Cryptocurrencies have faced a lot of hurdles over the years when it comes to mass adoption.
First among these has been that there simply aren’t enough places where those who are interested can put these assets to practical use. Though we hear now and then about companies accepting cryptocurrency — and there are sometimes some big names in these discussions, like Expedia or Shopify — the average shopping experience still doesn’t yield much in the way of crypto spending opportunities. Chances are your rotation of stores, either online or around town, doesn’t include many stores (if any) that welcome digital currency payments.
The other particularly large hurdle cryptocurrencies have faced is volatility. The crypto markets are famously in the habit of swinging wildly up and down, which gives would-be users doubts about putting meaningful amounts of wealth into the assets. After all, no one wants to buy a bitcoin for £7,000 only to find that it’s worth £5,000 a week later!
There are some signs of late that the volatility issue may be sorting itself out to a degree. The latest cryptocurrency price trends are indicative of a positive summer, and a longer period of (mostly) uninterrupted strength than we’re used to seeing. This doesn’t mean that cryptos no longer swing up and down, but it’s fairly clear that the summer of 2020 has brought about a more reliable baseline for most of the major assets. Whether or not this will last remains to be seen, but if it does, some will begin to feel more secure about using cryptocurrency.
The transaction availability issue, however, can’t sort itself out. It depends on companies making the decision to start accepting cryptocurrency. Or at least, that used to be the case. Now, it’s becoming clear that major payment companies like Visa and MasterCard are actually taking an interest in making it easier for people to spend cryptocurrencies, should they decide to do so.
For Visa, this appears to be part of a broadening strategy toward greater flexibility with payments. Just recently for example, Visa partnered with a leading digital wallet in order to “accelerate mobile payments in Europe.” Even before this move was made though, Visa had helped to introduce the very concept of a cryptocurrency debit card. Partnering with crypto giant Coinbase, the company has in fact produced cards that people can load with bitcoin and then spend just about anywhere. As transactions occur, the amount of bitcoin needed for the purchase is automatically exchanged for the matching sum in the merchant’s preferred currency. This means that people who want to spend cryptocurrency can now do so whether or not stores accept it.
For MasterCard, the move into crypto cards is still developing, but it’s clear the company has interest in making it easier for people to spend digital currency. Per a new agreement, London-based cryptocurrency platform Wirex will now be able to issue debit cards on the MasterCard network — meaning that there will be crypto cards that can be spent with any vendor that accepts MasterCard. This will work essentially the same way that the aforementioned Visa/Coinbase cards do.
It’s unclear just how much developments like these will sway people toward spending cryptocurrency in the short term. But there’s no doubt that we’re seeing some of the biggest payment companies in the world working to normalise the idea of loading cards with digital currency.