Cryptocurrencies are never far from the headlines these days. If it’s not news that the value of Bitcoin has reached a record high of $60,000 (€50,500) for the first time, it’s news that Tesla founder Elon Musk is investing billions in it.
While buying and selling cryptos is becoming increasingly mainstream, the opportunities to spend virtual currencies are somewhat limited in comparison due to its volatility.
There are, however, a growing number of companies across a plethora of industries - from big tech to airlines - who are embracing cryptocurrencies, allowing customers to use them as an official method of payment for their goods and services.
Here are some of the biggest and more well-known companies using and accepting cryptos.
In November, Mastercard said it would allow partners on its network to enable their consumers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency using a digital wallet, as well as reward them with digital currencies under their loyalty programmes.
The move would allow customers to earn and spend rewards in cryptocurrency rather than loyalty points.
The credit card giant will be pairing up with Bakkt Holdings Inc, the digital assets platform founded in 2018 by NYSE-owner Intercontinental Exchange, to offer the new crypto services to its customers.
Pavilion Hotels & Resorts
As the latest company to permit crypto transactions, the Hong Kong-based Pavilion Hotels & Resorts group has also become the first international hotel chain to embrace virtual currency payments.
The group - which owns properties in Amsterdam, Madrid, Lisbon, and Rome as well as Bali and Phuket - will accept bookings using 40 different tokens, including Bitcoin and Ethereum from July through their partnership with payment platform Coindirect.
As of the start of April, the insurance broker behemoth will allow customers in Switzerland to use Bitcoin as a payment option for their bills. The decision to embrace cryptocurrencies has been in the pipeline since market research conducted by the company in 2019 found that nearly a third of respondents aged 18 to 55 had either already invested in them or were interested in doing so.
Customers will now have a reference code printed on bills for non-life insurance policies in order to pay their premiums through crypto exchange Bitcoin Suisse which will then convert them into Swiss Francs.
As one of the largest software companies in the world, it is significant that Microsoft accepts Bitcoin payments, going some way to instill a degree of confidence in using cryptos. Redeemed for credit in topping up user accounts, Bitcoin can be used to pay for an array of services, including Xbox Live and Skype.
The company’s interest in crypto technology doesn’t end there. Utilising blockchain, Microsoft has also launched ION, a two-layered authentication platform on the Bitcoin network in late March. Instead of payments, the technology creates digital IDs to authenticate online identities.
Following an extensive trial, Starbucks customers can now use the new Bakkt app to pay for drinks and goods at the coffee chain with converted Bitcoin. According to the app’s creators, 500,000 people took up the invitation-only, early access programme to test the digital wallet as a method of payment.
The CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Elon Musk has an up and down relationship with Bitcoin. Initially, the company announced earlier this year that it would accept Bitcoin payments for vehicle purchases in the US. It comes off the back of a $1.5 billion (€1.2 billion) investment in the cryptocurrency by Elon Musk’s company in February. However, this has now been turned on its head with pronouncements that Tesla will put Bitcoin transactions on hold until more than 50 per cent of tokens are mined using renewable energy.
It was reported earlier this year that Amazon was joining the ranks of other tech giants, including Facebook, in laying the groundwork for its own exclusive cryptocurrency. That said, the e-commerce company doesn’t directly accept cryptos yet. You can, however, buy Amazon vouchers through crypto-only company Bitrefill, a platform that makes living on cryptocurrencies easier by converting Bitcoin into gift cards, refill phones, and so on.
Credit card company Visa confirmed at the end of March that it was piloting a scheme with platform Crypto.com to accept cryptocurrency to settle transactions on its payment network. It will now accept USD Coin (USDC), a stablecoin crypto that is pegged to the value of the US dollar.
Following an announcement in October last year, PayPal users in the US can now buy, sell or hold a select few cryptos, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin. In addition, you’ll be able to track cryptocurrencies through the PayPal app. The only drawback is that money can’t be transferred out of the company’s digital wallet.
In August, the company announced that users in the UK can now also trade in Ether, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash on PayPal's website and mobile app.
So far, PayPal is tight-lipped about whether it intends to expand the service to other countries.
Latvian airline airBaltic became the first aviation company in the world to accept Bitcoin as payment for fares back in 2014. According to the company, it has processed more than 1,000 Bitcoin transactions since it launched the payment option seven years ago. Its decision to do so saw another eastern European airline, LOT Polish Airlines, follow suit the following year.
Renowned auction house Sotheby's first began accepting cryptocurrency as payment in late June and has since firmly embraced both cryptos and NFTs.
Since it announced it now accepted cryptos, it accepted Bitcoin as payment for a rare 101 carrat diamond which sold in July for $12.3 million (€10.4 million). It became the most valuable item ever bought with cryptocurrency at an auction.
Where lots are listed as "cryptocurrency payments," the auction house will accept both Bitcoin and Ether as payment. There are certain restrictions, however, as payments will only be accepted through certain approved exchange wallets, including Coinbase.
Amatil, the drinks’ giant’s bottler and distributor in the Asia-Pacific region, has enabled cryptocurrency as a method of payment through its partnership with the Centrapay platform. As of 2020, there are now over 2,000 vending machines in Australia and New Zealand which are geared to accept cryptos to pay for drinks.
LOT Polish Airlines
Following in the wake of airBaltic, LOT Polish Airlines announced in 2015 that it would also accept Bitcoin as a payment method for flights. Despite the six years that have passed since its decision, LOT remains one of the only European airlines to allow cryptocurrency as a payment option.
Travel giant Expedia is one of the most prominent travel agencies to accept Bitcoin through its partnership with crypto-friendly travel booking platform Travala. You can now book 700,000 hotels from the website’s listings with more than 30 different cryptos, including Bitcoin.
Lush was one of the first global companies to adapt to the use of cryptocurrencies, fully embracing them in 2017 when the handmade cosmetics company started to allow Bitcoin payments for orders on its website through a partnership with Bitpay.com.