If you’ve never heard of Bitcoin before, then don’t worry because you’re in the majority. Let’s just say that it’s a virtual currency (meaning you’ll never be able to hold an actual Bitcoin in your hands) and leave it at that. For some people, that might sound silly. For others, Bitcoin is slowly but surely becoming the currency of the future.
Over the month of March, the value of a single Bitcoin nearly quadrupled when it shot up from ~$40 USD to ~$140 USD. Combine that with the fact that there are nearly 11 million Bitcoins in circulation and you can see that Bitcoin isn’t something to scoff at. The concept of it is foreign, yes, and many distrust the integrity of the Bitcoin, but it’s turning into something that may very well be commonplace in a decade or so.
But as with all currencies, the main purpose of a currency is to allow the holder to purchase something using that currency. Who cares what the worth of a Bitcoin is if you can’t buy anything with it? So what can you buy with Bitcoins?
Before we delve into the uses of the Bitcoin, we need to understand what it is and why it exists. Learning this will give us insight into the kinds of people who have adopted the currency, the kinds of people who haven’t adopted the currency, and what sorts of goods and services fit the Bitcoin philosophy.
Simply put, Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency. This decentralization – which means that there is no central person, group, or organization that produces or regulates the Bitcoin – is one of Bitcoin’s main draws. For example, the American Dollar is controlled by the US. Bitcoin has no such owner, thus offering a level of anonymity that other currencies don’t provide. (Note: Bitcoin’s anonymity can be cracked, but that’s a topic for another time.)
The other draw of Bitcoin is its digital nature. The first world has been moving towards online shopping in sweeping movements over the last decade or so, and digital transactions are all the rage due to their convenience factor. At the click of a button or the swipe of a card, you can quickly and painlessly purchase goods at your leisure, even while wearing your pajamas.
Combine the decentralized, anonymous nature of Bitcoin with the convenience of digital currency and you can see why people would love it, at least in theory. If you want to learn more about Bitcoin before you continue, check out our very own MakeUseOf Bitcoin manual.
Now in order to hop into the Bitcoin economy and start buying things, you first need to get your hands on some Bitcoins. At this point, you have two options: you can either mine Bitcoins yourself, or you can just buy Bitcoins off of someone who has them in exchange for real world currency.
The term “mining” tends to be somewhat confusing for new Bitcoin users and there’s no guarantee that you’ll earn any Bitcoins for a while, so you should leave off mining until you’re better acquainted with the Bitcoin system. Until then, you’re better off just buying them off of trustworthy Bitcoin sources.
Once you have Bitcoins in your possession, how do you actually spend them? You need a Bitcoin wallet. This wallet is what tracks your Bitcoin status and it allows you to make Bitcoin transactions with other people or companies. Wallets can come in the form of software (computer programs), mobile (phone apps), or web (online sites). Be careful where you store your Bitcoins!
So by now, you’ve bought some Bitcoins to use and you have a properly functioning wallet. Where can you spend them and what sorts of items can you buy with them?
SpendBitCoins has a list of places that directly accept Bitcoins. The list is absolutely massive and the kinds of things you can buy are numerous. Their featured products include a Bitcoin-to-real-currency exchange, dedicated server hosting, and an online mining game.
The diversity of available purchases using Bitcoins is astounding. Don’t believe me?
- WordPress began accepting Bitcoin payments last year.
- BitMit is an online auction site not unlike Ebay.
- StompRomp is an American guitar store that accepts Bitcoins.
- is an Internet blackjack casino that uses Bitcoin as its main currency.
- Coindl is similar to iTunes: buy music, books, games, and software.
- Ogrr lets you buy and sell items from video games, like World of Warcraft.
- Bitcoin Store sells all kinds of electronics for Bitcoins.
- Coinabul converts your Bitcoins into gold and silver.
- Bitherbs sells herbal goods and natural products for Bitcoins.
- BannerAdExchange lets you buy advertisement space for Bitcoins.
I’m not going to go through and list everywhere you can spend Bitcoins, but it should be apparent that Bitcoin popularity is on the rise and you’ll eventually be able to buy whatever you want with it. All you have to do is look in the right places and search well. Check out Bitcoin’s own trade page to find categorized vendors.
And if you’re making person-to-person transactions, then you can literally buy anything as long as you can find the right people who are selling the right goods or services. Remember how Bitcoin is decentralized and therefore anonymous to a degree? Well, there is a subset of Bitcoin users who use the currency for illicit purposes. Let’s leave it at that. MakeUseOf does not condone illegal behavior of any kind.
What can you buy with Bitcoins? As it turns out, you can buy a lot. We aren’t at the point where you can waltz down to your nearest grocery store and buy a few apples yet, but we’re getting there. I’ll be honest: I never expected Bitcoin to gain this much traction, but I’m glad it has. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going and revolutionize world currency.