While the future of Bitcoin as a payment currency is fairly uncertain, its rise in popularity over the last few years has nonetheless resulted in a large number of online merchants looking for ways to accept it. BitPay, a service which enables this, has risen to the challenge. In this guide, I review the service and share my experience using it.
Overview and review
BitPay was created with one aim, to make Bitcoin payments as easy to accept as traditional credit card and PayPal payments. This may seem like a strange goal but it is important to understand that back then, Bitcoin was still fairly obscure and using it for online shopping was definitely not mainstream. Not to mention that few developers were familiar with it, making integration difficult and costly.
In regard to this goal, BitPay has been fairly successful. They have developed a number of plugins covering nearly all shopping carts and a robust API for developers who prefer to code their own integration. They have also built a dashboard and a client facing interface that is simple to use and elegant. So much so that completing a purchase only involves scanning a QR code and providing an email address.
Creating a BitPay account is also very easy and only takes a few minutes as there is no need to provide detailed information or due diligence documents. Those are only required when certain thresholds are reached. I do recommend verifying at least to level 2, however, in order to avoid unnecessary declines.
For those unfamiliar with the way the Bitcoin network works, every transaction has to be confirmed before it is added to the ledger (the ledger being what makes Bitcoin what it is). Under ideal circumstances, this happens nearly instantly. In real-world circumstances, however, this can take hours or even days. This is important because BitPay only settles confirmed transactions and this delay adds the possibility of the settlement amount differing from the amount paid due to fluctuations in the exchange rate. This is definitely something to take into consideration if your margins are very tight. As of 2020, however, such delays and fluctuations are not a major risk anymore and are fairly infrequent.
Settlements can be deposited to bank accounts in Australia, Europe (EUR), Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, US and UK. It is important to note that minimums are in place for all currencies and that they are quite high, for example, the minimum for GBP settlement is 1000 GBP. It is also important to note that depending on where your business is registered, your choice of settlement currency may be limited. For those who wish to keep their earnings in Bitcoin, settlement to any wallet is possible and a mix of fiat and Bitcoin is also possible (you can set the ratio in the dashboard).
Refunds can be processed either according to the Bitcoin amount originally paid or according to the value of the transaction in fiat at the time.
Overall, BitPay is a decent option and certainly my favourite when it comes to accepting Bitcoin payments online. That is especially true considering that the main contender, Stripe, has discontinued support. Mollie, another popular payment platform that used to support Bitcoin has also discontinued support in 2019.
My experience with Bitpay
When I first launched paid products on Freedom Surfer, I did not accept Bitcoin as a means of payment. I figured that it would be too much trouble to implement and that most people would prefer using their credit card / PayPal account anyway.
I did receive requests, however, every now and then about whether I would eventually support it and this got me searching for a possible solution. Back then, the best options were BitPay and Stripe. I chose to give BitPay a try as Stripe was not supported in Estonia, the country where Freedom Surfer is registered.
Since then, BitPay has worked fairly reliably and I have not encountered any significant issues. There was a brief moment back in 2017 when the Bitcoin network became so congested that it took days for transactions to be confirmed but this was not BitPay’s fault.
I am also happy with the fee structure, which usually results in a transaction cost of around 1-2%.
Customer service is where things have really gone downhill. Back when I first signed up, I would get a reply within 1-2 business days. At the beginning of 2018, the delay was closer to 1-2 months. Now in 2020 it is in the 1-2 weeks range. That said, I rarely need to contact them so it is more of an annoyance than a real issue.
Overall, I am happy with BitPay and plan to continue using them despite the uncertain future of Bitcoin as a payment currency and the slow customer service.
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