How to Accept Bitcoin Payments

So you are interested in accepting bitcoin payment at your brick and mortar store or on your e-commerce website.  What next?

Written on: July 23

Why should you accept bitcoin?

Imagine you sell gourmet sausages, both online and from a small boutique storefront. You have integrated all major credit cards, not because you necessarily want to but people no longer carry around cash, and failure to integrate credit card payments would result in missing out on a substantial chunk of walk-in business. Your online store is doing most of its business through credit card and paypal.

While Visa and Mastercard take 2%, much of your customer base is upscale and prefer using American Express, which takes 3% of the sales price. A good portion prefers using paypal for online sales, which also takes about a 3% bite, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less.

Despite the superior quality of your product, approximately 8% of online sales are disputed, which often results in reversed payment. This is particularly frustrating because your product obviously cannot be returned and resold. You've simply accepted this as the cost of doing business, and write off 10% of your gross revenue to fees and reversals.

You have also recently expanded the business to ship orders abroad packaged in dry ice, and have received interest from a few small grocers who would like to distribute. Due to the their location, however, you are not comfortable sending the shipment until the payment is received, and you are unsure of how to even go about collecting.

Bitcoin solves all of these issues. While it sounds too good to be true, there are zero transaction fees, it is impossible for customers to chargeback purchases meaning the merchant is able to define the return policy, and you can instantly accept payment from anywhere in the world. Not only that, the devoted cadre of bitcoiners look extremely favorably upon merchants at the forefront of the bitcoin revolution! Accepting bitcoin might even expand slightly your customer base and provide some free advertising.

And luckily, the process for integrating bitcoin as a payment option is pretty simple.

How to integrate bitcoin as a payment option

Coinbase

Coinbase has a number of solutions allowing merchants to accept bitcoin both online or from brick and mortar stores. The quickest and simplest way to integrate bitcoin as a payment mechanism online is by generating a Coinbase payment button, which is associated with a particular item and price. When selected, Coinbase outputs a few lines of HTML to integrate into the website, and that's basically all it takes. However, most e-commerce sites will require dynamic pricing to account for combinations of different items in a customer's shopping cart. An API integration allows for the payment button to be dynamically populated based on what is purchased, though many web owners will need outside help to set this up.

Coinbase's point of sale system can be set up from any Android device or, with a bit of developmental know-how, integrated into existing POS systems. Using the Android device, a merchant simply enters sales details and hits "request payment" to display the QR code. The customer would then simply scan the QR code from his wallet and hit "confirm" to instantly send the payment. Receipts are sent to both customer and merchant when complete.

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Users have the choice to collect payments directly to their coinbase wallet, in which case there is no charge for the service, or exchange some or all of the bitcoin into local currency at the point of sale. Coinbase charges 1% plus $0.15 for conversions, but waives the fee for the first $1 million worth of sales. Payments are routed to the merchant's bank account once daily - but the exchange rate is fixed at the moment the sale takes place, eliminating any volatility risk.

The service is available in 25 countries, including the US, most of Europe, and the UK.

BitPay

BitPay is widely recognized as the leader in bitcoin payment processing, offering direct integrations with existing point of sale systems, mobile apps offering turnkey bitcoin checkout functionality, and website e-commerce solutions. Settlements to a merchant's bank account, bitcoin wallet, or custom-made split of the two, occur daily. The bitcoin exchange rate is determined by Bitpay's so-called Bitcoin Best Bid, which is found using a consolidated order book from the largest bitcoin exchanges worldwide. Nine currencies and direct bank deposits in 38 countries are supported, and Bitpay's basic package, which is enough for most any small business, is entirely free of charge.

Like Coinbase, bitpay offers a bitcoin payment button interface that outputs a few lines of html code, and simple, secure APIs allowing dynamic pricing. The mobile POS system works in the same fashion as the coinbase version detailed above.

Aside from the Basic package, BitPay merchants can choose from a business solution, which offers phone support and Quickbooks Sales Integration for automatic accounting and tax prep, or an enterprise solution, which also offers engineering and integrations services and a dedicated account manager.

Other alternatives

If you fall outside the countries in which BitPay and Coinbase have established direct banking settlement, this does not stop you from using the Coinbase merchant solution and collecting bitcoin. Of course, if and when you need to exchange bitcoin for your domestic currency, you'll have to find an alternative solution.

Or perhaps you'd just like customers to send bitcoin to your stand-alone wallet. Many bitcoin wallets, such as blockchain.info, offer the incoming address in the form of a QR code. When a bitcoin shopper scans this from his or her own bitcoin wallet, it automatically populates the "send to" field with the appropriate address. If your wallet does not offer QR codes, there are a number of free QR code generators which allow for the creation of QR codes from a bitcoin address, which can then be saved as a JPEG and printed. If using this option in a brick and mortar store, one could then put the printed QR code on the checkout counter, under a "bitcoin accepted" sign. Voila, you accept bitcoin.

The same concept could easily be integrated on a website - however, during periods of extreme bitcoin volatility, it would be difficult to ensure that the bitcoin price corresponds appropriately to a fiat benchmark. Coinbase and BitPay offer the technology to ensure price parity between fiat and bitcoin; we have not yet found a decentralized, open source mechanism for achieving this, meaning it would most likely require some pretty advanced development work.

Bitcoin as a payment type is spreading

Both Coinbase and Bitpay's merchant solutions have been integrated into an assortment of popular third party e-payment providers and e-commerce platforms. Most notably, since April Paypal merchants can accept bitcoin from their existing account using either Coinbase, BitPay or GoCoin. Ditto e-commerce solution Shopify, which integrated both Coinbase and BitPay way back in 2013. And this is no passing fad. Massive companies, including Microsoft, Overstock, Reddit, Expedia, Time Inc, Dell, Intuit and a host of other huge names, are utilizing Coinbase, Bitpay, or any number of other bitcoin processors to integrate bitcoin payments for their customers.

So hop on the bandwagon! Not only will integrating bitcoin payments offer a low cost processing alternative and endear you to a loyal bitcoin audience, it could put you ahead of the curve, making you one of the experienced "I did it firsters" when and if bitcoin usage becomes more ubiquitous.

Bitcoin Price (USD): 752.07