A new protocol for bitcoin payments with Lightning Network may soon be available at several retailers, such as Starbucks, Whole Foods, AMC, Home Depot and Southwest Airlines.

This is a protocol based on the Lightning Network, developed by the Fold payment platform, which can be integrated with the already existing traditional POS payment systems. 

Fold’s CEO, Will Reeves, said the protocol interacts “directly with prepaid access programs like gift cards, store credit, rails or other options merchants are used to accepting”.

Even if customers pay in bitcoin with Lightning Network, payments will be received by the seller in any other available currency, including fiat currency. This eliminates the risk of volatility in the value of cryptocurrencies for retailers and expands their potential customer base by adding those who would prefer to pay in bitcoin. 

To date, there are still no direct relationships between Fold and retailers who may use this service, however, the company promises that the service will be available to all those who already use a specific POS that allows payments with gift cards or store credits. The integration will not require any modification or intervention by the retailer, not even the installation of new software or hardware.

“Customers navigate to the Fold app, where they are presented with a list of available merchants. They then select the denomination and how much they want to spend. Fold immediately displays a barcode or other payment method generated via the merchant’s own gift card API”.

At that point, it will be possible to pay for the gift card with a bitcoin Lightning Network wallet, and the total process takes only about 30 seconds. 

Fold is therefore not a wallet and does not allow storing bitcoin, but only allows the purchase of the gift card, already compatible with the POS mentioned above, requiring an external wallet for the payment. 

Fold will not charge fees for the service to the buyer but will charge them to retailers in exchange for the arrival of new customers. 

The startup is currently being incubated by thesis.co, and the release date of the app is not yet known. 

“We believe that Bitcoin provides a fundamentally better way to pay, one that preserves privacy, resists censorship and is natively global. To this end, we build products that make spending bitcoin a no-brainer, making it as easy to use, rewarding and widely accepted as a credit card”.