A Letter to Our Bitcoin Customers

by Jeff Klee, CEO

Dear Traveler,

Since 2013, CheapAir.com has been accepting Bitcoin as a payment option for flight and hotel bookings and we hope to continue to do so well into the future.

During this time, it has been a thrill to meet so many extremely smart, incredibly passionate members of the Bitcoin community and we appreciate to no end the support and loyalty that the group has shown us.

However, today we face some challenges and we’re asking for your help in finding solutions. We were recently informed by our processing partner, Coinbase, that they will no longer support “custodial” solutions for merchants, and are removing a number of the tools and features that we rely on to accept Bitcoin from CheapAir.com shoppers. These changes are scheduled to occur in a matter of weeks.

Rather than dwell on this, we are taking this as an opportunity to deliver to you an even better solution with even more digital payment options. In the coming weeks, we hope to:

– Begin accepting additional digital currencies like Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and Litecoin. We have already begun testing these.

– Establish a dedicated customer service phone line and email inbox staffed with advisors who have a deeper understanding of digital currencies and how they work. Admittedly, that’s been a challenge with our call center team (my fault, not theirs) and I know this has led to some frustration.

– Automate some processes that have been semi-manual, so we can issue refunds more quickly, or generate/re-generate a BTC invoice for a booking made over the phone or by email.

To go where we want, however, we need a reliable processing partner. The reality is, as much as we love Bitcoin, our travel supplier partners (airlines and hotels) just aren’t there yet. Because we have to immediately transfer to them most of what you pay to us, we have no choice but to convert BTC to fiat as payments come in. Coinbase has been providing that service for us, but at the end of the month they are getting out of that business, leaving us scrambling for an alternative.

Our intention at this point is to use BitPay as a processor. We have had a great experience with them so far and our integration is largely complete. But our one giant concern is that Bitpay does not support “non-payment protocol wallets” (wallets that aren’t BIP-70 compliant). So if you do not have a compatible wallet, you would have to get one and use it as an intermediate stage for your Bitcoin payment.

We understand what Bitpay is trying to accomplish. The issues they are trying to address–delayed or incorrect payments–are real and were especially rampant back in December and January when transaction volumes spiked. On the other hand, I am not keen on the idea of asking our customers to, in many cases, do more work or change wallets just to be able to transact with us.

This is where we’d love your input. Do you buy from other Bitpay merchants? Do you find the BIP-70 wallet requirement to be reasonable or too onerous? Candidly, would this make you more or less likely to do business with us?

Please feel free to reach out with thoughts or suggestions by commenting on this post, tweeting @CheapAir, or emailing me directly at jeff@CheapAir.com.

Thank you again for your continued support,

Jeff's signature

Founder / CEO, CheapAir.com

61 Comments

  1. First off, this was a great email/blog post and I appreciate the need for feedback.
    A few things:
    The link to the Bitpay compatible wallets is broken it seems (https://support.bitpay.com/hc/en-u) so I’m not sure if my wallet works.
    Second: I’m fairly familiar with the ins-and-outs of crypto currencies but when it comes to the minutia and tech needed to know what BIP-70 is, I fall flat. Is there anyway to simply that further in this post? Is using a certain kind of wallet all this is affecting?

    Best of luck on the new integration.

  2. As a customer that has purchased from CheapAir.com with Bitcoin, it’s great to hear that you’ll accept Bitcoin Cash soon.

    Bitcoin Cash has very low fees and a high transaction capacity, so it will provide a better experience for both customers and merchants.

    I have bought from other BitPay merchants with Bitcoin Cash using the payment protocol and it was easy, so I don’t think it will be a big deal. I used the Bitcoin.com wallet, but several other wallets support the protocol.

  3. I find the combo of bitpay wallet & merchant integration w BIP-70, an improvement over other wallets
    – less clicks, less errors
    – merchant specifies amount, click pay on website, amount shows up on my wallet ready to pay
    stuck with the wallet, after trying a lot of others, more of the functionality that matters
    good luck

  4. Hello Jeff

    I am going to type this over my phone so the grammer may not be perfect. I wish we were at the stage where fiat wouldn’t be necessary anymore and everything is based on Satoshi value. It would make everything so much easier and it seems that is where we’re trying to lead but it will take some time. It’s unfortunate that coinbase did what it did for the merchants and now you have to find an alternative. I use coinbase and Gemini Heavily because those, as of right now are my only choices I trust. The change coinbase is doing makes it more difficult for companies to exchange crypto for fiat. Bitpay fees are high and why I haven’t even bothered with them. Shift payment is an option but I haven’t tried it because I am holding my tokens beyond 2020. Something you might want to look into is Tenx pay. They are building a litecoin debit card and they currently have a wallet that holds ; BTC, ETH, and LTC. Also, I am pretty sure you heard of Abra platform that individuals can send bitcoin to other individuals. Also loaf wallet is also another option to receive litecoin but to exchange litecoin you need to send to coinbase and exchange for fiat. Tenx pay is really tryinng to push for individuals to use crypto globally and I truly hope we find a solution that crypto is all we use.

    I hope this helped a little bit. With the change coinbase is doing is truly making it a challenge to use crypto.

    David Mesmer

  5. My company ThinkPenguin.com has been accepting Bitcoin since 2011 (when they first started I believe) and more recently Bitcoin cash through BitPay. Our experience has been excellent. We haven’t had any customers run into issues with the more recent changes although I am aware of these changes and would agree that CoPay- BitPay’s own wallet is or was a bit frustrating during the beta. I think what is probably going to be the most important thing is integration and refund processing. Being a Cheap Air customer and a customer of one of your competitors thus far my experience with Cheap Air has been significantly better thanks to proper integration with and support for crypto currencies. Your competitor has comparatively not properly integrated and utterly failed on the customer service side of things- particularly in regards to refunds on failed orders (payment received, but not in time, so no service, nor refund). Ultimately despite using them for over 100 hotel and plane reservations overs the years I have more recently decided to stop using them after two incidents that were negative and there lack of response. Please keep up the good work on integration and I appreciate the education aspect on the customer support side. I think if the integration is as good as it was prior however there won’t be as much of a need to get the customer service side perfect (as insane as that might sound clarity and automation can go a long ways in eliminating most issues that customer service might otherwise be needed to resolve).

  6. Mr Klee,
    Thank you for reaching out to your bitcoin customers for input on this issue.

    I am happy to see you are parting ways with Coinbase. Their loss, your gain.

    Conbase a nasty habit of wanting customers to login to their platform before making payments. Cheapair lost business from me because of this years ago. When I see a coinbase screen pop up on a merchants site I go elsewhere. They seem to have a desire to collect far more information than they need to do their job.

    Bitpay was awesome for years, now like you stated they require using a BIP-70 wallet. Minor bump along their road to progress.

    Several merchants lost business with me back in December 2018 because of this BIP-70 issue. I did not use a BIP-70 wallet, and was not going to pay the transaction fees required at the time to transfer into a BIP-70 wallet to please bitpay. I dont like my choice of software being dictated. However this situation will slowly get better as more wallet providers support BIP-70.

    Ideally as the market grows you should create your own software linking into a variety of exchange API’s and remove your reliance on single points of failure like coinbase or bitpay. We are a ways away from this still, but its a goal worth keeping in mind.

    Anyway in my opinion, for whatever its worth, I see bitpays issues being reduced as time goes on, verses coinbases issues growing as time goes on.

    Make the switch!

    1. Daisuke. I will be posting a more robust response later but, seems you might be interested in GRAFT. Its looking at doing just that! And decentralized.

  7. Alt coins would be a great option. Circle Invest wallet has multiple coins. Either way, I think you are going in the right direction. Perhaps create a “CheapAir Coin”

  8. Yes and No, there will be a slight burden to your customers IMO. Most of us are using wallets that hold multiple cryptocurrencies, and most of us have a “favourite wallet”. Some of us dont even like to use bitcoin, where we mostly deal with altcoins, so I believe that your best bet will be to integrate a payments provider that is reliable and that can accept a wide range of altcoins. Bitcoin is very slow compared to the other altcoins in the market. Atleast for now.

  9. While I don’t have a solution, I want to applaud you for being a forward thinker. Your business will be better by sticking with the crypto community and being a front runner by accepting it as payment. Keep up the great work.

  10. I would look to take my custom elsewhere if you were to use Bitpay. Plenty of other alternatives out there which don’t force users to download badly coded wallets

  11. I’m using your platform for a while now and never had any problem what so ever. I love it very much! If you take Bitpay just have a tutorial or an instruction link to help explain to people how the BIP-70 wallet link work. My first time took me 30 minutes to figure it out but other than that go for it, we really need a BTC platform like yours.

  12. Bitpay is a pain in the arse to use and charge too much fees unrelated to mining fees! Please use another payment processor.

  13. This is your chance to really separate yourself from the competition. There is no reason why you need BitPay or coinbase to be your merchant services providers. Please look into BTCPay and you’ll get an old time customer back.

    1. I second this! BTCPay will take a bit more effort from your side, but avoids fees altogether. Crypto is meant to cut out the third party, even if BitPay or CoinBase would like you to believe otherwise. It would show true vision and more importantly support the open source solutions available today, that don’t limit your wallet choice like BitPay does – it makes me think of Windows & Internet Explorer…

      Furthermore, I would like to point out that in order to be truely ahead of any competition, supporting a lightning network payment option would be revolutionary.

      You’d have a customer in me even if you just do BTCPay, but LN would have me becoming a fan!

  14. It would be annoying but it would not prevent me from doing business with you. The major concern is whether I know which wallet is compliant? Its nothing to download a wallet but how do I know it is compliant or not. If you do this, you should suggest a list of compliant wallets published somewhere.

  15. Bitpay shouldn’t be an option at the moment; a lot of great projects are working to improve BIP-70, the answer shouldn’t be to encourage a company that “slashed” it’s BIP-70 user base…

  16. I have yet to actually book a flight through chrapair, although I have recommended your service to our customers.

    I just wanted to comment on the BIP70 issue. Yes it’s an extra hoop to jump through. Nobody likes jumping through hoops. Requiring BIP70 isn’t going to increase your business. But I don’t think it will necessarily hurt your business.

    We Bitcoiners have grown accustomed to jumping through hoops to be able to use our beloved coins. We use purse.io to shop on Amazon, bitrefill to top up our phones, and gyft and egifter to buy gift cards so we can eat out or go shopping. We’re used to dealing with intermediary services to spend our money.

    An intermediary wallet that supports BIP70 is not a major hurdle to overcome. If Bitpay otherwise makes sense to your business, and the BIP70 requirement is the only doubt, is say go with Bitpay.

  17. I think Bip70 is a good step forward. However, my opinion is that Bitpay really needs to allow a backwards compatibility option. If they can’t give the customer a “compatibility” option at checkout then it would be probably be better for you to find another payment processor.

  18. I prefer to pay with BItcoin Cash or Litecoin when I spend cryptocurrencies. Do consider integrating the Top 10 cryptocurrencies, at least.

  19. Hi,

    please find a solution without BIP 70, no hardware wallet supports it and it definitely would make it less likely for me to do business with you.

    Best

    Tom

  20. Use bitpay for now as a bandaid solution. It’s imperfect but the best for now.

    Look into implementing lightning as soon as it’s stable. Probably by year’s end.

  21. the BIP 70 requirement for Bitpay invoices is kind of a pain, but installing the Bitpay wallet is really no big deal and I think soon enough any wallet worth using will support BIP 70. Until crypto payments become more established business to business, there will be a lot of compromises due to the needed conversion to fiat currency. In any case, cheers for integrating BCH payments, I had literally stopped using BTC for commerce due to the outrageous fees and unreliable transaction times.

  22. Reach out to Ripple.com They have an interledger protocol that allows you to accept bitcoin and convert if to fiat automatically using automatic or predefined exchanges of your choice. They have a product called xVia which is specific for companies.

    https://ripple.com/contact/#sales

  23. You say;
    “Bitpay does not support “non-payment protocol wallets” (wallets that aren’t BIP-70 compliant). So if you do not have a compatible wallet, you would have to get one and use it as an intermediate stage for your Bitcoin payment.”

    The phrase “compatible wallet” was a link which takes you to a “page not found” message.

    If you are going to put links in your communications, please check that they work before publishing.

  24. Hi Jeff

    Can you please consider the possibility of starting to accept Verge currency (XVG) ?
    It has some nice features, such as low fees and ultra fast transactions.
    Take a look at it

    Pedro

  25. Thank you for helping the bitcoinists of the world realize the value of this technology by being able to travel with it. Best of lucks with BitPay.

    I believe that not all wallets support BIP70, so, a list of wallets that support it would be helpful.

  26. BIP-70 wallet – If you use BitPay, there is about zero chance I will buy from you. I refuse to install special wallets due to a Bitcoin processor.. this is like saying I have to bank at some particular bank to do business with you.. no thanks. Set up bitcoin lightning payments and people will be more apt to use that.. BitPay has become a second rate processor pushed by the scammers involved in BCash. Bitpay charges ridiculous fees on using Bitcoin… so does Coinbase on buying bitcoin,… and Bitmain de incentivizes mining Bitcoin by having a ridiculously high minimum payout… These are, from my perspective.. Bad actors in the crypto space.. supporting a Bitcoimn knockoff at the expense of everyone else in the crypto space.

  27. I use Exodus and due to the limitation of exodus,there isnt the payment protocol implemented inexodus.Which is a huge dealbreaker.Ifwe can get a switch to choose from payment protocl to normal address sending,then it would be great.Otherwise you willneed to shift to another gateway like coinpayments for example

  28. I saw an article about your accepting cryptocurrency. Although I am reluctant to spend an appreciating asset, I am impressed that your company is so progressive and am researching my next adventure using your web site. Best wishes for your move to BitPay or similar.

  29. The idea behind the BIP-70 might be a good one, but as a power user I don’t like that they are enforcing their BIP so hard, removing the traditional address/amount option.

    I’m not a cheapair customer, but I sometimes buy cards at eGifter. They use bitpay for bitcoin payments, so I had no choice but to use bitpay. But they have recently enabled litecoin payments with another payment processor, so now I exchange btc to ltc and pay with ltc, only to avoid using bitpay.

  30. Thank you for putting this out and putting so much effort into the decision!
    Accepting more coins is fantastic, but please, please find a better alternative to the highly invasive AND inconvenient BIP70 which would make CheapAir a significantly less desirable option.

    PS- Love CheapAir’s customer service.

  31. Look into COSS exchange. They are about to start FIAT trading before the start of May. They’re based out of Singapore.

    1. I did not put this in my previous comment, but do concur.
      BCH is a scam, a centralized crypto is not a true crypto. Talking about Satoshi’s vision?

  32. Hi there!
    Have you ever heard of net-cents.com?
    I think they might have a solution for you.
    Greetings from Germany, Dickie.

  33. I am very glad to hear that you will accept other cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin Cash. My answers to your questions:

    “Do you buy from other Bitpay merchants?” Yes, definitely.

    “Do you find the BIP-70 wallet requirement to be reasonable or too onerous?”
    Reasonable? I’m no techie, but it sounds reasonable to me. In any case, not onerous for me.

    “Candidly, would this make you more or less likely to do business with us?” More likely, yes!

  34. Hi there,

    – I’ve used bitpay merchant services before.

    – I believe having to use a specific wallet could provide an obstacle for some – it’s better to make the user experiece as simple as possible.

    – I would be much more likely to use your services if there were options past bitpay and only BTC payment options.

    Please consider an option for LTC too.
    I’m not well versed in the subject but I believe there is a system called BTCpay and now also LTCpay.

    Many thanks,
    Bob

  35. I find the comments on this thread very fascinating. This is one area of crypto where there is clearly high demand for a better solution, especially a decentralized one but yet the players like Coinbase and Bitpay which have such obvious flaws are dominating the market. Neither are actually providing a solution. I completely agree, if you want to slap a BandAid on the problem Bitpay might be your only option.

    What do you think about what GRAFT is building with their GRAFT Network – a decentralized payment processor, that’s like Visa for crypto?  They seem to have figured how to make crypto transactions behave more like credit cards with pre-authorizations, fees, and payouts.

    Key Points:
    Decentralized
    Graft doesn’t use a Bitcoin specific payment protocol, they implement their own, comparable and better than BIP70.
    Lower Fees (no fees to the customer & VERY low fees to the merchant)
    Real-time authorization with Short confirmation times (usually less than 2 mins)
    Offline support functionality
    Instant fiat payout
    Private (GRFT is a fork of Monero)
    Good UX
    Multiple transaction types
    Ability to embed customer loyalty programs/gift cards
    Optional integration with payout brokers (like exchanges) for payouts or coin/coin transfer

    The problem is that when you rely on a centralized model, one move or decision made by the central authority leaves both customers and organizations like CheapAir scrambling for new products. All at the expense of the planned development. We are early adopters of crypto fighting against this authoritarian decision-making and yet we support it in ways that are not fundamentally different than the centralized models we have had in place since before crypto.

  36. You definetly should try the merchant version of netcents (net-cents.com). They provide Instant Settlement, so you’ll receive the cryptopayment instantly, in Fiat or Crypto, as you wish. For the payment you just need the app.
    Kind regards

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  38. Moving to BitPay is perfectly fine. Reliable and strong player, and many popular wallets are compatible, including the very promising BRD.

    Accepting Bitcoin Cash (Bcash) is a big mistake. Why promote a crypto which clearly intends to damage Bitcoin and spread confusion among people?

    CheapAir has been a pioneer in Bitcoin acceptance, and now that Bitcoin early problems are being solved (SegWit, Lightning), you stab it in the back by promoting its most disloyal competitor, characterised by business malpractices and fraudulent marketing. Shame.

  39. Bitpay is fine. Its simple to setup and use. Accepting other currencies will be great too but even if you continue with bitcoin using the bitpay wallet is fine.

    Thanks again!

  40. Like many others here, btcpay is the best solution as their payment solution is not trying to emulate PayPal or any of the legacy systems.

    Alongside with it, you can yet shapeshift.

    After bitpay introduced their “payment protocol” they showed that they don’t care about btc. Additionally, their btc “network” fees are ridiculous.

    If you use bitpay i won’t even consider buying tickets from you because I know bitpay doesn’t give a damn about me paying their fees

  41. I would really prefer if you would also start accepting Verge because it is now being accepted in by a wide range of online vendors. Please don`t make me jump from coin to coin!

  42. I like Cointopay.com, premium service, no volatility risks, support for all crypto currencies incl. ethereum, litecoin, bitcoincash, dash, verge.

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