Today, there are many different reasons to use cryptocurrencies instead of the standard currencies we’re all familiar with. For starters, you can use them for a lot of the things you’d use normal currencies for – you can buy home goods, you can get a VPN, you can buy food, or get all kinds of holiday gifts.
The applications of cryptocurrencies are literally countless and are bound to multiply as cryptocurrencies continue to push standard currencies out of the way.
What are cryptocurrencies and how do they work?
We won’t go too deep into the nature of cryptocurrencies here as that’d take some time, plus there’s more than enough information on them online already, including here, on Tech Digest, where blockchains are explained pretty well.
Simply put, cryptocurrencies are virtual bits of data that are used as representations of value and ownership, similar to regular currencies. The difference between the two is that while regular currencies are physical by nature which validates their value and ownership, the value and ownership of cryptocurrencies are validated through blockchains – the recordings of ownership and transactions of data on the internet that are repeatedly and continuously checked, proven, and safeguarded by the people – or “miners” – in each specific blockchains network.
There are multiple different types of cryptocurrencies today, all utilizing different blockchains and platforms. There are minor differences between most cryptocurrencies and we’ll mention some of the more well-known ones below, but for most intents and purposes, they all work in the same way.
What can cryptocurrencies be used for?
As a new technology, cryptocurrencies aren’t that widely used yet. There are many places, vendors, and even entire countries where cryptocurrencies are still very much foreign. However, if you have and want to use cryptocurrencies, especially in the Western world, you can use them for pretty much anything you want. There are multiple big online vendors that you can shop on using cryptocurrencies – either directly or using third-party platforms – and through them, you can get anything from home appliances, online subscriptions, food, software, or even entertainment in the form of games, music, online casinos, and more.
We can’t possibly list all vendors that work with cryptocurrencies today, but here are a few mentions you might be interested in:
- Thousands of individual merchants around the globe working with cryptocurrency. Before we go to some of the major online vendors, let’s start with the many smaller ones you can find on the Coinmap.
- Overstock – one of the first big online retailer to start accepting bitcoins in 2014.
- Shopify stores.
- Amazon for virtually anything.
- Microsoft for everything Windows, Xbox, and all other Microsoft products.
- Newegg for gadgets and electronics.
- Expedia for hotel bookings.
- CheapAir for affordable international and domestic flights with Bitcoin.
- eGifter for buying gifts.
- Gyft for another gift cards option.
- Many online gaming and entertainment platforms such as this crypto casino website.
- Charities such as the World Food Program (WFP) also use blockchain and cryptocurrencies to prevent corruption and fund leaks.
How to shop through online retailers using cryptocurrencies?
So, how can you use cryptocurrencies to shop on these and many other vendors? For some, it’s easy – they have integrated a payment method for cryptocurrencies in their platform and you can just follow the payment steps similar to any other payment method.
On other platforms, however, there is no direct way to use cryptocurrencies yet. Amazon, for example, doesn’t yet have a dedicated method for shopping with cryptocurrencies. And yes – we did mention them above in the list of major vendors accepting cryptocurrencies. That’s because you can shop this way on Amazon if you simply use a mediator platform such as Purse.io. Through this platform, that’s also available as a Google Chrome extension, you can directly transfer your digital coins and shop on Amazon through your Amazon account – the mediator platform does the transactions and saves you all the hassle! What’s more, you can often get up to 33% off everything when you shop with Bitcoins.
What different types of cryptocurrencies are there?
There are many different types of cryptocurrencies and they are sure to multiply in the future as well. Knowing and remembering all of them is kind of a lost cause for most people unless it’s a part of your job, but most cryptocurrencies work on the same basic principle with just some minor differences.
Still, knowing some of the big ones is a good idea, so let’s take a quick look at them:
- The obvious first mention, BTC gives its customers access to a global payment system with no third-party intermediaries and no care for your credit history or bank account.
- Ripple or XRP also focuses on global payments including between banks, corporations, and payment providers.
- Monero’s main focus is on privacy and anonymity. If you use Monero/XMR you can rest assured that your account and transactions will remain 100% private.
- Ethereum or ETH is the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum platform. Its main focus is the creation of smart contracts as it allows its developers to create decentralized apps.
- Litecoin, or LTC for short, is a fork of the Bitcoin Core client. There are several main differences between the two, including the faster LTC transactions and lower fees.