EBay payment unit reportedly weighing acceptance of bitcoin

August 15, 2014, 12:27 PM UTC
Photo courtesy: George Frey — Bloomberg/Getty Images

EBay is reportedly mulling the integration of bitcoin into a payments subsidiary, but the virtual currency’s enthusiasts won’t yet be able to make purchases on the online marketplace, or through PayPal.

While that could change over time, The Wall Street Journal reported that EBay (EBAY) is quietly looking into the integration of bitcoin into its Braintree payments subsidiary, citing people familiar with the matter. Braintree, according to the Journal, provides software for payments processing mobile companies like Airbnb and Uber.

It isn’t exactly a shock that EBay is weighing how it can integrate the virtual currency within its system. CEO John Donahoe earlier this year told CNBC he was weighing such a move, saying bitcoin “will play a very important role in the future.”

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are a way for people to track, store and send payments over the Internet. While those payments can be processed more quickly and at a cheaper cost than traditional methods, they aren’t backed by any government or central bank. Consumer interest in the currency has risen of late, but governments have warned that if a virtual currency company fails, the government won’t cover the loss as it would if a traditional bank were to close.

Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a consumer advisory warning about the risks of the currencies like bitcoin. That warning reportedly pushed bitcoin prices below $500 for the first time since May.

Still, a potential partnership with EBay could provide an important boost for bitcoin’s potential usage. Overstock.com, Zynga and Dish Network are among the notable companies that accept bitcoin, suggesting wider retail acceptance has accelerated.

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