Tech Nerd Tuesday: Can You Travel on Bitcoin Alone?


Bitcoins are being accepting by more and more travel companies. (Photo: Thinkstock)

We haven’t yet reached the point where you can seamlessly book an entire vacation using Bitcoin, but it is getting easier and easier for consumers to use the virtual currency to pay for various bits and pieces of their travel and even to keep track of their rewards points.

(Check out this FAQ on Bitcoin if you want to brush up on the currency)

Last month the online travel agency started accepting bitcoins to make reservations at more than 200,000 hotels around the world. Shortly afterward, CheapAir announced that their customers could also book their Amtrak train travel using Bitcoins.

For luxury hotels, back-end revenue management engine Revpar Guru has built an entire booking widget around Bitcoin in preparation of its adoption by globetrotters. Their tech platform not only allows for hotel payments at locations like D Casino Hotel and Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, but it allows international customers to deposit bitcoins into accounts that can be used for sundry items so that they never need to exchange currency.


A visualization of bitcoins (Photo: Thinkstock)

The rewards site PointsHound, which aggregates your points and miles when you book travel, is now offering Bitcoin as a reward redemption option. 

This was all pretty small potatoes in the travel world until very recently. Traveling on Bitcoin’s virtual dime got an added air of legitimacy last   week when one of the major players in the travel market finally began accepting the currency. now accepts the virtual currency for payments for hotel rooms on their website.

“We’re continually looking at ways consumers want to pay for their travel; Bitcoin is a great example of how Expedia is investing early in an array of payment options to give our customers and partners more choice in the ways they interact with us,” said Michael Gulmann, Vice President, Expedia Global Product.


(Photo: Jo Piazza)

Companies accepting Bitcoin typically contract a third-party payment processor to integrate a bitcoin support system into the customer experience and to mitigate their risks.

Expedia partnered with Coinbase as their third-party bitcoin payment processor.

Customers who want to use bitcoins as a form of payment can select it as an option along with the other traditional methods including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, Diners Club and PayPal.

"Bitcoin is very attractive to merchants of all kinds because it is cheaper and faster," said Jerry Brito, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. "With Bitcoin, the fees are also much smaller."

Brito noted that Bitcoin also opens up a travel merchant's market to countries that may not have extensive credit card industries or the use of PayPal.

"Bitcoin is international," Brito said. "There is no limit. Wherever there is internet connection there is the ability to send payments and that is attractive to a lot a lot of folks."

We still have a ways to go before you can book an entire trip on Bitcoin. Major airlines and car rental companies have yet to hop on board, but we could see movement in those areas by the end of the year. 

Talk to us in comments. Would you book a vacation using bitcoins?

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