"I'm on a boat!" The last time you yelled that out was probably in your dreams.
It's true that booking a yacht for a charter cruise can take some serious cash -- or bitcoin, the virtual currency that's making waves in finance.
The Advantaged Yacht Charters and Sales in Miami Beach booked its first boat charter last Sunday in bitcoin.
Last weekend, co-owner Jessica Londono attended the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami, where the deal was sparked. "At the conference, the owner of BitPay, Tony Gallippi, made a shoutout that there were local businesses accepting bitcoin during his talk," she says.
A man in the room, now her client, searched her company name online and contacted her. "He said he found us online and saw a couple articles on us [one in New Times], so he decided to rent a boat the following day." The boat was a 54-foot Sea Ray that came with a captain and steward, a fruit and cheese platter and some sodas. Clients can choose among 26 boats ranging in size from 40 to 130 feet. Smaller boats cost $1,200 per a four-hour cruise which can seat up to 12 people. Her client chose a $2,500 four-hour rental.
"I can't tell you how easy and flawless this transaction was," Londono says. "I got everything done within a minute or two through an email." Her company began accepting bitcoin in October of last year, but this was the first booking done with the virtual currency.
Via e-mail, she sent the client a contract and a QR code that's attached to a virtual wallet. The client was able to fill out the paperwork and transfer the currency from his virtual wallet to Londono's with one click.
The traditional credit card process isn't so quick, especially with clients using cards from foreign countries, according to Londono.
"Usually, what I do is send a contract with a credit card authorization form and wait for the client to fill it out and send it either scanned, faxed, email. And once I get it from them,then I have to authorize the card prior to the charter," she says. "The thing about credit cards is that 80 percent of our clients are tourists, and oftentimes the credit card companies decline use of them because the transactions with us are so high."
Credit card companies tend to flag multi-thousand-dollar sales --such as $5,000 and up-- as alleged fraudulent activity, which slows business down for legitimate purchases. But with bitcoin, a transfer can be done within minutes. Londono uses BitPay, a merchant service for payment processing that requires a nominal monthly charge -- but less than what credit cards charge.
"When you're talking about transactions this high, you're losing money that goes to the credit card processor," says the 29-year-old. "I can sometimes lose up to $800 taken out of my bottom line."
American Express charges merchants 3.5 percent per point of sale; VISA hovers around 2 percent, according to Londono. The BitPay charge was negligible comparedly, she said.
She believes that if more people were invested in bitcoin, it would solve a lot of tourism issues in the economy.
"Tourists lose a lot of value with foreign exchange. And they don't always understand exchange rates."
She got into bitcoin in March 2012. Her husband, Addison Sammet, a former Apple Genius, introduced her to it, but she was at first skeptical. "He had to convince me to go into it then, but now it's blowing up and everybody is interested in bitcoin."
Now, she has a serious buyer from Turkey who is deciding on a $250,000 boat purchase. He has put down nearly $10,000 worth of bitcoin in an escrow account. Not too shabby.
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