Circle’s Bitcoin wallet now allows its users to pay in-store with bitcoins using the Circle mobile app, VentureBeat reported on Tuesday (Jan. 6).
The caveat: Circle users must have an Android smartphone equipped with an NFC chip, and the retailer must accept Bitcoin and also be equipped with an appropriate NFC-equipped point-of-sale system.
How many merchants is that? Bitpay, which automatically converts Bitcoin to conventional currency for retailers, lists 44,000 merchants that use its software to accept bitcoins, though it’s not clear how many accept Bitcoin in-store or have NFC point-of-sale devices. There are about 220,000 NFC-equipped stores in the U.S. (according to MasterCard) that can accept contactless payment cards and NFC-based mobile payments such as Apple Pay.
While that number hasn’t grown in the past several years, enthusiasm for Apple’s iPhone-based mobile payments could change things. Juniper Research predicts that by 2019, 500 million people will be making transactions via NFC. That’s due in part to the October 2015 deadline that merchants face to upgrade card-reading terminals in order to avoid increasing credit- and debit-card fraud liability.
However, Bitcoin may still be too volatile in value and have too small a user base for merchants to want to commit to it. Still, a growing number of merchants, ranging from Home Depot to Time Inc., now accept bitcoins and may welcome the tap-to-pay option.