June 12, 2014, 12:37 PM

Expedia.com is open for bitcoin business

The online travel agency is one of Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase’s largest clients to date. Coinbase’s portfolio includes Top 500 e-retailer Overstock.com.

Expedia.com is now accepting bitcoin for online hotel reservations. That announcement comes on the heels of Reeds Jewelers also launching Bitcoin as a payment option online and in its 64 bricks-and-mortar locations.

Both companies are working with Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase Inc., which also counts among its clients Overstock.com, No. 31 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Overstock began accepting bitcoin in January 2014 and has done more than $1 million in sales with the cryptocurrency. In the first 24 hours of accepting the digital currency, shoppers placed 840 orders using it, accounting for $130,000 in revenue, the retailer says.

Bitcoin is a decentralized—meaning no one organization regulates it—digital currency that buyers and sellers exchange over the Internet, with no bank involvement. The value of all the bitcoins on the market at the end of the first quarter of 2014 was estimated at $6.45 billion, according to CoinMarketCap.com, which tracks the valuations of virtual currencies across major exchanges. That value changes as new bitcoins enter into circulation and as the currency's value itself fluctuates.

Coinbase, the largest of the bitcoin payment processors, has signed on as clients more than 32,000 merchants, it says. Joining the ranks are Expedia, which does more than $4 billion in annual revenue, and Reeds Jewelers.

The Expedia application, Coinbase's director of business development and sales Adam White says, is similar to how Overstock uses the service. Expedia customers go through the checkout process and then are taken to Coinbase’s site after selecting Bitcoin as their payment method. At the end of the day, Coinbase transfers the bitcoin payments to Expedia in U.S. dollars, based on the conversion rate at the time of the purchase.

"It came down to the right timing—both for Bitcoin as a currency, and for Expedia in our lifecycle," says Michael Gulmann, Expedia’s head of global product.

The Reeds Jewelers application is a bit different. Because Reeds Jewelers has 64 retail locations, its 500 staff members had to be trained on accepting Bitcoin, which the retailer is doing using an iPad application at the checkout.

Coinbase also announced today a feature allowing merchants to offer discounts to consumers paying in bitcoin. Coinbase says several merchants, including BloomNation have already activated the feature. BloomNation is offering a 10% discount while eGifter, a seller of online gift cards, is offering a 3% discount.

Read more about how e-retailers are accepting bitcoin in our June issue

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