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Mastercard’s Shift to Cryptocurrencies

Mastercard has launched a new crypto-linked cards program which will allow users to convert cryptocurrencies to fiat currency instantly. This service will remove barriers to transactions between buyers who want to use cryptocurrencies as a mode of payment and merchants who do not accept cryptocurrencies.

Larger context of the move

The technological shift towards cryptocurrency and blockchain is on the rise and seems inevitable. This shift is especially threatening to traditional financial institutions since cryptocurrencies have the potential to democratize financial services and bring financial inclusion. If the financial services are democratised, we won’t need financial institutions.

Luckily, traditional banking institutions are aware of the problem at hand. They are trying to leverage the need of cryptocurrency holders to make payments. They have started providing interesting solutions to satisfy the consumer willingness to spend in cryptocurrencies. In doing so large traditional banks are creating a space for themselves in the market.

Timeline: No seller accepts crypto

Paypal was one of the first players that tried to solve this problem. They provided a solution for sellers by enabling users to transact, hold or checkout cryptocurrencies. In doing so PayPal made cryptocurrencies a source of funding to 26 million sellers. Other lesser-known companies like Galaxy Digital, Paxos, PayU and Circle also make strides in the same direction.

Timeline: Some sellers accept crypto.

However, there were some sellers who were still not accepting cryptocurrencies. To solve this problem Mastercard launched crypto-linked payment (credit, debit, and prepaid) cards under its Crypto Card Program in the Asia Pacific region. Instead of enabling the sellers to accept crypto, Mastercard has enabled buyers to convert their cryptocurrency into fiat currency. After the conversion buyers can directly buy from sellers. This way sellers get fiat currency without any additional cost of setting up crypto payment channels. Not just that, the buyers can use their cryptocurrencies to buy from more sellers.

In order to bring this service to the market, the old behemoth has joined forces with cryptocurrency service providers such as Amber Group, Bitkub and CoinJar. For now the company will only convert a few cryptocurrencies into fiat such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and some stable coins. In due time, we might see more options of cryptocurrencies for conversion.

Attitudinal shift in buyers

Due to an increasing interest in cryptocurrencies, buyers willing to transact using cryptocurrencies have been on a steady rise. According to Mastercard’s New Payments Index, 45 % of respondents surveyed in Asia Pacific said they were likely to explore using cryptocurrencies in the coming year, and 12 percent said they had used cryptocurrency in the previous year. This trend started with the need for fraud-proof, secure, and instant transactions. The increasing number of digital assets, smart contracts, and financial instruments added fuel to the trend.

Mastercard’s larger picture

Mastercard’s larger vision is to utilize the growing interest in cryptocurrencies by providing seamless crypto transactions. Mastercard is playing a trick from the age-old book of innovating and adapting. This will not only generate an alternative revenue stream but will also cement their position in the payment industry. In order to achieve that Mastercard has started their Crypto Card Program. Under this initiative, Mastercard has been making solid partnerships with industry leaders such as Circle, Paxos, Uphold, PayUs, and Galileo Financial Technologies.

Mastercard has been at the forefront of driving cryptocurrency integration. They allowed customers to use stablecoins to make purchases in July. They also allowed consumers to transact, and hold cryptocurrencies through custodial wallets in October.

Mastercard is likely to bring more services into the market that will remove the friction between crypto and fiat users. Now, next time we hear about a Mastercard partnership with a fintech company we’ll know what’s up.


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