Pock.io is allowing consumers in the U.K. to buy gift cards from large merchants such as Apple by using Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
Though Bitcoin and other alternative currencies are growing in popularity, most mainstream merchants do not accept them because of their price volatility and regulatory uncertainty. Pock.io fills this gap by selling retailer gift cards, purchased with U.K. currency, and selling them to consumers for digital currencies, says Bradley Roberts, director of pock.io.
"We take all the risk on the cryptocurrency markets on behalf of our merchantsnot that there is a risk at all long-term, as we believe in digital currencies fully," he says.
Users sign up for an account with a username, password and email address, and can provide more details for access to larger order amounts.
"We set up pock.io to bring more liquidity, stability and validity to cryptocurrency," Roberts says. "With it still in its exciting infancy we wanted to be part of the movement towards global acceptance of Bitcoin and its variants. A one-stop shop for online crypto-retail is what we want pock.io to be, and the support from the loyal cryptocurrency community so far has been brilliant."
The most popular gift cards for sale on pock.io include Amazon.com, Apple Stores, Xbox Gold Live and PlayStation Plus subscription cards. The Apple Store gift cards are sold in amounts from about $42 to $3,350.
Apple gift cards might seem a strange choice because the technology company has not been friendly to Bitcoin-related developers. In February, Apple removed Blockchain, an app that allowed users to send and receive bitcoin payments from its store, citing an "unresolved issue." The bitcoin wallet providers Coinbase and Gliph had payment apps removed from the App Store as well.
After the removal of Blockchain, several Bitcoin users destroyed iPhones with steel bars, sniper rifles and machetes in protest, according to videos they posted online.
"The large merchants of ours are aware of our site and we are still in the very early stages of working out with them how this opportunity could be scaled and made effective and good for all parties but these conversations have started," Roberts says.
Gyft, a U.S.-based mobile gift card provider, was one of the first companies to start offering gift cards for Bitcoin, opening up indirect acceptance of the digital currency to more than 50,000 merchant locations. The company then began offering bigger rewards to consumers who used Bitcoin and PayPal as alternatives to credit cards.
Other businesses have had less success facilitating indirect acceptance of digital currency. Card for Coin began buying Starbucks gift cards in exchange for bitcoin, but a week later shuttered operations because of regulatory issues.
Pock.io accepts payments in Bitcoin, Litecoin (the second-largest cryptocurrency), Peercoin, Quarkcoin, Maxcoin (a cryptocurrency created by American broadcaster Max Keiser) and Dogecoin.
Roberts says the company plans on adding acceptance for other digital currencies in the future. Pock.io holds most of the cryptocurrency it brings in and uses the Cryptsy online exchange to trade less common currencies when needed, Roberts says.
Acceptance for Bitcoin, the most widely-recognized digital currency, has continued to grow. While small merchants were the early adopters of Bitcoin to control transaction fee costs, several large merchants have also started seeing the benefits of Bitcoin. Overstock.com reportedly made about 4% of its average daily revenue on Bitcoin purchases the first day it began accepting in early January.