Online payments company Stripe will soon allow its customers, who use its payments tools to accept credit card purchases online, to accept bitcoin payments as well, its CEO told Re/code on Wednesday evening. Stripe believes it is the first major online payments platform to support purchases made in bitcoin.
Up to now, Stripe merchants that wanted to accept bitcoin as a payment method would have to integrate with bitcoin-specific processors such as Coinbase or Bitpay.
Stripe will start supporting bitcoin payments through a private beta program that its customers can sign up for. Tarsnap, an online backup service, is the first Stripe customer to integrate the bitcoin payment option.
Stripe co-founder and CEO Patrick Collison said the decision to build an integration for bitcoin payments is more about the company’s mission to increase the amount of commerce transacted online than it is a bet that bitcoin will be a crucial payment method years from now.
“We acknowledge that bitcoin is important today … it may or may not be important in five years,” he said. “No matter what happens,” he added, “multiple payment instruments will be important.”
To that end, Collison said Stripe is also currently building support for ACH, which allows businesses to automatically collect payments from a customer’s bank account. And last month, Stripe said its customers could start accepting payments in 135 new currencies.
Collison said his company has had a “positive disposition to bitcoin” because it is solving “the problems we care about.”
Chief among them is the difficulty for people in one part of the world to buy goods or services from another part of the globe, especially if they don’t have a credit card.
“Universality is the big one for me,” he said. “Bitcoin is something that anyone can get ahold of.”
Merchants who decide to use Stripe to accept bitcoin payments will automatically be paid out in the local currency of their choice. They set the price for their product or service in a local currency and Stripe automatically calculates for their customers what that will cost in bitcoin.
Payments will arrive in their bank accounts in seven days or fewer. Neither Stripe nor its customers will hold onto the bitcoin, meaning the businesses that accept bitcoin will not be subject to the volatility of its price. Collison said his company is working with a variety of undisclosed partners to exchange the bitcoin into local currency in near real time.
Stripe hasn’t yet decided what it will charge its customers for bitcoin transactions, but will do so before it completes the beta program, according to Collison. Stripe usually charges its customers a 2.9 percent fee plus 30 cents on each credit card transaction it processes. Bitcoin processors typically charge around one percent.
Stripe, which has raised $120 million in investments, counts popular startups such as Instacart and Lyft among its thousands of customers. Collison said he believes there is “pretty significant demand” among its customer base for bitcoin acceptance.
While Stripe’s big-name competitors PayPal, Braintree and Authorize.net do not currently offer native support for bitcoin payments, a smaller competitor called Balanced has launched a beta integration with Coinbase to allow its customers to accept bitcoin.