What it is: A peer-to-peer marketplace that matches individuals wanting to buy items on Amazon at a discount with others wanting to buy bitcoin with a credit card or via PayPal. The service claims discounts of up to 20% for bitcoin shoppers.
Who's behind it: CEO and co-founder Andrew Lee, previously an advisor for BuyBitcoin.ph and co-founder at Superior Payments Processing LLC, and co-founder and CTO Kent Liu, formerly an engineer at IBM and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. (See the full team here.)
Cost: I was charged a £0.06 ($0.09) fee for placing an order equivalent to £6.51 ($9.82), or approximately 1%.
Date launched: December 2014
Summary: Purse touts hefty discounts for people shopping at Amazon via its service, but time delays and complexity ruin the user experience. Additionally, limits on discounts available for new users lower incentive to use the platform.
CoinDesk rating: 2/5
How it works: The service is marketed at people who would like to purchase Amazon items with bitcoin, since the digital currency is currently not accepted by the online retailing giant.
The process is similar to other peer-to-peer marketplace such as Brawker, a site that offers discount shopping at all legitimate retailers.
Purse acts as an intermediary by facilitating a user platform, bitcoin wallet and escrow for completing transactions.
Let's imagine that Alice wants to buy a tablet device from Amazon and get a discount of 8%. In order to do so, she would have to create a wishlist for the item on Amazon and associate it with her delivery address.
Alice would then post her wishlist on Purse, with her desired discount, and upload the cost (equivalent to £100, assuming free delivery) in bitcoin to her escrow wallet address on Purse.
Bob, meanwhile, would like to buy £100-worth of bitcoin with his credit card. He is prepared to pay a premium to be able to do this without having to register with a bitcoin exchange and provide ID and proof of address, thus covering Alice's 8% discount himself.
Bob goes on to purchase the item for Alice from Amazon using his card for £108.
Once the item has been delivered to Alice's address, she notifies the Purse platform and her bitcoin is released from escrow and arrives in Bob's wallet.
This way, both customers have a need fulfilled by Purse's service.
The company makes revenue by charging both parties a small fee.
See the company's explanatory video below:
Using the service
Purse requires users to have an Amazon account.
To register on Purse, consumers are required to provide a user name or email address and a password.
Once the user has signed up to Purse, he or she will have to create an Amazon wishlist.
Amazon automatically creates a wishlist URL, which will need to be imported into Purse.
The user will also have to transfer funds from their personal bitcoin wallet into their Purse-hosted wallet.
Placing an order
Purse enables the user to choose the desired discount of up to 20% once the bitcoin funds have been transferred to its platform.
It is important to note, however, that first-time buyers are limited to a maximum discount of 8%.
Once the level of discount has been selected, the consumer receives a breakdown of the Amazon total, the fee charged by Purse and the total amount saved.
The user can then place the order.
Once the order has been placed and accepted by the bitcoin buyer, the user receives a notification at the email address provided during registration.
The bitcoin remains in escrow until the user notifies Purse that the order has been successfully delivered.
Reflecting on the process
I encountered a series of issues with my order, which comprised of some sticky notes and a pack of ball pens.
My order was initially accepted by a buyer, who then rejected it. To try and understand why, I looked on the Purse marketplace page and realised that most smaller offers were still awaiting a buyer.
Two days later, I received a notification stating that another buyer had accepted the order.
The buyer contacted me to let me know that Amazon was only able to ship part of my order – the sticky notes. I was not entirely sure as to why this was the case, but Purse indicated that it had something to do with not selecting third party shipment on Amazon, which I had, as this is set to default.
A 'dispute' was raised for the order, and a tedious exchange of messages between the Amazon buyer, Purse and me began.
Purse confirmed that I would receive a partial delivery and that I would be refunded for the undelivered item.
I received my order approximately a week after the order was placed and proceeded to confirm the shipment so that I could get my refund.
Purse refunded me relatively quickly. However, I was charged a fee of 0.1% for withdrawing my bitcoin back into my Coinbase wallet.
I struggled to understand why a service would charge you for withdrawing funds that have previously been refunded to you. However, a spokesperson from Purse said that this was merely the standard miners' fee – awarded for confirming transactions on the bitcoin network – and was not kept by the platform.
Overall, despite my order arriving in good condition, I was left wondering if the hassle was really worth it for such a small discount.
- Purse offers relatively generous discounts to people wanting to buy Amazon items with bitcoin
- Being able to modify the level of discount to attract buyers is a benefit
- The service enables you to communicate with a Purse representative and the bitcoin buyer, keeping you updated throughout the process
- Purse respond to user requests relatively quickly and resolves issues in a timely manner
- Bitcoin buyers and sellers are able to review each other and award points.
- It can be difficult to find a buyer for a relatively small order
- As a basic level user, you are initially limited to a 8% discount, although the front page of the site strongly promotes a figure of 20%
- The buying process is somewhat convoluted and can be confusing at times
- Not being able to receive my full order – although this seems to be an issue with Amazon not shipping multiple orders, rather than a problem with Purse
- The order arrived a full seven days after it was placed and I had to spend a considerable amount of time liaising with the buyer and Purse. I don't feel that the discount obtained justifies the time spent talking to both parties.
Brawker is very similar to the service offered by Purse, but allows shopping at any online retailer (see the CoinDesk review).
Users are also able to spend their bitcoin by purchasing gift cards for e-commerce sites. Companies such as eGifter, Gyft and Gift Off. enable customers purchase digital gift cards with bitcoin (and sometimes other cryptocurrencies) and then spend those cards at sites like Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and many others.
However, unlike Brawker and Purse, these services do not currently offer any discounts.
Being able to spend bitcoin at Amazon is a huge step forward for general adoption, and the potential discounts offer an extra incentive to shop with the digital currency rather than credit/debit cards or PayPal.
The service is also useful for people who wish to purchase bitcoin with their credit or debit card – especially for those that do not want to register with ID and proof of address at an exchange.
While I do not plan to use the service again for smaller orders (the incentive is just not big enough), I would consider doing so for more expensive items where the discount results in a more notable saving.
Disclaimer: This article represents the experience of the reviewer. Please do your own extensive research before considering committing any funds to the service.