US Consumers’ Adoption and Use of Bitcoin and other Virtual Currencies

General Information

US Consumers’ Adoption and Use of Bitcoin and other Virtual Currencies
Scott Schuh and Oz Shy
Publication Type
Working paper
Banque du Canada
Bitcoin has gained notoriety as a speculative financial asset, vehicle for criminal activity, alternative monetary policy instrument, and a low-cost payment instrument for merchants to accept. However, relatively little attention has been devoted to measuring its adoption and use by consumers for payments—the main purpose for which Bitcoin was designed (Nakamoto, 2008). The 2014-2015 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (SCPC) indicates that about half of U.S. consumers had heard of Bitcoin or the other roughly 700 virtual currencies by the end of 2015. The vast majority of consumers who are aware of virtual currencies are unfamiliar with them, and they struggle to answer survey questions accurately. Less than 1 percent of U.S. consumers (2 percent of consumers aware of virtual currency) have ever owned (adopted) virtual currency, but most adopters of virtual currency used it to pay a person (most commonly) or merchant in the past month. Awareness, adoption, and use of virtual currencies are correlated with various demographic and economic characteristics of consumers. A typical Bitcoin owner is more likely to be a younger, non-white male with lower education who expects Bitcoin to appreciate, has adopted a higher number of other payment instruments, and has most of the responsibility for household shopping.