Mastercard will enable more merchants to accept cryptocurrency

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Mastercard said it will enable more merchants to accept cryptocurrency by opening up its payment network to certain digital coins this year.

The credit-card giant became the latest major company to embrace cryptocurrency this week after Tesla announced it had purchased $1.5 billion in Bitcoin.

Mastercard called its shift, announced Wednesday, “a big change that will require a lot of work.” The New York-based company said it wanted to increase choices for its customers, who have shown increased interest in cryptocurrency amid Bitcoin’s recent price surge.

“Mastercard isn’t here to recommend you start using cryptocurrencies,” Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard’s executive vice president of digital asset and blockchain products and partnerships, said in a blog post. “But we are here to enable customers, merchants and businesses to move digital value — traditional or crypto — however they want.”

Mastercard’s move offered yet another signal that cryptocurrencies are moving into the financial mainstream despite skepticism from the likes of JP Morgan, which argued this week that Bitcoin’s volatility would prevent major companies from investing in it using funds from corporate coffers.

Digital payment firms PayPal and Square already allow Bitcoin on their platforms. And BNY Mellon, America’s oldest bank, announced Thursday that it would start providing banking services for cryptocurrencies and other digital assets.

“I don’t think JP Morgan could be any more wrong,” Brock Pierce, a cryptocurrency entrepreneur and chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation, told The Post, noting that major financial institutions have become willing to “attach their reputations” to crypto.

“Basically we’re beginning the path to ubiquitous crypto adoption throughout the world where every store you walk into may be willing to accept crypto as a payment option in the near future with these kinds of integrations occurring,” Pierce added.

Mastercard currently offers cards that allow customers to make transactions with cryptocurrency, but those payments are converted into regular currencies before they move through the company’s network.

Supporting crypto assets directly will enable many more merchants to accept such payments and cut out inefficiencies by taking away the need to convert payments between cryptocurrency and traditional currency, according to Dhamodharan.

Mastercard did not say which specific cryptocurrencies it will bring onto its network, but it said it expects to provide support for “crypto assets that offer reliability and security.”

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