Bitcoin: A New Global Economy

When BitPay was founded back in 2011, bitcoin was in its infancy. It was difficult to convert local currencies into bitcoin or to find retailers who would accept it as payment.

In just a few years, so much has changed. Over 100,000 merchants worldwide are now accepting bitcoin - and more than 60,000 of those are processing their transactions through BitPay. Our merchants are located across 6 continents and 92 different countries.

As we cross the halfway point of this year, we've decided to share and review some of our own statistics to paint a better picture of the state of Bitcoin around the world in 2015.

Volumes in the European region have always closely tracked the number of transactions in North America, but in the final quarter of 2014 and the first two quarters of 2015, we have seen transaction volumes rapidly accelerate, reaching an all-time high of 102,221 transactions per quarter (34,074 per month).

The rapid increase may be attributed to the ecommerce merchants who are going global in addition to the recent payment service providers (PSPs) we have partnered with in the region. Traditional payments systems in Europe are still very localized and disjointed throughout the continent. Bitcoin is a great option for European businesses because it is a truly global payment method which is not country specific.

You could also say that Europeans are more accustomed to using alternative payment methods. Currently there are more than 250 local payment methods used in the world. Most European consumers will use multiple payment methods in order to make purchases from multiple countries. Merchants in Europe use payments service providers to aggregate all those payment methods into one solution, but bitcoin already provides an all-in-one payment method.

Latin America

When we look more closely at transaction volumes from Q1 and Q2 2015, we can see that although transaction volumes increased across all territories, the largest percentage increase by far took place in Latin America.

From February to March 2015, we saw the volume of bitcoin transactions in Latin America more than triple. Latin America is proving to be an incredibly favorable environment for bitcoin. A high proportion of the population has little or no access to traditional financial services. This in addition to high inflation rates and government restrictions on currency exchange in countries such as Argentina has forced citizens to seek alternatives to their local currencies.

These transaction figures are a testament to just how rapidly this adoption is taking place, revealing a 510% increase in Latin America's bitcoin transactions from 2014 to 2015, compared to an increase of only 70% in Europe. The transaction numbers over the last 6 months can only be described as hockey stick growth, with nearly a 26% increase from April to May 2015 and a 40% increase from May to June.

Top 20 Countries By Number of Merchants

Less than 1/3 of our merchants are now located in the United States, with over 40,000 merchants now accepting bitcoin payments through BitPay across 91 other countries worldwide.

11 of the top 20 countries by number of merchants are located in Europe, a region that hosts just under 50% of all our merchants.

  1. United States
  2. Germany
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Belize
  5. Netherlands
  6. Canada
  7. Switzerland
  8. Sweden
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Seychelles
  11. Cyprus
  12. Romania
  13. Bulgaria
  14. United Arab Emirates
  15. Australia
  16. India
  17. France
  18. Norway
  19. Panama
  20. Gibraltar

Top Industries

The top industries in terms of bitcoin acceptance remain remarkably consistent. IT Services, including website hosting, registrars, and VPN services represents over a third of all merchant types.

The merchant type 'Other' represents 22.9% of all merchants and comprises a broad range of retailers, enabling bitcoin owners to spend their coins on everything from high-end watches to charity donations. Also, 2-3% of our total transaction volume is spent within the gaming industry.

Financial services represent a growing proportion of our merchants and partners, as the financial services industry continues to realize the potential of bitcoin to revolutionize their business.

Gift cards are a consistently popular category (9% of merchants), as shoppers, keen to spend their bitcoins, often use gift cards as a way of spending the currency with merchants who do not directly accept the currency.

Finishing 2015

This past year we have observed bitcoin adoption take off despite the bitcoin price taking a downward turn. Latin America has seen the most rapid growth, and we expect to see this trend continue in the coming months. Europe has shown consistent growth over the past year – possibly due to the need for a solution to the fragmented payment systems within the region. While North America hasn't seen impressive growth over the past year, it has had a fairly fixed amount of transactions. As time goes on, we anticipate seeing slow and steady growth in this region as merchants start considering using bitcoin to solve more complex business problems. Overall, these statistics are quite encouraging and will surely provide momentum to finish out the 2015 calendar year.

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