Five Surprising Places That Accept Bitcoin

The list of places that accept Bitcoin has grown into the thousands - making it hard to believe just one year ago this virtual currency was more associated with criminals than consumers.

Initially considered by some to be a rogue electronic currency best suited for trading on the black market, Bitcoin has quickly become a legitimate payment option for retailers worldwide.

Even government officials are beginning to back Bitcoin. Several high-ranking officials spoke to the legitimacy of Bitcoins at a Congressional hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on Nov. 18. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wrote to the committee that Bitcoin "may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure, and more efficient payment system."

One thing concerning Bitcoin skeptics: price fluctuation. The Bitcoin price has fluctuated greatly in the last year. In January, one Bitcoin was worth a modest $13. Just today (Wednesday), it peaked at $1,073 at midday.

But while they debate over the future of Bitcoin, more retailers have listed the virtual currency as an accepted means of payment.

Here are the five most surprising places now accepting Bitcoin.

Five Surprising Places to Use Bitcoin

#1: The University of Nicosia: Those attending the largest private university in Cyprus can now pay their tuition fees with Bitcoins, and according to the university's chief financial officer, it is the first university in the world to accept the virtual currency.

According to the university, there was a large demand to accept Bitcoin from international students. For many, traditional banking services are not easily accessible, and they often face steep fines for international banking.

If a student wants to pay for tuition, fees, books, or even their on-campus meals, the university accepts the Bitcoin payment and immediately converts it to euros. This eliminates any of the currency fluctuation risk for the university.

#2: What's a better first-date ice breaker than discussing the hottest new virtual currency?

The dating site's premium account, called "A-List," charges users $10 a month for a variety of exclusive perks like ad-free browsing, extra photo albums, and increased mailbox size. Now the site has partnered with Coinbase, a platform for buying and selling Bitcoin. That allows users to pay their monthly fee in Bitcoin, depending on the daily exchange value of the currency.

"There's no question that these digital currencies are going to be the future," OKCupid Chief Executive Officer Sam Yagan told Forbes. "Whether it's actually the form of Bitcoins or evolves into something else, we want to be out in front. We want to be the ones who have the experience. There's a lot to learn."

#3: A Subway Franchise in Pennsylvania: ".006 Bitcoin foot long" might not have the same ring as the traditional Subway jingle, but at the time of this writing, that's how much Bitcoin users in Allentown, Pa., will pay for a $5 foot-long sandwich at their local franchise.

Span Shah, the 24-year-old Subway franchise owner, decided to accept Bitcoin at the beginning of November, because Subway "encourages operators to have innovative ideas."

And the early returns look promising.

"Bitcoin enthusiasts are coming to show a lot of support for this. A lot of kids are coming two or three hours to drive," Shah said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "We're getting a lot of students from local areas who have studied Bitcoin and understand it."

Alas, consumers can't use the currency at all Subway restaurants, as the sandwich chain has not endorsed the move. But that doesn't seem to be stopping Subway and Bitcoin enthusiasts from across Pennsylvania from making the trip.

#4: "Vanity Cosmetic Surgery": Florida-based Vanity Cosmetic Surgery is allowing all first-time customers to use Bitcoin to pay for 20% of their elective procedures. Repeat customers? They can pay for 100% of their procedures with Bitcoin.

"We were looking at different trends on the Internet and niches, and this was one we found that was interesting and growing at a fast pace," said Vanity's PR Manager Carlos Yela.

No customers have used the virtual currency on their rhinoplasties or augmentations to date.

#5: "A Class Limousine," New Jersey: If you're looking to ride in style in New Jersey, and spend some Bitcoin, A Class Limousine has allowed customers to hire limousines, sedans, vans, and shuttle buses with their virtual wallets since January.

The company's Accounts Manager Aaron Williams told CNBC that they decided to accept Bitcoin "because it is cheap, quick, and virtually risk free, and because it helps us grow our client base."

Spending Bitcoin Online

If you're itching to spend some Bitcoin, and those brick and mortar operations don't suit your needs, there are numerous online retailers accepting Bitcoins. Whether you want yarn or a tablet computer, you can find an online retailer that will accept your virtual money.

As long as Bitcoins continue to grow in legitimacy and popularity, advantageous retailers will join in the trend.

Editor's Note: Michael A. Robinson, Money Morning's Director of Technology Investing, is getting ready to release the most comprehensive Bitcoin guide ever created. This guide covers Bitcoin A to Z. Not only does it give you the full history of Bitcoin and the technologies driving it... it also serves as a step-by-step "how-to" manual for putting into action the best Bitcoin investing opportunities. If you would like to receive this guide for free as soon as it's available, just sign up below. You'll also get Robinson's weekly updates from Strategic Tech Investor,where you'll learn about the best technology investing ideas on the planet right now.

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