In brief

  • Visa is looking to "enable the purchase of Bitcoin on Visa credentials," says CEO Al Kelly.
  • The company also sees potential for fiat-backed digital currencies as "a new payment vehicle".

Payments giant Visa is working on ways to support the purchase of Bitcoin using Visa credentials, the company’s chief executive officer Al Kelly said on Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast.

"We're trying to do two things; one is enable the purchase of Bitcoin on Visa credentials, and then secondly working with some Bitcoin wallets to allow the Bitcoin to be translated into a fiat currency," Kelly explained.

He added that enabling the instant conversion of the cryptocurrency into fiat would enable some 70 million merchants around the world to accept BTC as a payment method.


As well as facilitating Bitcoin purchases, Visa is also working with fiat-backed digital currencies, with Kelly noting that, "We see a strong potential for those to become a new payment vehicle," and an "accelerant" in emerging markets. He added that Visa is working with around 35 "players" in the digital currency world.

Visa's partnerships with platforms and wallet providers include BlockFi, Fold, and; the latest addition to the list is First Boulevard, which Visa recently selected as a partner for its new crypto API program.

According to Kelly, small businesses have been “one of the losers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. By adding support of Bitcoin the company hopes to help them overcome the negative consequences of year-long lockdowns and lost streams of revenue.

“It is time for real change where everybody is accepted on equal footing, with no questions asked," he said.


Crypto's transformative potential

This is not the first time the Visa CEO has addressed cryptocurrencies and their potential to transform the payments industry.

Last year, Kelly suggested that the financial services company “could see digital currencies running on the Visa network on a more regular basis.” This was followed by his speech during Visa’s fiscal Q1 2021 earnings call in January, where Kelly stressed that the firm is “uniquely positioned to help make cryptocurrencies more safe, useful and applicable for payments.”

Kelly’s January speech also addressed more specific details of the company’s strategic vision of cryptocurrencies.

In his view, people should differentiate Bitcoin from other variants of “digital gold”, as well as from stablecoins and fiat-backed central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). He also noted that Visa sees Bitcoin as the best cryptocurrency to use for partnerships, and to provide users with a means of converting crypto into fiat currencies.

Visa’s foray into cryptocurrencies comes at a time when its rival MasterCard is also looking into possibilities of supporting payments in "select cryptocurrencies." Bitcoin is unlikely to be included in that list, however, as the firm sees the largest cryptocurrency as being “too volatile” to be a suitable payments tool.

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