Starbucks drops major hint at plans to accept Bitcoin

Back in May, reports surfaced that New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) was developing a Bitcoin trading platform. This morning, it officially announced the creation of Bakkt, a new company that will help trade and convert the best known cryptocurrency to fiat money — government-backed legal tender.

As one might expect from a new company with close ties to the NYSE, Bakkt has enlisted some big names already, including backing from Microsoft, Starbucks and BCG. Microsoft, for its part, will provide cloud infrastructure for the service. Even more compelling, however, is the involvement of Starbucks.

After all, the coffee giant has played an outsized role in helping mainstream mobile payments among the U.S. population, it has worked with Square (which accepts Bitcoin) and it just announced a deal with Alibaba in China for coffee deliveriesThe chain isn’t always the first to adopt payment solutions, but its involvement goes a long ways toward legitimizing technologies among the public. If played right, this could be the push Bitcoin as a payment systm for mainstream consumers here in the States.

In a statement, Starbucks referred to itself as “the flagship retailer” involved in the project, hinting at the very real potential that the company is setting itself up to accept Bitcoin converted through the Bakkt system.

“As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into US dollars for use at Starbucks,” said Starbucks Payments VP Maria Smith said in the statement. “As a leader in Mobile Pay to our more than 15 million Starbucks Rewards members, Starbucks is committed to innovation for expanding payment options for our customers.”

Bakkt’s implications go well beyond mobile payments, of course. As Fortune notes, the system could help attract investors who have been put off by Bitcoin’s extremely volatile nature. Among other things, it could help make the currency a safer choice for 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement plans. That, in turn, could help propel Bitcoin toward wider Wall Street trading.