Expedia Accepts Bitcoin – Why?

June 18, 2014         By: Jane Genova

On June 11, online travel agency Expedia announced that it was accepting bitcoin for hotel bookings. In its statement it added that this payment arrangement could be extended to other travel activities that range from airline flights to car rentals.

Expedia emphasized that the transactions would be processed through Coinbase. Labeled the “PayPal of Bitcoin,” Coinbase facilitates bitcoin buying and selling for US dollars that even the non-tech-savvy can carry out. For that, it charges a percentage fee of the total transaction that’s usually about one percent.  In addition, Coinbase provides a near instant exchange from bitcoin to cash.

By hopping on the bitcoin bandwagon, Expedia positions itself as an early adopter of this cyber currency. Although 60,000 retailers worldwide accept it, in the U.S. only two other major businesses do: Overstock.com and Dish Network.  In an era which venerates disruption, being in the front lines of an innovative trend like bitcoin can enhance the brand.  That is, if the development can be monetized in a timely manner.

If Expedia can demonstrate its relationship with bitcoin is increasing its revenue, it could be golden in the eyes of diverse constituencies that range from investors to customers, and other businesses.

The odds for that are good.  Transaction costs through Coinbase are lower than the standard fees charged by credit cards. Those range between two percent and four percent of the total amount of the purchase.

That positive revenue news could, in turn, increase the mainstreaming of bitcoin. After all, Expedia is an established, respected company.  Other solid enterprises might consider also accepting bitcoin. The value of any currency depends on the trust in it and how deep that trust is.

Should Expedia not be able to monetize in a major way with accepting bitcoin, the reputations of both could have a setback.  Investors could turn on Expedia and big money players could decide to hold off on any major moves in embracing bitcoin.

Through joining with bitcoin, Expedia indicates it has lost none of its initial pioneer spirit.

There’s more. From the relationship, Expedia also showcases itself as focused on cybersecurity.  Encryption, which Coinbase leverages, is less vulnerable that the magnetic strip of conventional credit cards.

What about any future flare-ups of controversy associated with bitcoin?  Could that hurt Expedia, be it its brand or stock price? Seasoned public relations professionals would answer “No.”  Controversy well-managed can enhance the fortunes of an enterprise.