Cryptocurrencies have gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. One common question people have is how these currencies can actually be used to purchase goods and services. After all, what good is holding a currency you can’t spend? While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not widely accepted for travel, there are a few airlines and websites that have started to accept digital currencies as a form of payment.
Airlines and Online Travel Agencies That Accept Crypto
Bitcoin, launched in 2009, is by far the world’s largest cryptocurrency and it has been accepted as a form of payment for travel as early as 2013. At the end of 2013, the highly volatile currency reached a value of over $1,000 per Bitcoin (BTC) for the first time. Since then, it has had a few major surges in value (along with large drops), reaching an all-time high of around $63,000 per BTC in April 2021.
Other cryptocurrencies have also emerged and we’re now seeing a variety of these virtual currencies, including Ethereum, Dogecoin, and Ripple, accepted by a few travel agencies. Below, I’ve gathered some of the OTAs and one major airline accepting crypto as a form of payment along with a brief description of which currencies are accepted and how to book.
In 2014, airBaltic became the first airline to accept Bitcoin payments and as of early 2021, it has expanded to now include Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Dogecoin (DOGE) and four USD-pegged stablecoins (GUSD, USDC, PAX, and BUSD) as accepted payments when booking at airbaltic.com. The airline states that crypto payments don’t have a transaction fee and are available for flights booked at least five days in advance.
Based in Riga, Latvia, the airline flies to destinations across the Baltics, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East. To process a cryptocurrency payment, airBaltic uses BitPay. On the final payment screen, your price will be listed in Euros (EUR), but you can select cryptocurrency as your method of payment. You will then be asked to enter your passport number and name so you can be identified in case of a refund. Ticket refunds will be based on the EUR price at the time of purchase.
Based in the UK, Alternative Airlines is an OTA that accepts over 40 payment methods and 160 different currencies. It has access to over 600 airlines and features typical search tools and filters you’d find on popular OTAs like Expedia or Priceline. Sometimes, it even includes pricing in Bitcoin on the search results so you can instantly compare.
Alternative Airlines accepts Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), Crypto.com Coin (CRO), Ethereum (ETH), USDT, Dashcoin (DSH), and Utrust Token (UTK). To process crypto payments, it uses either Utrust or Crypto.com and you’ll have 15 minutes to complete the transaction with the locked-in rates at the time of booking.
Surprisingly, I even noticed flights on Southwest Airlines available when doing a test search for flights between San Diego and Phoenix. However, it was double the price ($125) when booked on Alternative Airlines compared to what is shown on Southwest’s website ($59) for this particular search. While Alternative Airlines may show many other smaller airlines you won’t find on other OTAs, it’s likely those flights will be much cheaper when booking on the airline’s site.
In 2013, CheapAir.com was the first major travel platform to accept Bitcoin for flights. It has since expanded the number of digital currencies it accepts to include Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Dogecoin (DOGE), Gemini (GUSD), USD Coin (USDC), Paxos Standard (PAX), BUSD, Dai (DAI), Wrapped BTC (WBTC) and Litecoin (LTC).
At the checkout screen, select “Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency” as your form of payment and you will be able to either pay CheapAir directly with Bitcoin or use BitPay to pay with other digital currencies. You’ll be given a QR code to scan or you can copy the payment address to complete the payment for your booking.
As an early adopter, CheapAir remains committed to accepting Bitcoin for payments. It even has a section of its blog dedicated to cryptocurrency.
Destinia is an OTA that is based in Madrid, Spain, which started accepting cryptocurrencies in 2019. It partners with BitPay to process payments using Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH), Ripple (XRP), USD Coin (USDC), Gemini USD (GUSD), Paxos Standard (PAX), and Binance USD (BUSD).
When searching for flights, you can choose to display prices in mili-Bitcoins (mBTC) or milli-Bitcoin Cash (mBCH), which simplifies comparison shopping. Destinia states that the exchange rate shown on its site is the Bitcoin Best Bid (BBB), which is often identical to what is shown at bitstamp.net.
On the payment screen, you can choose “Bitcoins and Altcoins” where Destinia states that a BitPay ID is required for all customers paying with BitPay. It’s a one-time process that verifies your identity, which is performed by Onfido. The maximum allowed for a Bitcoin transaction is the equivalent of EUR 2500.
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Founded in 2017, Travala is a blockchain-based travel platform, which has always accepted cryptocurrencies. It lists several different payment options that can be used to book flights, accommodation, and activities across the globe. You can also choose to have your flight searches displayed in any of these currencies for an easier time deciphering exactly how much it will cost using your preferred payment.
On the payment screen, you can choose your crypto currency or log in to either Crypto.com or Binance Pay to complete your transaction.
Buy Airline Gift Cards with Cryptocurrency
An easier way to unload your digital currencies for travel may be to acquire an airline gift card through such websites as eGifter.com or Gyft.com. These sites allow you to purchase gift cards from hundreds of brands including airlines like American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest. And you can pay for these gift cards with popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin by choosing these options at checkout.
Should You Book Travel with Bitcoin or other Cryptocurrencies?
Now that you know a few ways you can book travel with cryptocurrencies, you may be asking yourself if you should or not. On the surface, it is pretty neat to have the ability to pay for flights with these new currencies, but if you dig a little deeper you may realize that you’ll be giving up some benefits when not booking with a traditional credit card.
Many credit cards offer insurance, rewards points, and special perks when booking travel, which you won’t get when booking with cryptocurrencies or gift cards. Another major consideration is that by booking with a third party, you may run into more complications if you need to make any flight changes or cancellations. This has been especially true during the pandemic with airlines constantly cancelling flights and adjusting schedules to fit the ever-changing demand.
However, if you’ve made it big with some of the cryptocurrencies that have increased in value over the years, you may be interested in spending it for travel due to the inherent volatility and risk that it could lose its value quickly. For now, booking flights with cryptocurrency is fairly limited, but if the currencies become more stable in the future, it could become more widespread and offer similar advantages that credit cards offer today. As always, compare your payment options and decide what’s best for you.