Visa Inc has announced plans to enable cryptocurrency buying and spending on its global network.
The payments giant said this week it would support the purchase of Bitcoin on Visa credentials and would work with Bitcoin digital wallets to allow it to be translated into fiat currency and used at locations where Visa is accepted.
This means that Bitcoin could be accepted at the 70 million merchant companies worldwide which support Visa’s payment cards.
Visa chief executive officer Al Kelly told Fortune’s “Leadership Next” podcast of the company’s plans to maximise its relationship with the world’s oldest and largest cryptocurrency.
“I would like to divide crypto into two buckets – one is the more speculative asset or digital gold where we are focusing on enabling the purchase of Bitcoin on Visa credentials, and working towards the fiat currency,” he told listeners.
“The other category is digital currencies, where we see strong potential for those to become a new payment vehicle [or] an accelerant in some of the emerging markets as we look around the world.”
Mr Kelly referred specifically to the adoption of stablecoins – cyptocurrencies which attempt to peg their market value to some external reference such as the US dollar or commodity prices.
Visa is currently working with Circle Internet Financial – the team behind the Ethereum-based stablecoin USDC – to give Visa’s global merchant network access to the dollar-pegged currency.
In early 2020, Visa linked up with cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase to run its Coinbase Card, and secured a deal to power Crypto.com’s pre-paid debit card which is available in several countries.
In 2019, Visa made a $40 million investment in US-based digital asset platform Anchorage during the cryptocurrency custody service’s early funding rounds.
Visa’s announcement follows a February move by credit rival Mastercard to support selected cryptocurrency assets on its network this year.
The financial services corporation confirmed not all currencies would be suited to its network given strict compliance requirements.
“While stablecoins are more regulated and reliable than in the recent past, many of the hundreds of digital assets in circulation still need to tighten their compliance measures, so they won’t meet our requirements,” Mastercard said.
“We expect consumers and the ecosystem as a whole will start to rally around the crypto assets that offer reliability and security … it is those very same stablecoins that we expect to bring into our network.”
Bitcoin is unlikely to be included in the network, as Mastercard considers it “too volatile” to be a suitable payments tool.
Industry reports this week tagged Bitcoin as being more valuable than Visa and Mastercard, which have a combined market capitalisation of $1.12 trillion.
According to research data, the world’s most popular crypto’s current market cap exceeds $1.29 trillion – growing three times faster than Microsoft Corporation.
Bitcoin also achieved a higher valuation than the world’s three biggest banks combined, when it hit an all-time high of $79,422 per coin last week as its market cap approached roughly $1.48 trillion.