Microsoft starts accepting Bitcoin payments

Credit: zcopley via Flickr

The virtual currency will only be accepted by Microsoft in the US for now

Opening up to new payment options, Microsoft has started accepting Bitcoin payments on its Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox stores.

The cryptocurrency can be used to add money to a Microsoft account in order to buy apps, games and other digital content from its various online stores, Microsoft said on a help page detailing how to use Bitcoin.

Purchasing items directly using bitcoin isn't possible at the moment though. The virtual currency can only be used to add money to a Microsoft account in the U.S. from which a payment can be made.

Microsoft also warned that it may not be the smoothest paying experience. While most Bitcoin transactions should process immediately, users are advised to wait up to two hours if they don't. Also, money added to accounts with Bitcoin cannot be refunded.

The page with Bitcoin info was discovered on Thursday by Reddit users on the Bitcoin subreddit, who largely welcomed the move. Some users, however, expressed their disappointment that the service would only be available in the U.S. for now. So far, the service can only be used with bitcoin payment processor BitPay, noted Coindesk.

By introducing Bitcoin payments, Microsoft wants to give people more options, it said in a news release published later on Thursday.

"The use of digital currencies such as bitcoin, while not yet mainstream, is growing beyond the early enthusiasts. We expect this growth to continue and allowing people to use bitcoin to purchase our products and services now allows us to be at the front edge of that trend," Microsoft corporate vice president Eric Lockard said.

For the payments, Microsoft is working with Bitcoin payments processor BitPay. Users can exchange $1,000 in bitcoins for their accounts per day and are limited to $5,000 for additional Microsoft accounts that are registered by the same user.

The company's Bitcoin integration follows the introduction of bitcoin currency conversions in Bing search, which were highlighted at the top of the Microsoft-owned search engine in February.

By accepting Bitcoin, Microsoft joined a long list of other companies that have started offering bitcoin options. BitPay for instance is used by over 44,000 businesses and organizations, including PayPal, electronics retailer Newegg and space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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