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Bitcoin usage surges over Black Friday weekend

A total of $296 million was spent globally across the bitcoin network on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to new statistics provided by payments group Bitnet.

The organisation's tally of how people paid for goods during the annual post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas spending spree in the US found that Bitcoin registered as the ninth biggest payment network worldwide during those days.

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal were the leading payment methods, while Black Friday saw $152 million spent on Bitcoin compared to $144 million on Cyber Monday.

Akif Khan, VP for solutions strategy at Bitnet, commented: "Like all other payment networks, Bitcoin saw a surge in volume over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with higher than usual payment totals over the two days.

"The Bitcoin network handled $296 million in two days – that's impressive when taking into account the currency is only five years old and is still growing with respect to merchant and consumer adoption."

Industry observers are cautious about the emergence of bitcoin into the payments landscape and there are few established retailers that have adopted it as a way for their shoppers to transact. However, the UK government announced earlier this year that it is exploring ways digital currencies can play a role in the wider economy.

One American retailer accepting Bitcoin payments is online department store Overstock.com, and an article in The Times this week suggested that the company's experiment with the digital currency has been underwhelming to date.

According to the newspaper, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne estimates his company will have accepted between $3 million and $4 million of sales in bitcoin by the end of 2014. The business has annual sales of around $1.5 billion, so the Bitcoin transacions represent a small percentage of trade.

Earlier this week the online retailer reported a year-on-year sales increase of 23% for the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. On the Monday alone sales were up 24%, leading to the highest single day of sales in the company's history.

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