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How do I spend bitcoin?

Since bitcoin is like electronic cash, most purchases take place online. It’s also possible to send and receive bitcoin in person at retail shops, or anywhere else where bitcoin is accepted.

If you already have some bitcoin and are looking to spend it, this article will walk you through the checkout process.

Paying with bitcoin online is actually quite similar to a traditional credit card checkout process. In some ways, paying with bitcoin is similar to sending an email, except that instead of sending a message to an email address, you’re sending an amount of money to a bitcoin address.

One of the nice things about paying with bitcoin is that you don’t need to give up as much personal information. You only need to give your name and address if you’re purchasing physical goods. If it’s a digital item, then your email will usually suffice and if you’re making a donation, you may not need to provide any information at all.

After you provide the required information, rather than asking for a credit card number, the website will display the bitcoin payment information which will consist of at least one of the following:

  • A link to “Sign in to Coinbase”
  • A QR Code
  • A Bitcoin address

At this stage, the process may differ slightly depending on the type of bitcoin wallet you’re using.

Pay with your Coinbase Wallet

If the merchant you’re paying is using Coinbase to accept bitcoin payments and you also have a funded Coinbase account, you can complete the checkout by simply signing in to your Coinbase account and confirming the order. Once you confirm the order, the process is finished and the merchant will be notified of your payment.

Pay via QR code

Most bitcoin payment processors will also provide a QR code at the checkout, which represents a bitcoin address and payment amount.

QR codes make it easy to pay from a bitcoin wallet app on your smartphone (including the Coinbase app for Android or iOS). Simply scan the QR code and it will pre-fill the recipient bitcoin address and the requested payment amount. Once you send the transaction, the payment is complete.

This is a good option If you don’t have a Coinbase account or wish to pay from a different bitcoin wallet.

Pay to a Bitcoin address

If you can’t scan QR codes or the merchant only provides a bitcoin address, you can also manually enter this as the recipient of a transaction in your bitcoin wallet software.

To pay to a Bitcoin address, you’ll need to provide two pieces of information to your Bitcoin wallet:

  • The recipient’s bitcoin address
  • The amount of bitcoin to send

Both of these will be displayed on the payment page during checkout, although some will leave the amount up to you in the case of donations or other more flexible payment models.

With the address and amount, simply enter them into the “send” form of your wallet and submit the transactions.

If the merchant is using Coinbase, shortly after you send the payment, the checkout page will update to indicate that the funds have been received, and the purchase will be marked as complete. Note that for other payment processors or direct payments without a processor, the process may be slightly different.

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