Credit card giant Visa has granted its principal membership to a cryptocurrency company for the first time. Officially awarded to cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in December, but not revealed to the public until today, the membership cuts out a crucial, and expensive middleman from the process of issuing a debit card that lets users spend their own bitcoin, ether and XRP anywhere Visa is accepted.
Perhaps even more importantly though, the principal membership makes Coinbase the first cryptocurrency company with the power to issue debit cards for others, including other cryptocurrency companies and more traditional firms alike. Visa confirmed it granted Coinbase the principal membership, clarifying that the company itself won’t actually accept cryptocurrency when the project goes live later this year.
While Coinbase says it’s not planning on issuing cards to others anytime soon, the principal membership status marks a potentially important new revenue stream for the company, which Forbes estimates saw a 40% decline in earnings last year. By simplifying the process of spending cryptocurrency anywhere Visa is accepted, the membership also lays the foundation for a potential explosion of bitcoin, ether, XRP and more as a way to buy everyday items, regardless of whether the merchant itself accepts cryptocurrency.
“Your Bitcoin holdings have never been liquid because you have to sell them, you have to go through a process, withdraw the money, and then spend it. It’s never been an instant, “Oh, I’ll buy this cup of coffee with bitcoin,” says Zeeshan Feroz, CEO of Coinbase UK, which received the membership. “What the card is trying to change is the mindset that crypto is tucked away, takes two days to access, and can actually now be spent in real time.”
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