Visa Inc's Crypto Linked Card is Very Much about Competition than Philosophy

Consumers spent more than $1 billion of cryptocurrency globally on goods and services through crypto-linked cards in the first half of 2021. According to Visa, Inc. estimates, crypto-linked cards and other emerging payments, including biometrics and QR codes, "have the potential to disrupt the $18 trillion spent each year with checks and cash". Also, according to Visa's rival Mastercard, 93% of North American consumers plan to use cryptocurrency or other alternative payment media, such as biometrics, contactless, or QR code systems, in the next year. Visa also announced the FTX cryptocurrency platform, founded by billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, would be added to its Fintech Fast Track Program, focused in part on making cryptocurrency more practical for consumer and business spending.

Why do I love crypto payments?

True, although cryptos suffer from excessive volatility recently, they save us time. Whole lot of time. If your business requires two-three transactions a day, and you are allowed to remit and accept crypto payments, you would soon prefer cryptos because you wouldn't need to fill out such routine and, therefore, useless things as person's correct full name, address, linked to a particular method of payment, routing number etc. If you have two dozen transactions you would consider crypto transfers something akin to a tax refund – this is how much time it will save you at the end of the day! If you are concerned about Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin or any other coin's exchange rate to USD, there is always an option to use stablecoins like Tether (USDT).

Why do I love Visa?

Unlike the former, this may sound like a foolish question. But my first foreign trip outside Russia and the U.S. was dated back in 1993, when I visited Singapore with pockets filled with dollar notes, because I couldn't get a decent Visa card back then, when there were only local parodies available to humble people like myself. Needless to say that I was outraged by the fact that the airport taxi driver flatly refused to accept Jackson-pictured dollars and demanded the Yusof bin Ishak, the first president of Singapore, featuring ones. Later I found out that the airport exchange rate was inhuman, but the first English speaking person who instrumentally explained that to me was not even a hotel receptionist, but a nearby souvenir shop owner. Those times are gone, and now the only seemingly valid reason for not using a Visa card is a person's occasional unwillingness to leave financial footprints.

As I already mentioned, Visa made a major surprising move into the crypto industry last year, partnering with Goldman Sachs-backed blockchain company Circle in order to make its USD Coin (USDC) stablecoin compatible with certain credit cards. The company has since solidified its commitment to crypto payments, outlining its particular focus on stablecoin-based integrations.

Visa has successfully become a worldwide household brand, and its name is associated with reliability as well as those little loved incentives like bonuses, air miles and cashbacks. Visa is amongst the most durable and well-regarded brands in the world. In fact, Visa was ranked 6th in BrandZ's Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, and also ranked 45th in Interbrand's 2020 Best Global Brands. The company's old slogan, "It's everywhere you want to be," quite literally depicts what it is all about.

Visa reported last week that more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency was spent by consumers globally on merchandise and services through their crypto-linked cards in the first half of the year. Although the contactless payments giant did not release exact numbers, it estimated the ongoing crypto spending at multiples of that amount in the same periods last year and in 2019. The company noted that Visa is currently partnering with 50 major companies in the crypto industry as well as crypto card programs enabling users to convert and spend digital currency for goods and services offered by 70 million merchants worldwide. The company is currently partnered with Coinbase, Circle and BlockFi to allow its cards to access crypto wallets on those platforms. Visa said digital payments such as cryptocurrency have the potential to disrupt $18 trillion of annual consumer spending with cash and checks.

This year Mastercard is also reportedly planning to launch a card with crypto exchange Gemini, co-founded by billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The card will allow consumers to earn cryptocurrency as a reward.

Very important:

Visa emphasized that its digital currency support does not require global merchants to accept cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC) directly. As previously reported, Visa has been working with major crypto players like cryptocurrency exchange platform Crypto.com, FTX exchange, Coinbase, CoinZoom, and others to enable a crypto settlement system for fiat currency transactions.

Apparently to service this ambitious plan, Visa has previously expanded its headquartered crypto team with five key executives and nominations. Last month, the company brought in two new team members – Catherine Carle, with focus on crypto social impact and community partnerships (prior to that, she worked at Monitor Deloitte, a strategy consulting firm that was acquired by Deloitte in 2013) and Chike Ukaegbu, founder of New York-based tech accelerator Startup52, which mission was on backing firms that have strong diversity profiles. He will be the team's head of crypto strategy for emerging markets. Previously, Ukaegbu ran for president in Nigeria where he "spearheaded the leanest and first fully digital presidential campaign in Africa," according to his LinkedIn profile.
Pic. 1. Visa Knows it Must Be Always Proactive to Keep Up with its Rivals

Visa deserves at least our little respect for being consistent amidst changing winds and an increasing uncertainty in terms of countries' various approaches to mining operations and status of Bitcoin as a payment medium. Visa is far from playing a political card here. It doesn't simply want to lose competition to the growing number of online payment systems, including PayPal who's affinity to everything digital and decentralized seems to be insatiable. And Visa leadership deserves credit from long term portfolio investors as well: with a CAGR of around 12.5%, excluding Covid-distorted 2020, it sends a clear message it can not afford the luxury of being conservative eyeing PayPal's CAGR to the tune of 17.5%.
Vladimir Rojankovski, MBA/LIFA
VRM Research
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