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Expedia to start accepting bitcoins for online hotel bookings

NEW YORK — Expedia will start accepting bitcoins for hotel purchases, becoming the largest online travel service to adopt the virtual currency.

Expedia said it will work with a San Francisco startup, Coinbase Inc., to let travelers pay for bookings with bitcoins in response to customer requests, especially from international travelers.

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Expedia may start accepting bitcoins for airline tickets, too, if there’s demand, said Michael Gulmann, a vice president at Expedia.

Web retailers such as Tiger Direct and Overstock.com already accept bitcoins to appeal to tech-savvy consumers. CheapAir.com, another travel agency, began accepting them in November.

‘‘We think there’s growth potential for bitcoin as a currency,’’ Gulmann said. ‘‘We see it now as something that’s growing that we want to be a part of.

“If you look back 14 to 15 years, PayPal was a strange thing that was out there in e- commerce, and now it’s fairly mainstream.’’

In May, Dish Network said that it will start accepting the digital money later this year. Earlier this month, Apple indicated it will let developers create mobile applications for bitcoin transfers, and eBay’s chief executive, John Donahoe, has said that the payment service PayPal will integrate bitcoins at some future point.

Bitcoin has rallied almost 80 percent since touching a five-month low on April 10, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, as more merchants adopt the virtual currency.

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