Taiwan Moves to Ban the use of Credit Cards to Acquire Cryptocurrency

Taiwan through its Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) has moved to ban the use of credit cards in purchasing cryptocurrencies.

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As per reports from local media, the FSC in a letter to the local banking association earlier in the month instructed credit card operators to sever ties with crypto firms.

 

According to the FSC, credit cards are payment tools for consumer goods and services and as such should not be used as payment options for financing speculative trade. In addition to that, credit cards cannot be used for futures and options trading, online gambling, and other related transactions.

 

The regulators also gave credit card companies three months to comply with the new directive. After the expiration of their period, the regulator’s audit team will monitor the level of compliance. After the blanket ban on crypto-related activities in China, Taiwan witnessed a boom in the sector with the bigger interest in NFTs. This had many in the sector touting it as the next crypto hub but this has since seamed down.

 

The FSC has also been very vocal about the nascent sector since after the Chinese ban in 2021. The regulator has made several press releases stressing the volatility of digital assets and the associated risks involved.

Although the crypto space in Taiwan is still not fully regulated. The East Asian country also introduced rules on anti-money laundering (AML) schemes in 2021. With the Terra-Luna collapse and the market downturn that has caused the loss of billions of funds in the industry, regulators around the world have tightened crypto rules.

Many countries have heavily regulated the sector with licensing mandates while others have outrightly banned crypto payments.

 

Taiwan works on it’s CBDC

In Spite of its stiff position regarding digital assets, Taiwan is working on its own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Preparation for the launch of the pilot is in top gear with the completion of the trial for its prototype.

Taiwan’s Apex bank has been working on cases of CBDC for two years and has a few hurdles to overcome before it becomes operational.

 

Upon launching of the digital currency, its citizens will be able to complete payment transactions without a credit card.

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Kucoin Global Users Can Now Purchase Crypto With Debit/Credit Cards

KuCoin exchange has launched the KuCoin Fiat Account, an avenue by which its customers around the world can fund their accounts using either a Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card.

According to the company, the new fiat account will permit the deposit of US Dollars, and customers will be able to purchase a wide range of digital currencies through the Fast Buy channel.

Granting easy access to purchase digital currencies like Bitcoin (BTC) remains a major focus amongst digital currency trading platforms worldwide. While many exchanges have a payment gateway through third-party financial institutions, users can fund their accounts to purchase their digital currency of choice; direct access through debit or credit cards is necessary to enhance user experience (UX).

“As the ‘People’s exchange’, KuCoin continues to improve the experience for all classes of crypto investors by introducing advanced products with less complexity and lower fees. The KuCoin Fiat Account will help get more intenders on board, contributing to the mass adoption of crypto ahead,” Johnny LYU, the Chief Executive Officer at KuCoin Global, said in an official statement.

KuCoin stated that the new funding method would primarily focus on the USD at inception while support for up to 50 coins will be provided shortly. 

Regulatory pressures are fast forcing many exchanges to pull out their fiat support services in key crypto hotspots around the world. Following a wave of crackdowns on the Binance exchange, the trading platform has had to suspend its fiat support for its users in Singapore, South Korea, and South Africa amongst others. 

The provision of USD fiat support globally showcases that the KuCoin Exchange is threading on a clear path in terms of regulatory standing. According to the trading platform, other fiat currencies to be integrated shortly include EUR, AUD, GBP, and RUB. 

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Visa Is Building A Payment Channel Network On Ethereum

Visa has been active in engaging with crypto, and this week is no exception. Reports have emerged that the payment facilitator and financial services firm has deployed it’s first smart contract on Ethereum Testnet.

The move isn’t the first to signal Visa’s increased acceptance to adopt crypto in their operations.

Visa’s Universal Payment Channel

The company is showing clear investment in becoming a leader of payment processing through central banks via crypto. Visa’s first smart contract deployment was a payment channel accepting both Ether and USDC. This is a conceptual protocol in development by the payment processor that will enable interoperability between central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), called a “Universal Payment Channel,” or UPC.

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The timing is appropriate given the global discussion around CBDCs. This week alone, Nigeria is looking to be the first country in Africa to launch a CBDC, the Bank of England has released it’s CBDC forum members, and New Zealand’s Central Bank has sought public feedback on CBDCs. Of course, the biggest story in the speculation is China’s recent bitcoin ban paired with rumors of the country’s exploration of a ‘digital yuan.’ Through it all, it’s safe to say that crypto and centralized currencies are at the forefront of most countries treasury departments lately.

Visa’s UPC is being built to support different CBDCs across a variety of blockchains. The company’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, described the initiative as a “longer-term future thinking concept around a way that Visa could potentially help become a bridge between one digital currency on one blockchain and another digital currency on another blockchain.”


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Ethereum testnet is host to Visa's first take at a Universal Payment Channel protocol. | Source: ETH-USD on TradingView.com

Related Reading | Crypto Analyst Says Ethereum Market Is A “Ticking Time Bomb”, Here’s Why

It’s All Part Of The Plan

This week’s development is far from the first move from Visa to dig their heels in crypto. Last month, the company purchased a CryptoPunk and released a positive perspective around NFTs. And at the midpoint of 2021, the company shared that over $1B had been spent on crypto-linked Visa cards on the year. Through it all, Visa has shown a clear favorite in Ethereum as well, and now is utilizing the chain once again with the Universal Payment Channel. The company’s clear engagement with Ethereum could prove fruitful to establishing further institution buy-in for the blockchain.

In the corresponding UPC research and insights report released by Visa, the company shows a clear desire to be a “network of blockchain networks” for global transactions. Digital asset tracker 21Shares has described Ethereum as “the most significant single innovation within the cryptoasset and blockchain industry since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009.” Should Visa’s UPC be built on the backbone of Ethereum? There’s good reason to be optimistic looking forward.

Related Reading | TA: Ethereum Just Reversed But $3,150 Presents A Major Challenge

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Fintech Firm Upgrade Launches 1.5% Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

Upgrade has announced their new bitcoin rewards card that offers unlimited 1.5% BTC back on every purchase paid.

Upgrade, a fintech company focused on providing credit for mainstream consumers, has announced its bitcoin rewards card launch. The new product is already available in the U.S. as a variation of the company’s standard card, offering users an unlimited 1.5% BTC rewards on every purchase paid back.

“Upgrade Card is already delivering over $3 billion in annualized credit to consumers,” said Renaud Laplanche, co-founder and CEO at Upgrade, in the announcement. “Starting today, anyone can apply for an Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card and enjoy the same affordable and responsible credit as with any Upgrade Card, plus the potential upside and fun of owning bitcoin.”

Like the regular Upgrade Card, the company’s bitcoin rewards card turns every balance into a fixed-rate installment plan. But by opting in for the new offering, customers can gain BTC as they pay down their balance.

Furthermore, the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card is also a Visa Signature card. It can be used anywhere Visa is accepted and includes the usual benefits such as trip and baggage insurance, purchase protection, and extended warranty coverage.

In the backend, institutional bitcoin solutions provider NYDIG will be supplying Upgrade with bitcoin trading and custody solutions and enabling users to hold and sell funds.

However, cardholders are only allowed to sell earned bitcoin for dollars after 90 days, counted upon receipt of the reward. Additionally, the BTC selling transaction is subject to a 1.5% transaction fee.

Conveniences like bitcoin rewards can go a long way while the economy remains dollar-denominated and we wait for hyperbitcoinization. It is mostly a win-win situation as people can spend ever-depreciating dollars and earn a percentage back in ever-appreciating bitcoin.


But Upgrade didn’t make it clear whether cardholders will be able to withdraw funds. If users are prevented from taking full ownership of their earned coins through self-custody, they would be trusting NYDIG with the security of their assets and being prevented from enjoying and enforcing Bitcoin’s principles.

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Mastercard Furthers Investment Into Crypto Card Integration

Mastercard is queuing up a full suite of crypto partners, according to an announcement this week, in efforts to streamline its card program for crypto wallets and exchanges. The company initiative seeks to provide crypto companies with a card option that gives crypto-holders the ability to spend their digital assets anywhere that Mastercard is accepted.

Swipin’ New Partnerships

The flurry of partnerships include:

  • Circle
  • Paxos
  • Evolve Bank & Trust
  • Metropolitan Commercial Bank
  • Uphold
  • BitPay
  • Apto Payments
  • i2c Inc.
  • Galileo Financial Technologies

Each partner looks to play a unique role in Mastercards revitalization to the firm’s already existing Crypto Card Program. Evolve Bank & Trust and Metropolitan Commercial Bank are set to likely be the card issuers while Uphold and BitPay provide supporting crypto wallet technology infrastructure. Meanwhile, i2c Inc., Apto Payments, and Galileo Financial Technologies will support processing and program management for Mastercard.

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Paxos and Circle, arguably two of the most recognizable names in the list, will support Mastercard with the conversion of crypto-to-fiat by way of stablecoins; the process will allow Mastercard to have stronger internal stability and ideally allow more banks and crypto partners to get involved down the line. For Circle, Mastercard is another strong partnership in the mix after the firm locked in Visa as a partner back in December 2020. Circle, of course, is a major payments infrastructure firm most known for being the principal operator for the USD Coin (USDC).


Mastercard is one of the largest financial services firms across the globe, and is now doubling down on crypto-integrated efforts.  | Source: NYSE: MA on TradingView.com

Related Reading | As Bitcoin Drops Below $30k, Stablecoins Surpass $100 Billion In Total Supply

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What It Means

The announcement comes less than a month after primary Mastercard competitor Visa shared that their customers had spent over $1B on crypto-linked cards just mid-way through the calendar year. Consumer demand is undoubtedly making waves when it comes to mainstream corporate adoption in the crypto-sphere.

“Today not all crypto companies have the foundational infrastructure to convert cryptocurrency to traditional fiat currency, and we’re making it easier” said the firm’s EVP of digital asset and blockchain products & partnerships Raj Dhamodharan in the release. “Mastercard expects to deliver on our promise of consumer choice to provide options to people around the world on how and when to pay.”

Elsewhere in the release, established partners showed excitement around a move that clearly signals increased crypto adoption; BitPay co-founder and CEO Stephen Pair noted that the partnership shows promise to “accelerate consumers’ use of crypto as a means of commerce.”

Could a new race in stablecoin-to-fiat adoption for major institutions be well underway?

Related Reading | This Is Why Grayscale Is Doubling Down On Its DeFi Bet With New Fund

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Visa Customers Have Spent Over $1B On Crypto-Linked Cards This Year

Crypto-linked card spending is on the rise. Visa shared this week that consumer spending with Visa-based crypto credit cards has exceeded $1B this year, through just the first six months of the year.

Increasing Adoption Through Accessibility

Visa also shared this week that it plans on partnering with 50 different cryptocurrency platforms to allow ease of access for consumers converting and spending digital currencies at millions of merchants across the globe. These crypto companies include the likes of Coinbase, Block, Crypto.com, and more.

The transaction business moves quickly; it was just earlier this year that the company said it would allow consumers to use stablecoin USDC to settle transactions.

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Visa is also pairing up with FTX for the company’s FinTech “FastTrack program”. As part of the program, they will help facilitate FTX paying 50% of its employees in USDC. The partnership and program is nothing new for the credit card firm, as partnerships with firms like Circle have come into the fold in the past year.

Related Reading | Why VISA Thinks Bitcoin Has Potential In Cross-Border Transactions

More From Visa’s Report

Visa has also built out a “Digital Currency Roadmap” that was initially published last year. This week’s report highlights on progress from that roadmap, calling out three major sticking points: “an expanding and evolving ecosystem, rewards reimagined, and stablecoins come to the fore”.

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The company looks to continue to leverage relationships with crypto-first firms to expand growth in the aforementioned ecosytem. They cite an infrastructure that they believe will help “establish Visa as the network of choice for crypto native companies.” Interest accounts, lending, and direct deposits are major focal points for Visa and it’s partners.

With regards to rewards, partnerships continue to help build new avenues for Visa to grow. Users with partner programs can spend fiat to earn crypto rewards in the same fashion that we see airline and hotel points associated with consumer spending. Partner programs are already in place with firms like BlockFi and Circle, and have contributed substantially to this calendar year’s $1B in crypto card spending. These programs allow crypto-advocates to earn tokens from their typical spending, while also potentially exposing those less familiar with the crypto landscape with rewards that educate and inform them on the broader crypto landscape.

Finally, the company shows clear excitement around what they see as stablecoins “starting to live up to the promise of “digital fiat”: the developer-friendly characteristics of cryptocurrency combined with the reliability of fiat-backed reserves.”

While many argue that adoption from major firms is healthy for broader crypto, some long-time advocates believe that company’s that have long been ingrained with traditional banking compromises crypto’s decentralized nature.


Visa has seen strong stock growth this year, and continues to show long-lasting investments in crypto.  | Source: NYSE: $V on TradingView.com

Related Reading | Swiss Bank Sygnum Launches Ethereum 2.0 Staking

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Wirex and Fireblocks Partner to Launch High-Interest Crypto Savings Accounts

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Gemini To Launch Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card

Today, cryptocurrency exchange Gemini announced its plans to launch Gemini Credit Card, which will reward users with bitcoin back for purchases, later this year.

The launch announcement follows Gemini’s acquisition of Blockrize, a fintech company that had already been working on such a product. Gemini has started a waitlist for early access to the credit card that will also include Blockrize’s more than 10,000 waitlist members.

“By combining Gemini’s simple, reliable and safe platform with Blockrize’s rewards program, card holders will be able to seamlessly earn up to 3 percent back in bitcoin, or other cryptos, on every purchase they make with the Gemini Credit Card,” according to a press release shared with Bitcoin Magazine.

The card will be available to U.S. residents in every state and Gemini expects it to be useable wherever “major cards are accepted.” Bitcoin rewards will be automatically deposited into a user’s Gemini account.

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“The Gemini Credit Card will make it easier for any consumer to invest in bitcoin and other cryptos without changing their existing behavior,” Tyler Winklevoss, CEO of Gemini, said in the release. “Rather than deciding how and when to buy crypto, customers can do so when making their everyday purchases.”

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