There's currently around $200 billion of bitcoin floating around in people's digital wallets. For many of their owners, those bitcoins have proved to be a valuable asset. They're happy to leave them to rise in value and build up their wealth. For others though, those giant piles of coins are exactly what they're supposed to be: a currency that they want to exchange for goods and services.
But businesses are reluctant to accept them. In July last year, Bloomberg reported that just three of the Internet's top 500 retailers were willing to accept the cryptocurrency. The biggest reason is clear enough. When the payment you take for a product can lose as much as a quarter of its value within a week, pricing becomes difficult. A seller that paid $80 for a product and sold it online for $100 in bitcoin could find that he has only $75 a week later--and no business at all not long afterwards. On the other hand, they could find that they've earned an additional 10 percent the day after the sale with no extra effort.
While those fluctuations are exciting, business owners tend to want stability. They want to be sure that the payments they receive for their goods and services cover their costs and deliver a reliable profit. It's the only way that they can stay in business.
So how can you take advantage of the availability of billions of dollars of a new currency without leaving yourself vulnerable to the currency's volatility? How can your business join the cryptocurrency world and accept bitcoin risk-free?
There are options and smart businesses are making good use of them. In 2013, a man in Florida called a Lamborghini dealership in Newport County, CA and asked if he could buy a Tesla from them using bitcoin. Other dealers had already turned him down, he said. The dealership was cautious. The car cost $103,000. But the company didn't want to reject a sale so it accepted the payment using Bitpay. The buyer paid 91.4 bitcoins and the seller received the money in dollars. According to CNN, news of the sale prompted ten more potential buyers to call the dealership.
Bitpay still allows businesses to accept payments while receiving fiat. Users of bitcoin transfer their payments using the company's payment platform. The firm locks in an exchange rate and delivers fiat to the seller's bank account. Companies can advertise to wealthy bitcoin owners and accept their payments without exposing themselves to the coin's volatility.
A number of other companies now offer a similar service. CoinGate extends the acceptance to more than 40 different kinds of altcoins with instant conversion to euros or dollars.
These tools, and more are surfacing, allow business to accept bitcoins risk-free. They can also allow businesses to receive their payments in bitcoin. While that brings back the risk, it's worth noting that if the Newport Beach car dealer had kept the bitcoin, he would have sold that Tesla for around $1.5 million in today's money. Some risks might well be worth taking.