Expedia drops Bitcoin after payment problems

Travel supermarket site Expedia has nixed Bitcoin as a payment option after both customers and the business itself reportedly suffered ongoing transaction issues.

The change came on last week, according to this report by MarketExclusive.com, and represents a major U-turn from a big cryptocurrency supporter. In June 2014, Expedia became one of the first mainstream travel businesses to accept Bitcoin to pay for hotel bookings when it partnered up with cryptoexchange, Coinbase. Indeed, details on how to pay in cryptocurrency are still listed on the Expedia website.

Specifically, it says: “To complete your booking, you will be redirected to Coinbase’s website, where you will see the total cost of your booking in Bitcoin, based on an exchange rate set by Coinbase. The Bitcoin price for your booking will remain valid for 10 minutes. If you do not initiate a payment during this time, the Bitcoin exchange rate will be updated and the Bitcoin price for your booking may change.”

The difficulty of setting an exact price, given Bitcoin’s current and likely future volatility, could be one of the reasons that Expedia decided to ditch the crypto altogether.

Another factor could be Coinbase’s launch of Coinbase Commerce in February, which has largely failed to solve their commercial partners’ issues with crypto payments. Indeed, if anything, it has brought the high fees, slow service and communication problems further into the spotlight.

Two of Expedia’s terms and conditions, listed here, hint at similar recurring problems with Bitcoin payments:

“Once you initiate a Bitcoin transaction, you cannot cancel it…This is inherent in the nature of the Bitcoin network, not a policy set by Expedia.”

A slip of the fingers on a keyboard and a customer’s holiday money is lost. While cryptocurrency is becoming more mainstream, it is not a simple task to understand how payments and transfers work, and there are many traps and pitfalls for the uninitiated.

The second condition is perhaps more intractable still: “Once a Bitcoin transaction is submitted to the Bitcoin network, it will be unconfirmed for a period of time (usually about an hour, but sometimes longer) pending full verification.”

Also, with hundreds of Coinbase customers having contacted the SEC alleging fraud over problems withdrawing funds from the cryptoexchange, arranging refunds for Bitcoin payments also could have thrown up headaches for Expedia – as customers have to be refunded through Coinbase.

Payments currently allowed through Expedia include credit cards American Express, Visa and Mastercard, as well as associated debit cards. Paypal is still a payment option too.

Expedia were contacted for comment for this article but did not reply by time of publishing. So, while we may not yet know the exact reasoning for its decision to move away from Bitcoin payment, it’s reasonable to posit that similar concerns to those that led Payments company Stripe to drop the cryptocurrency earlier in the year were at play. Stripe, for its part, published a very honest blog on exactly why it was taking the step.