Visa’s Latest Moves into Digital Assets

July 12, 2021

Visa’s enthusiasm for digital assets shows no signs of slowing as they adopt USD Coin and bid in venture funds.

Back in April, Visa CEO Al Kelly discussed the payments giant's ambitions for integrating digital assets into their services, describing the firm as "extremely well-positioned" to do so. 

Visa is undertaking a multi-pronged strategy as it integrates services related to BTC, stablecoins, and—on a longer time-horizon—central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). It's an area Kelly has elaborated on in the past, including a podcast appearance earlier this year when he mentioned plans for Visa being at the intersection of new payment technologies. 

On the topic of CBDCs, Visa said that the firm is in conversation with central banks about their development, suggesting that the payments firm could play a role in that process too. 

How Visa came to accept USD Coin

In late March, Visa announced it would begin accepting payments in the digital asset USD Coin directly. Visa's press release came on the heels of Mastercard's recent announcement it would soon begin facilitating transactions in digital assets as well.

For several years, Visa has partnered on a digital assets-based rewards debit card with Crypto. But as Visa settled transactions each day on those cards, it required Crypto to convert transacted digital assets into fiat currencies, such as the U.S. dollar.

This process was costly, complex, and time-consuming. So in 2019, Visa proposed to allow settlements in a digital asset over a public blockchain through its partner Anchorage, the first federally chartered digital asset bank.

After two years of upgrading its infrastructure, Visa decided to pilot the new program using USD Coin. USD Coin is a stablecoin, which means that while it's powered by Ethereum, it pegs its market value to the U.S. dollar, giving it more price stability. 

Visa's plans for the future

Visa was built on the electronic enablement of moving money. Now that money itself is evolving, Visa is keen to ensure its systems and network evolve with it. Visa says it doesn't intend to stop at USD Coin but intends to add more stablecoins to its settlement platform. More specifically, the company plans to support CBDCs as they become increasingly available.

The payments giant isn’t showing any signs of slowing down either. They’ve just expanded their in-house digital assets team with five key hires and moves. Indeed, just recently digital assets services company BlockFi launched its first-ever crypto rewards credit card, in conjunction with Visa, to approved clients in the United States with a 2 per cent BTC rewards credit card. And finally, PayPal and Visa are chasing bets across the crypto industry to be partners in Blockchain Capital’s fifth venture fund: a $300 million investment opportunity announced in July.

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