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Bit2Me and Mastercard launch debit card with crypto cashback

The new debit card builds on technology already in place in the existing Bit2Me crypto card, but this time, card holders are eligible for up to 9% crypto cashback.

The merger of Web2 and Web3 tools continues as crypto-backed debit cards become more mainstream. 

In an announcement on Feb. 10, Bit2Me, the largest Spanish cryptocurrency exchange, revealed its new cashback debit card in partnership with Mastercard.

The original Bit2Me card works for its users via the Mastercard network that hosts millions of businesses worldwide. This new update offers users up to 9% crypto cashback for all purchases made with the card online or in-store.

Leif Ferreira, the CEO and co-founder of Bit2Me, told Cointelegraph that the use of already known Web2 financial tools like debit and credit cards comes with the hope of greater adoption of this "revolutionary" technology

"[The] goal is that any user from anywhere in the world has easy access to the limitless world of Web3 financial services, at the touch of a button."

The card and wallet support eight cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Cardano (ADA), Ripple (XRP), Solana (SOL) and Polkadot (DOT), along with the stablecoin Tether (USDT).

The company reportedly plans to add additional currencies throughout the year. Bit2Me is currently available to users in 69 countries around the world. However, users in the European Economic Area (EEA) are only eligible to apply for the virtual version of the card.

Related: The state of crypto in Southern Europe: Malta leads the way

Bit2Me has had service expansion on its radar for some time, after its initial announcement in 2021 to offer services globally. Back in July, the exchange was quick to jump to help 100,000 blocked crypto investors onboard onto its platform after they wereshut out from the defunct local Spanish trading platform 2gether.

Meanwhile, Mastercard has also been active in offering new services and opportunities for users and clients in the Web3 space. It has chosen at least seven blockchain and crypto startups to be a part of its fintech accelerator program in the last year. 

The company also partnered with Polygon to launch a Web3 musician accelerator program, focusing on the intersection of the music industry and emerging technologies.

On Jan. 31, Mastercard announced a new effort with Binance to launch their second prepaid crypto card in Latin America.

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Credit cards can bridge Web2 to Web3, says music industry exec

As decentralized finance continues to become more mainstream, traditional financial tools can serve as a bridge from Web2 to Web3 for those who still remain skeptical.

Last year proved that the Web3 space is not just a phenomenon but rather the future of digital interactions. However, as pervasive as the space has become, many are still skeptical as to how it can and will be a part of their lives. 

Many developers are seeking ways to bridge the gap between these two iterations of the web. Cointelegraph spoke with Bruno Guez, the CEO of Revelator, to understand why he believes already existing Web2 financial tools like credit cards can actually be bridges to usher new users into Web3.

Revelator, which works in the music industry that provides labels and distributors the infrastructure to run their businesses, recently announced that it integrated Stripe to help fans seamlessly purchase digital collectibles with their credit cards. 

​​Guez said that making these new digital tools accessible via Web2 tools users are already familiar with, such as credit cards, creates a bridge between these two versions of the digital reality.

“The majority of the developed world uses credit cards for everyday purchases. If we want to usher new users onto Web3, we must provide these web2 users with a familiar and “safe” payment method.”

However, he touched on how using familiar Web2 financial tools helps lessen the hurdles plaguing the industry, such as a lack of education on decentralized money management. 

“If we make the onramp easier and make accessing Web3 assets easier, we can slowly educate them about the power of decentralization, and all that entails.”

He continued to say that this further education includes informing users about self-custody practices so that they can “fully embrace Web3, operate their digital wallets, and never lose access to their digital assets.”

The lack of knowledge has created barriers to self-custody, which have often made centralized exchanges popular due to ease of access and user experience. Though, as Guez pointed out, and as has recently been seen in cases like FTX, when the centralized exchanges go out of business, customer trust and confidence in the industry as a whole is damaged.

Related: ‘Wall of worry’ led to digital wallets, blockchain tech ignored: Cathie Wood

Revelator isn’t an anomaly in the Web3 space for utilizing credit cards to help onboard new users. Many other businesses are seeing how to continue pushing mass adoption by working with tools. At the beginning of 2022, Stripe announced partnerships with FTX, FTX US, Blockchain.com, Nifty Gateway and Just Mining to launch a crypto business suite.

In 2022 it also partnered with Twitter to offer USDC payments to content creators on the platform, along with integration on a Solana-based market maker to offer a fiat-to-crypto onramp.

Guez said that credit cards efficiently on-ramp users onto Web3, while smart wallets are already operating in the background. This enables a “clean way” to perform blockchain transactions without the users needing prior blockchain knowledge.

“In this way Web2 and Web3 tools work together; by abstracting the complexity away from the user experience.”

According to reports which surfaced on  Jan 26., Stripe is working with JP Morgan professionals to advise toward a potential public offering after its fruitful reemergence onto the crypto scene.

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Stablecoins and CBDCs might play ‘meaningful role’ in payments — Visa CEO

Visa began working on a blockchain interoperability project in Sept. 2021 to support CBDC and stablecoin adoption but few updates have been made since.

The chief executive of credit card giant Visa remains confident that blockchain-powered solutions can be integrated into its services and offerings to power the next generation of payments.

Speaking on a call at Visa’s annual stockholder meeting on Jan. 24, outgoing CEO Al Kelly — who will officially step down on Feb. 1 — briefly shared the firm’s plans for Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and private stablecoins.

According to a Jan. 24 report from San Francisco Business Times, Kelly said:

“It’s very early days, but we continue to believe that stablecoins and Central Bank Digital Currencies have the potential to play a meaningful role in the payments space, and we have a number of initiatives underway.”

“We’ve had an immaterial amount of investments in crypto funds and companies as we seek to invest in the payments ecosystem,” the outgoing CEO explained.

Kelly also confirmed that Visa’s balance sheet hasn’t been impacted by some of the “high-profile failures” that rocked the cryptocurrency space in 2022:

“We’ve had no credit losses related to these failures [...] In everything we do, please know that we’re extremely focused on maintaining the integrity of Visa’s payment system and the payment system in totality and of course, the reputation of our brand standing for trust.”

Over the years, Visa has worked on a number of crypto-related initiatives.

Its research team began working on a blockchain interoperability project in September 2021, named the Universal Payment Channel (UPC) initiative, the project was designed to establish a “network of networks” for CBDCs and private stablecoins to pass through various payment channels.

Visa hasn’t provided an update on the UPC in over 12 months, however.

More recently, the payment giant announced on Dec. 20, 2022, that it was chalking up a plan to allow automated bills to be paid out from a user’s Ethereum-powered wallet.

Visa has also rolled out several “zero fee” cryptocurrency debit cards of late including a now-terminated agreement with FTX and a partnership with Blockchain.com on Oct. 26, 2022, which is still in effect.

A sample Visa-FTX debit card before Visa ultimately terminated the partnership agreement. Source: Yahoo Finance.

While Visa’s 2022 annual report only included data up until Sept. 30 — about five weeks before FTX collapsed — more information may be revealed in Visa’s Q1 2023 earnings call on Jan. 26.

Related: Bitcoin Lightning Network vs Visa and Mastercard: How do they stack up?

Visa President Ryan McInerney will officially replace Al Kelly as CEO on Feb. 1, while Kelly will remain on board as executive chairman.

McInerney appears to be equally, if not more bullish on blockchain-powered payment solutions too.

In an interview with Fortune in November 2022, McInerney said Visa still has “$14 trillion of cash out there being spent by consumers that can be digitized” and that they’re continuing to explore where crypto payments may be best leveraged.

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Visa’s trademark applications suggest more involvement in crypto space

The company's trademark owner applied for its name to be used in software “to view, access, store, monitor, manage, trade, send, receive, transmit, and exchange” crypto and NFTs.

Major credit card company Visa may be planning to explore digital wallet services based on two recent trademark applications. 

According to records submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Oct. 22, the Visa International Service Association filed two applications for its character mark to be used in software “to view, access, store, monitor, manage, trade, send, receive, transmit, and exchange” crypto assets and nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. The filings also suggested the credit card company may be exploring a move into the metaverse, with its namesake used in “virtual environments in which users can interact for recreational, leisure or entertainment purposes.”

Some reports suggest that there are more than 1 billion Visa cards in circulation around the world. The company has previously partnered with crypto firms to offer credit and debit cards tied to crypto payments. The trademark filings followed those of Mastercard, which applied to the USPTO in April to use its logo in the metaverse and through NFTs.

Related: Western Union may be planning to expand its digital offerings far beyond remittances

The credit card company has announced gradual forays into the crypto space in recent years. In March 2021, Visa said it planned to launch a pilot program allowing its partners to use USD Coin (USDC) to settle transactions made in fiat. The company also spent $150,000 to acquire a cryptopunk in August 2021 as part of an effort for “first-hand understanding of the infrastructure requirements for a global brand to purchase, store, and leverage an NFT.”

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Japan’s International Payments System will test plastic cards for CBDC

Japan Credit Bureau will develop its CBDC infrastructure in collaboration with IDEMIA and Softspace.

Japan Credit Bureau (JCB), a Japanese analog to international payments systems like Visa or Mastercard, announced the start of its central bank digital currency (CBDC) infrastructure testing. The project will assumably prepare the payments platform for a national CBDC, which is currently being tested by the Bank of Japan (BoJ). 

The infrastructure project, announced by the company in local media, will come under the title JCBDC and aims at adjusting the JCB’s existing credit card infrastructure for CBDC payments. The France-based provider of facial recognition technology IDEMIA and Malaysian Softspace will collaborate with JCB in the platform’s development.

The platform will consist of three major directions — a touch payment solution, an issuance and provision of plastic cards for CBDC and a simulation of the working CBDC environment. JCB also plans to adjust the mobile payment tools and QR codes, but in the later stages of testing.

JCB plans to develop a payment solution by the end of 2022 and start the demonstration experiments at actual stores by the end of March 2023.

The BOJ shared a three-phase trial outline for its CBDC back in Oct. 2020. The second phase of the trials, which would test the technical aspects of the issuance of the digital yen, should start this year. According to the BoJ governor, the digital yen could launch by 2026, and the decision won’t be made by the central bank alone.

Related: Japan is losing its place as the world's gaming capital because of crypto hostility

There is still no certainty about the project launch or the possible scope of its implementation. In January, the former head of the BOJ’s financial settlement department advised against using the digital yen as a part of the country’s monetary policy.

JCB is not a newcomer to digital innovations — it started a pilot of a digital identity interoperability system based on blockchain technology in collaboration with Fujitsu Laboratories in 2020.

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Mastercard taps Paxos to launch crypto trading for banks

Mastercard will deploy its technology to integrate crypto trading into banks’ interfaces, while Paxos is set to provide its trading and custody services.

Mastercard officially announced on Oct. 17 a new program to enable financial institutions to bring crypto trading capabilities and services to their customers.

Called “Crypto Source,” the program is designed to allow users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies, complemented by Mastercard’s proprietary Crypto Secure solution for additional security and compliance.

The tool is launched in cooperation with Mastercard’s existing partner Paxos Trust Company and is reportedly expected to launch in Q4 2022. Paxos is known for providing similar services to global payment giant PayPal, which launched its first crypto services in late 2020.

Within the new partnership, Paxos will provide crypto asset trading and custody services on behalf of the banks, while Mastercard will deploy its technology to integrate crypto trading into banks’ interfaces.

Ajay Bhalla, president of Mastercard’s cyber and intelligence unit, pointed out the company’s growing crypto expertise and commitment to the market. He mentioned Mastercard’s recent crypto-related investments, including acquisitions of the crypto intelligence service CipherTrace in September and the digital identity platform Ekata in April last year.

Announcing the news, Mastercard referred to the 2022 Mastercard New Payments Index, reporting that 29% of respondents globally hold cryptocurrency as an investment. Another 65% of respondents reportedly indicated a preference for crypto services to be provided by their current trusted financial institution.

“What we are announcing today is a connected approach to services that will help bring users safely and securely into the crypto ecosystem,” Bhalla noted.

Paxos’ head of strategy Walter Hessert also highlighted the scale of Mastercard’s global network of financial institutions. According to the executive, the new tool will provide banks and creditors with the “most trusted way to offer safe, reliable crypto assets.”

Mastercard’s latest crypto initiative comes amid the total crypto market capitalization falling about 60% since the beginning of 2022. According to Jorn Lambert, Mastercard’s chief digital officer, it would be “shortsighted to think that a little bit of a crypto winter heralds the end of it.”

“As regulation comes in, there is going to be a higher degree of security available to the crypto platforms, and we’ll see a lot of the current issues getting resolved in the quarters in the years to come,” Lambert reportedly stated.

Related: Mastercard launches new crypto fraud protection tool

Mastercard has been actively working on various crypto and blockchain-related initiatives in recent years. In January 2022, Mastercard announced a collaboration with the Coinbase exchange to allow Coinbase NFT users to make purchases using Mastercard’s cards.

In October 2021, Mastercard partnered with the digital asset firm Bakkt to allow its United States-based customers to buy, sell and hold digital assets through custodial wallets.

Global payment giant Mastercard continues its efforts to promote cryptocurrency adoption by developing a new tool allowing banks to trade cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC).

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Binance and Mastercard will launch prepaid crypto cards in Argentina

"Payments is one of the first and most obvious use cases for crypto, yet adoption has a lot of room to grow,” said Maximiliano Hinz.

Major crypto exchange Binance has partnered with Mastercard to launch a prepaid card for the residents of Argentina.

In a Thursday announcement, Binance said the card will allow its clients in Argentina to use Bitcoin (BTC), BNB and other cryptocurrencies to make purchases as well as ATM withdrawals in fiat wherever Mastercard is accepted — roughly 90 million merchants globally and online. Argentine cardholders can also earn up to 8% back in cryptocurrency from certain purchases.

According to Binance, the introduction of the card — expected to be “widely available in the coming weeks” — was part of the company’s efforts to further the global adoption of crypto. Residents of Argentina will be the first in the region to have access to the cards, but the crypto exchange announced a similar initiative for Binance users in Ukraine in April and for the European Economic Area in 2020.

"Payments is one of the first and most obvious use cases for crypto, yet adoption has a lot of room to grow,” said Maximiliano Hinz, general director of Binance in Latin America. “By using the Binance Card, merchants continue to receive fiat and the users pay in cryptocurrency they choose.”

The card requires Argentines to have a valid national identity card or documento nacional de identidad. Similar requirements are already in place for credit cards issued by local crypto exchanges. In 2021, Lemon Card launched a card with Visa offering 2% back in BTC for Argentine users while Buenbit and Belo both partnered with Mastercard to release a prepaid card and a crypto rewards card, respectively.

Related: Argentina carries out crypto wallet seizures linked to tax delinquents

Despite the recent market downturn, reports suggest that many Argentines may still be turning to crypto. According to an Americas Market Intelligence report from April, researchers found that “crypto penetration” in Argentina had reached 12% — roughly double that of Peru and Mexico.

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