Pick n Pay has expanded its Bitcoin payments trial to 39 stores across South Africa’s major cities, the retailer has announced. It plans to roll out to all its stores in the coming months.

“While for many years crypto was something for specialists on their computers, or used by early adopters trying it out, things are changing,” Pick n Pay stated.

According to the retail giant, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority’s recent declaration of cryptocurrency as a financial product paves the way for cryptocurrency as a mainstream payment method.

“Increasingly, cryptocurrency is being used by those under-served by traditional banking systems, or by those wanting to pay and exchange money in a cheaper and really convenient way,” it said.

Pick n Pay said its latest pilot tested Bitcoin payment service technology that lets customers buy groceries with cryptocurrency at till points with any Bitcoin Lightning-enabled app, such as BlueWallet or Muun.

“The transaction is as easy and secure as swiping a debit or credit card,” Pick n Pay said.

“Customers scan a QR code from the app and accept the Rand conversion rate on their smartphone at the time of the transaction.”

It said the service fee for each transaction is minimal, costing on average 70 cents, and takes less than 30 seconds.

Pick n Pay ran the pilot in ten Western Cape stores over the past five months with pre-selected testers.

This included Bitcoin Ekasi in Mossel Bay, which pays coaches from the non-profit organisation The Surfer Kids in Bitcoin while onboarding township vendors to accept the cryptocurrency as payment.

“As the local Pick n Pay store now accepts Bitcoin, the coaches and children can spend their earnings more widely and conveniently than before,” Pick n Pay said.

In 2017, Pick n Pay ran a pilot in the canteen store at its head office in Cape Town.

This proved the concept, but the retailer said the available technology at the time was too expensive for shoppers, and it took too long to finalise the transaction to make it sustainable.

“This new technology means we can provide an affordable service for high volume, low-value transactions that will promote financial inclusion in South Africa,” says Pick n Pay chief information technology officer Chris Shortt.

Pick n Pay has partnered with Electrum and CryptoConvert on its latest pilot.

Electrum’s payment platform connects Cryptoconvert and Pick n Pay, letting customers pay with the Bitcoin Lightning technology at the till point.

“As a key technology provider, Electrum has a long history of partnering with Pick n Pay to bring innovative payment solutions to South Africans,” said Electrum CEO Dave Glass.

CryptoConvert founder Carel van Wyk, who also co-founded South Africa’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Luno, said crypto payments are still in their infancy in South Africa.

“But we are already seeing adoption in parts of our society that haven’t previously had access to traditional financial systems,” Van Wyk said.

CryptoConvert allows merchants to accept crypto payments.

Van Wyk said blockchain technology and the systems it enables, like the Lightning Network, are rapidly evolving to help faster, cheaper transactions and more price-stable tokens.

“Cryptocurrency combines the convenience of cash with the safety and security of electronic identification measures, like biometrics and cryptographic encryption,” Van Wyk said.

“It is also cheaper than credit cards or the cost of cash handling. But more importantly, it is a digital payment that is open to anyone, including those unable to use traditional digital payment options.”

The list of Pick n Pay stores supporting Bitcoin payments is as follows:

  • Langeberg Mall, Mosselbay
  • Sedgefield
  • Stellenbosch Central and Stellenbosch Square
  • Paarl Mall
  • Willowbridge
  • Local Big Bay
  • Table Bay Mall
  • Cavendish
  • Kenilworth
  • Kenilworth Campus
  • Kenilworth Pam Golding
  • Seapoint
  • Waterfront
  • Mall of Africa
  • Mall of the North
  • Mall of the South
  • Menlyn Mall
  • Nelspruit
  • PnP on Nicol
  • Liberty Midlands Mall
  • The Pavilion
  • Tshwane Mall
  • Beacon Bay
  • Uitenhage
  • Bedfordview
  • Centurion
  • Fourways Mall
  • PnP Qualisave Carlton Centre
  • PnP Qualisave Diepsloot
  • PnP Qualisave Midrand
  • PnP Qualisave Rustenburg
  • PnP Qualisave Commercial Road
  • PnP Qualisave North Beach
  • PnP Qualisave The Workshop
  • PnP Qualisave Goodwood
  • Hyper Bloemfontein
  • Hyper Durban North
  • Hyper Northgate
  • Hyper Ottery