Paying for Uber with Bitcoin? Braintree opens up bitcoin payments to its thousands of merchants

By Michael Carney , written on January 22, 2015

From The News Desk

Two of the biggest forces in modern payments collided today as Braintree announced broad availability of its bitcoin payments product via a previously announced partnership with Coinbase

The integration was initially announced in September, with subsequent news from PayPal that limited use by its merchants to digital goods transactions like media, software, and in-app purchases. Today’s update means that, effective immediately, "any merchant that uses Braintree for credit card payments [can now accept bitcoin payments]” according to a Braintree spokesperson.

"Today, our initial integration with Coinbase is complete and we are opening up private beta access to allow merchants in the US to accept bitcoin via v.Zero," the company writes in a blog post today.

With Braintree powering the online and mobile payments of several of the most popular consumer companies, this could be big news for bitcoin adoption. Popular merchants like Uber, AirBnB, HotelTonight, and thousands of others all have the option to enable bitcoin payments by flipping a single switch within the Braintree administrative interface. Coinbase already works with some 38,000 merchants including household names like Dell, Expedia, and, in addition to its 2.2 million consumer wallets. The company also has a similar payments processing partnership with Stripe

Coinbase will integrate into Braintree’s new v.Zero SDK which is aimed at simplifying and future-proofing payments integration. The company has enabled similar integration with Apple Pay, its parent, PayPal, its subsidiary, Venmo, and other third-party technologies with the aim of making its platform a one-stop solution for merchants and developers. At the time of the original Coinbase partnership announcement, Braintree CEO Bill Ready told Pando:

Braintree is an open platform. We care less about building it ourselves, than we do just about giving people access to the best payment experiences. For example, we don’t really care if merchants accept Visa or Mastercard or AMEX. We’re happy to enable them all. We think of bitcoin like another payment network and the best way for us to offer our merchants access was to work with a partner like Coinbase. Thanks to the V.Zero SDK, merchants and their developers only need to do one integration, which involves just a few lines of code, and they can opt to accept bitcoin. 

For bitcoin bulls, this news couldn’t come at a better time. The market has been fighting a negative news cycle – namely the BitStamp hack and Silk Road trial –  and several fundamental factors contributing to declining prices. This includes the inflationary effects of new bitcoins entering circulation daily, merchants instantly converting all incoming bitcoin to fiat currency, and the declining profitability of mining. Anything that increases transaction volume and buy-side demand has the potential to stabilize, if not buoy prices.

Merchants will still need to choose to enable bitcoin payments, meaning the impact of this may be some time coming. A Braintree spokesperson tells Pando, "In terms of merchants, we’ve heard from many who are interested in accepting bitcoin but we aren’t announcing any specific merchants today."

Braintree, its parent PayPal, and their parent eBay have often presented conflicting perspectives on bitcoin. For example, eBay has long prohibited bitcoin sales through its marketplace and has faced consumer lawsuits over this policy. PayPal had long taken a similarly hardline approach until dipping its toe in the digital currency water via the Braintree-Coinbase partnership. The company also recently appealed to the Australian government for regulatory clarity around virtual currencies, digital wallets, and blockchain applications. 

For Coinbase, Braintree’s widely available integration comes on the heels of earlier good news this week as the company announced the largest-ever funding round by a bitcoin company, and in the processed added some financial industry heavy hitters like the New York Stock Exchange to its list of investors.

There remain unanswered questions as to whether bitcoin will prove to be a viable currency – particularly as a store of value – and these concerns stem largely from its history of volatility. But as Braintree and other major financial institutions begin to accept bitcoin as a payment option, its value as a medium of exchange greatly increases. Braintree’s support of bitcoin payments also acts as a major endorsement of the value and popularity of bitcoin among merchants and consumers alike. Expect the “to the moon” bitcoin bulls to jump all over this news.