as exploded in value in recent months, making it one of the hottest new investments. With the digital currency’s value, which is currently at $13,400, and estimated by some of the most bullish cryptowatchers to jump into the millions eventually, bitcoin proponents are advising people to hold onto their cryptocurrency and not spend or sell it. That’s even become a joking slogan among bitcoin owners.
But while hoarding bitcoin may be a tempting investment strategy in the long term, it is, after all, a currency. So what can you actually buy with it? Apparently not clothing at Forever21. The fast-fashion retailer tweeted on Thursday advising customers to stop asking if it accepts bitcoin.
NO we do not currently accept #Bitcoin pls stop asking us lol
— Forever 21 (@Forever21) January 11, 2018
While you likely can’t walk into Forever21 or your local corner store and buy a sandwich using bitcoin (yet), a growing number of businesses are starting to accept the currency. There are maps and apps for finding bitcoin-friendly businesses. In addition, there are 1,246 bitcoin ATMs around the U.S. that let you quickly cash out the currency for U.S. dollars — up from 915 in December 2016 and 504 in December 2015.
Lior Rachmany, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based moving company Dumbo Moving, said he recently started accepting bitcoin “to get involved in the market” and has since found it has some benefits compared with traditional payments.
“On a credit card, you always have the risk of the charge coming back and that is something the service industry is always trying to avoid,” he said. “With bitcoin, it is indisputable. It’s less risky to use bitcoin for that reason — the sale is done, and the transaction is done, and it’s not reversible.”
This could add up to big savings for his company, which makes 15,000 moves a month, if it does in fact reduce fraud — but so far only four customers have paid in bitcoin. Another New York company, Magnum Real Estate, has started accepting bitcoin for home purchases. So far just one purchase has been made entirely in bitcoin, for a condo in the East Village of Manhattan.
Other companies have been accepting bitcoin for much longer. Furniture and home goods retailer Overstock
has been accepting bitcoin through a partnership with exchange site Coinbase since 2014. The move ended up being a beneficial gamble: the company’s stock has been going up with the price of bitcoin as it expresses interest in expanding into bitcoin-related industries. Chief executive officer Patrick Byrne is reportedly considering selling his stock shares to start his own bitcoin-adjacent business with a company based on blockchain, the same framework that supports the currency. He announced on Dec. 18 a $250 million Initial Coin offering to reshape the business into a bitcoin tech company.
Newer apps have emerged with cryptocurrencies built into them from the beginning. In addition to bitcoin, there are many other cryptocurrencies, including Litecoin, Monero, Neo, Cardano, Ripple and Iota. Task app Latium, which launched in 2017, lets users pay for services immediately in cryptocurrencies. The sharing economy-centric service connects employers with employees for jobs like nannying, massage therapy and home repairs — and allows people to pay with cryptocurrencies
Until more businesses begin to accept bitcoin, another startup, Crypterium, is trying to solve the issue of cryptocurrency usability directly. Its credit card-like product will allow users to immediately change cryptocurrency into fiat currency (i.e., traditional dollars) by linking their bitcoin wallet to their account. Director and co-founder Austin Kimm said the inability to easily spend bitcoin is the biggest problem facing the crypto world right now.
“To move out of [bitcoin] being an investment vehicle, you have to be able to spend them — that’s the final piece of the jigsaw,” he said. “You can either wait for stores to start accepting them or you can convert them — and it’s relatively easy to convert them. And if you can spend them in the real world, retailers will start to accept crypto as a legitimate currency.”