Can you use Bitcoin to pay for anything in the UK? (image: Getty Images)
Launched in 2009, when the financial crisis had led to an erosion of trust in governments and banks, Bitcoin offered an investment that was outside the control of ‘mainstream’ institutions and the authorities.
But, despite being known as the Dollar of the digital currency world, BTC is a risky investment to make given the crypto market can rise and fall unpredictably.
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey has warned that people who buy into the cryptocurrency should expect to lose all of their money.
BTC’s volatility was best exemplified by Elon Musk’s sudden announcement in late 2021 that Bitcoin would no longer be accepted by Tesla - news that crashed Bitcoin’s price.
So, if you have Bitcoin and want to use it to buy real-world products, are there any UK businesses that accept payment in crypto?
Here’s everything you need to know.
How much is Bitcoin worth?
The value of cryptocurrency can change rapidly, so it’s worth checking sites like Coinbase for the exact value of Bitcoin.
As of 12.30pm on Tuesday 10 May, Bitcoin was worth £25,561 - well below the £44,000 high recorded in March 2021.
Can you make real-world payments using Bitcoin?
In short, yes.
But because it’s not legal tender, it’s up to individual businesses as to whether they will accept it as payment.
Crypto experts believe Bitcoin should be treated more as an investment, like gold, than something to exchange for goods and services.
Famously, the first ever real-world payment using Bitcoin was made on 22 May 2010 when Florida resident Laszlo Hanyecz spent 10,000 Bitcoins on two pizzas from Papa John’s.
At the time, the purchases were worth $40 but the BTC used in the transaction would now net more than £250 million.
It means 22 May is now known as Bitcoin Pizza Day among the digital currency community.
In the US you can now buy real estate, private jets and tickets to sporting events using BTC.
Which UK shops accept Bitcoin?
NationalWorld has not been able to find any major UK businesses that allow you to pay using Bitcoin.
Several businesses have previously accepted the currency, but no longer do so.
For example, East London pub The Pembury Tavern used to allow customers to pay with Bitcoin but told NationalWorld the previous owners had stopped accepting it in early 2017 due to the time it took to process payments and the volatility of the crypto market.
Given there aren’t any major stores which allow payment by Bitcoin, you have to either go to a middleman or cash in on the cryptocurrency to make real-world payments.
The first UK Crypto-to-GBP debit card was launched in February 2022 by digital currency exchange CoinJar in partnership with EML and Mastercard.
Meanwhile, websites like Bitrefill.com allow users to use their bitcoin to purchase gift cards that can be used in places like Tesco, WH Smith or on Amazon.
However, anyone making a Bitcoin payment in the UK is “unlikely” to have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
This means they will likely not have access to compensation or a resolution process if something goes wrong with their transaction.
For more advice on your rights, visit the FCA’s website.