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Online travel site Expedia Inc.'s (Nasdaq: EXPE) announcement yesterday (Wednesday) that it had started accepting Bitcoin for hotel payments is a significant piece of Bitcoin news, as it shows an increasing willingness among big-name merchants to adopt the cryptocurrency.
Expedia said it had partnered with Coinbase, a popular Bitcoin wallet and payment-processing service, to enable the payments.
"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, Expedia's vice president of global product.
The key to wider adoption of Bitcoin, of course, is for the complete payment infrastructure to exist so ordinary people are comfortable using it, from smartphone-based Bitcoin wallets to the number of merchants accepting it.
The Expedia announcement follows that of DISH Network Corp. (Nasdaq: DISH) two weeks ago that it would let its customers pay in Bitcoin. DISH, which is also using the Coinbase service, has 14 million subscribers.
With such announcements coming closer together, Bitcoin remains on a slow and steady track toward widespread adoption over the next several years.
"It's another big milestone," Gil Luria, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, told The New York Times following Dish's announcement. "This is a mainstream company with mainstream leadership that's decided to embrace Bitcoin and what Bitcoin technology offers."
DISH and Expedia join Overstock.com Inc. (Nasdaq: OSTK), which started accepting Bitcoin back in January.
Overstock's success with Bitcoin is sure to encourage other merchants to at least consider accepting the digital currency.
In March, Overstock said in its first two months of accepting Bitcoin, it sold $1 million worth of goods via the digital currency. Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne said the strong response resulted in raised projections for Bitcoin sales in 2014 from $5 million to between $10 million and $15 million.
But other merchants surely noticed this: Overstock customers using Bitcoin spent 53% more than other customers. That's the sort of customer every vendor wants to attract.
Right now more than 60,000 merchants worldwide accept Bitcoin, but with big names jumping on board, that number will accelerate rapidly.
And there's at least one other big name that's getting very close to adopting the digital currency, which would indeed be major Bitcoin news…