Today, the U.S. Congress began a hearing on the fate of Bitcoin. If you are not familiar with Bitcoin, you are not alone. In fact, the number of people in the U.S. and around the world who even understand it is extremely small. Essentially Bitcoin is a new global currency that, for the most part, only exists as virtual money (though some attempts at a physical Bitcoin have been reported). You can’t see this currency, thus someone can’t hand you one. But you can transact it using online payment systems and mobile device apps. Bitcoins are obtained in several different ways, though most people usually obtain it by purchasing these with another currency (e.g., purchase by paying with bank funds).
Like any currency, the value of a Bitcoin fluctuates so purchasing power can change. So what could be purchased with a single Bitcoin six months ago may be different than what can be purchased today. But, unlike most major world currencies, the change in value of Bitcoins has been quite volatile. In fact, according to a Bitcoin exchange rate chart, six months ago a single Bitcoin was worth a little over $100 while today it is worth nearly $800. That growth rate is likely not sustainable, and many predict that the bubble will burst on this currency. Yet even if it does burst, the currency itself may have long-run appeal.
For marketers, and especially retailers, there may soon come a time when they should consider accepting Bitcoin payments. For instance, this story describes how a Subway store in Pennsylvania is now accepting Bitcoin.
It is certainly not a foregone conclusion that this will be an accepted method for transacting business. In fact, the U.S. government is only now looking closely at this. But marketers should keep their options open. At the very least, it is probably a good time to research this evolving payment option.