There has been a string of announcements in which the leading payment processing  businesses worldwide are enabling their customers to use cryptocurrencies. In doing so, and  as these firms alter their back-office processes and procedures, are they potentially  preparing themselves to have the ability to process and handle Central Bank Digital  Currencies (CBDC)? 

Bitpay, the largest provider of crypto payments globally, has teamed up with Apple Pay  whereby enabling its debit card Mastercard clients to use Apple Pay. The cryptos that BitPay will initially allow its users to hold include Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, BUSD, Ether, PAX, USDC and GUSD. In addition to Apple, Samsung Pay has also announced an agreement with BitPay and  confirmed that the cost to process transactions will be 1%, whereas some cards that use  cash charge up to 3%. Even Google Pay has joined in on signing up Bitpay so its customers,  too, will be able to buy and store crypto as well as make online payments. All three of these  firms will use BitPay’s app so they can convert fiat currencies into crypto currencies and vis  versa. Given Apple, Google and Samsung now offer their clients the opportunity to spend  crypto is further evidence of how easy it is to use the likes of Bitcoin and Ethereum, which have been subject to criticism in the past. Indeed, Visa has 32 cards which offer the ability to  use crypto on a Visa-powered debit card at any of the 40 million merchants worldwide that  accept Visa. In a statement from Visa at the beginning of February, Jack Forestell, its chief  product officer announced: “We set out to make Visa the bridge between digital currencies  and our global network of 70 million merchants and today we are the leading network for  crypto wallets with 35 crypto platforms choosing to issue with Visa. With this pilot program,  we want to extend the value of Visa to our neobank and financial institution clients by  providing an easy bridge to crypto assets and blockchain networks.”  

Mastercard has seven firms which allow crypto/fiat services and, not wishing to be left  behind (according to Reuters), has said it will support a select number of cryptos - thus  enabling its merchants to accept certain digital assets as a form of payment. It would appear  that the race is on since PayPal as well has recently announced it will be offering UK clients  the ability to access cryptos. PayPal, with 26 million merchants globally, has informed investors of its plans to create a division to be focused on digital currencies. Its CEO, Dan  Schulman, has been quoted as saying:” There’s no question that digital currencies and  underlying technology have the potential to drive the next wave in financial services and I  think those technologies can help solve some of the fundamental problems of the system. 


How people rate the trustworthiness of digital currencies 

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit 

Facebook’s ‘Diem’ digital currency is still waiting for approval from the Swiss regulatory  authorities and arguably it was Facebook’s proposal that initially stirred central bankers into  taking digital currencies seriously. However, given research from The Economist Intelligence  Unit, which has reported that 65% of the people it surveyed would rate a digital currency from a large international technology firm as balanced and trustworthy, one cannot help  wondering how long it will be before we do actually see a digital currency being issued by a  global brand. 

With organisations such as Mastercard, Visa and PayPal throwing their weight behind the  use of cryptos, this will no doubt help to expand the use of digital currencies as a method of  payment. The increased use of digital currencies as also likely to increase the use of the  apps provided by Apple, Google, PayPal and Samsung, further reducing the use of cheques  (still widely used in the US) and cash. In doing so, are these payment providers building the  infrastructure to facilitate the introduction and adoption of CBDCs – with, or without, realising it?