller independent shops accept Bitcoin and sometimes cryptocurrencies including stablecoins upon request.