CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee concedes he’s not getting rich off the site’s introduction of Bitcoin payments in November, but he wants to give travelers more payment options and to reduce processing fees so the site has added two additional cryptocurrencies, Litecoin and DogeCoin.
Customers of the Calabasas, California, online travel agency can now pay for flights, hotels and trains with credit cards, cash at a Western Union office, Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin.
CheapAir has done $1.5 million in gross sales — but only gets a small percentage of this in transaction revenue — from Bitcoin payments since introducing the option in November.
“Frankly, I’m not getting rich off it,” Klee says.
Klee calls the technology behind the peer-to-peer digital currencies “extremely promising,” and he likes the fact that Coinbase for Bitcoin, and GoCoin for Litecoin and Dogecoin, charge lower transaction fees to the merchant of record than do the banks.
“Processing fees for credit cards are generally 2%-3%, while processing fees for digital currencies are usually 0-1%,” Klee says. “This is more of an ideological issue with me than a practical one since, in our business, the airlines are the merchant of record. So it’s actually the airlines who are benefiting from the crypto currency transactions.”
“The specifics of our business aside, though, I am a big proponent of any technology that can help eliminate unnecessary costs from business transactions,” Klee says.
That savings, however nice for the airlines, don’t appear to be passed along to its customers.
“Although it is the airlines and not the travelers who are benefiting from the savings, the big benefit to travelers is how easy it is to make a payment,” Klee says. “When you pay by credit card, you have to fill out long forms with you address, expiration date, security code, etc. This is especially tedious on a mobile device.”
“With Bitcoin and the others, you can pay in one click from your digital wallet without having to provide all that info,” he adds.
The Bitcoin Bandwagon
CheapAir’s introduction of Bitcoin payments, and now Litecoin and Dogecoin, comes as other travel companies have begun accepting Bitcoin.
Among them, Expedia now accepts Bitcoin for prepaid hotels, Uber and Airbnb are integrating Bitcoin payments, Bali hopes to become a Bitcoin-friendly destination, and Las Vegas this summer got its first Bitcoin ATM.
Klee of CheapAir says its Bitcoin customers tend to be loyal — and why not since their Bitcoin payment options are limited elsewhere.
“They tend to come back more than the typical customer from a ppc (pay per click) ad,” Klee says.
Customers paying with Bitcoin also tend to purchase more expensive tickets, including first class and business class, Klee says.
Like other purchases on the site, those made with Bitcoin, Litecoin and Dogecoin are backed by a price guarantee that provides up to $100 in travel credits if the airfare drops after purchase and before travel.
When using these digital currencies the fare or rate isn’t guaranteed until the purchase is complete.
Here’s a CheapAir blog post on bitcoin purchases. http://www.cheapair.com/blog/bitcoin/bitcoin-101-10-helpful-questions-and-answers-for-the-bitcoin-beginner/ eliminates 3% credit card processing fees