Blockchain This Week – Visa and PayPal Double Down on Bridging Crypto and Fiat Worlds

Image via Shutterstock
Also Available on Other Platforms

Visa to Settle Payments in Crypto

Payments giant, Visa, announced this week that it is experimenting on settling transactions in USDC stablecoin in addition to existing fiat-based settlements. It has teamed up with crypto platform for the pilot and aims to extend the facility to other partners later this year. As per Visa, the current process is inefficient and expensive. It said, today when a customer uses Visa card for purchases, the corresponding wallet will deposit an equivalent fiat amount in a bank account that gets wired to Visa for day-to-day settlements. With this new initiative, Visa will eliminate the need for crypto-to-fiat conversion and will use Ethereum Blockchain for settling the crypto transactions.

PayPal to Add Crypto as a Payment Method

Online payments processing behemoth PayPal is adding crypto as a payment option across its close to 29 million merchant partners ecosystem. At the time of checkout using PayPal, the customers can choose to pay with Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash, or Litecoin. The cryptocurrencies will be seamlessly converted to fiat equivalent within the PayPal wallet and given to the merchants during settlement.

Bitcoin Gets a Boost

After circling in lower US $50K levels for a while, Bitcoin price got a significant boost this week with the Visa and PayPal announcements. The price inched closer to US $60K earlier this week before settling at $59,889.65. At the time of writing, one Bitcoin was worth $59,309.84

Ether Follows

Bitcoin was not the only crypto that got a booster shot this week. The news of Visa and PayPal embracing crypto sent the price of the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value, Ether, also through the roof. In the last few hours, Ether breached the US $2K barrier and reached a new all-time high of $2,144.93. At the time of writing, it was cruising at $2,101.73.

But, this new high also had consequences. The price surge was accompanied by a 77% rise in the gas fees on the Ethereum network. The average cost of transacting on Ethereum rose from US $12.96 to $22.97.

Filecoin Surges Past Litecoin to Briefly Become Ninth Largest Crypto

Filecoin, the token associated with the decentralized file sharing network, surged over 165 percent in the last week, making it the ninth valuable digital currency briefly. It has soared past Chainlink and Litecoin to attain this feat. On Apr 1, it reached an all-time high of US $236.84

Bitcoin Mining Difficulty Reach an All-Time High

This week, the difficulty levels set to keep the number of blocks mined per unit time on the Bitcoin network under check reached unprecedented levels. It, however, had nothing to do with the renewed price spike. This 6 percent hike is attributed to tens of thousands of new-generation ASICs coming online. These powerful machines are the shipments of orders pre-booked months in advance in the ASIC supply chain.

NFTs to Combat Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Taylor Rapp, a player from the American Football team Los Angeles Rams, is launching six NFT collections celebrating his Asian heritage. He intends to raise money to help fight and raise awareness about the recent spike in anti-Asian hate in the US. A significant amount of the proceeds from the sale goes to the #StopAsianHate GoFundMe campaign. 

Akon Enters the NFT Market

The American rapper Akon, known for his liking for crypto, has now expanded his interest into the NFT space. He launched the AkoinNFT network aimed to “supercharge and empower artists.” The Akoin team that works on cryptocurrency AKN has teamed up with for this initiative. The NFT platform will be used to create, design, mint, and distribute NFTs for the artists.

Tennis Player Auctions Part of Her Arm as an NFT

This week, a Croatian tennis player Oleksandra Oliynykova showed how to get literal skin in the NFT game. She managed to sell exclusive lifetime ownership of a part of her right arm for over US $5,000 on the NFT marketplace OpenSea. Her pitch was that she would be a billboard of sorts and advertise the owner’s message in every tennis court and country she plays. 

NFT Marketplace to Become Carbon Negative

The NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway announced earlier this week that it intends to become carbon negative this year. It plans to achieve carbon negativity by buying carbon offsets and improving its technology stack. The founders, Duncan and Griffin Foster, said Nifty would purchase offsets equivalent to twice of its monthly CO2 footprint. Additionally, the developers plan to use EIP-2309 that enables creating multiple NFT tokens in a single transaction, thereby cutting down the Ethereum gas fees by 99 percent.

OpenSea Goes Layer 2 Way to Counter Steep Gas Fees

The NFT marketplace OpenSea intends to support NFT trading using decentralized protocol Immutable X. According to OpenSea, this move will provide real-time trade confirmation, added scalability, and keep the gas fees at zero.

Justin Sun Launches an Exclusive NFT Fund

Justin Sun, founder of Tron, announced a JUST NFT Fund for artworks. He intends to enable artists to register their masterpieces on the blockchain using this platform. But the fund will only accept art pieces with a price tag of at least $1 million.

Silvergate Bank Works With Fidelity to Support Bitcoin-backed Loans 

Fidelity has been accepting Bitcoin as collateral for fiat loans since December last year. Now it has partnered with Silvergate Bank to extend this service to the bank’s customers. Silvergate will issue cash loans against their customers’ Bitcoin holdings, and Fidelity will serve as the custodians of the collateralized crypto.

Latvian airline airBaltic Adds More Crypto Payment Options

airBaltic is often touted as the first airline to accept cryptocurrencies as payment options. Since 2014, it has been accepting Bitcoin. Furthermore, Bitcoin Cash and four USD pegged stablecoins are supported. This week, the airline announced that it is adding Dogecoin and Ether, thereby giving more payment methods to its passengers.

The UK and Crypto

Speaking at a City & Financial conference, the UK Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, asserted that the country would first focus on regulating stablecoins and not crypto. He posited that stablecoins could pose a threat to competition if any private firms dominate the field.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has created a separate guidance on the taxation of income from staking in proof-of-stake networks. The advisory resembles that on mining at the moment but is speculated to diverge in the future.

Furthermore, the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a new policy that requires crypto companies to submit financial crime reports. This move will now bring all crypto exchanges, custodian wallet providers, among others, into the umbrella of businesses that need to adhere to the AML rules.

Japan’s Crypto “Travel Rule”

Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FSA) plans to implement a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) travel rule for the crypto industry. As per the rule, the crypto companies are required to share the data related to crypto transactions between the senders and recipients. The financial agency intends to enforce the new regulation by April 2022.

SEC and Token Securities

After Ripple, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now chasing yet another Blockchain firm for reportedly trading unregistered securities. The regulatory agency filed a complaint in the New Hampshire district court against the peer-to-peer content distribution network LBRY. It is accusing LBRY of selling millions of dollars worth of unregistered securities to investors since 2016. SEC is proposing a permanent ban on token sales by LBRY.

US State Legalizes Blockchain Smart Contracts

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives of Iowa, US, passed a bill that legally recognizes transactions bound by digital contracts running on Blockchain. The proposed legislation, SF541, was approved by the state senate earlier in March. 

IRS to Gain Access to Circle’s US Customer Data

A federal court in the District of Massachusetts granted Internal Revenue Service (IRS) permission to issue a John Doe summons to the digital payments firm, Circle. IRS is seeking all information on US taxpayers who have traded over US $20,000 in crypto on Circle’s platforms between 2016 and 2020. 

ECCB Launches CBDC Pilot

This week, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) launched its CBDC trial, DCash. The pilot will cover four of the eight islands of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union. The central bank is focusing on three objectives – eliminate high transaction costs, improve service to its people, and change the slow process of dealing with cheques.

Canada Continues to Lead The Way With Bitcoin ETFs

Canada is proving to be a strong proponent and haven for crypto instruments. In the past, it has been very forthcoming in swiftly approving Bitcoin exchange traded funds (ETF.) This week, 3iQ Corp, the digital assets firm based out of Canada, announced that it has partnered with investment firm CoinShares to launch a new Bitcoin ETF. The 3iQ CoinShares ETF will trade under the ticker BTCQ and list on Toronto Stock Exchange shortly after obtaining regulatory approval.

Hong Kong and China Test Cross-Border CBDC Trade

China has reportedly completed its first trial of cross-border use of digital yuan with Hong Kong. Wang Xin, the director of the People’s Bank of China research bureau, stated that PBoC worked in collaboration with the Hong Kong Monetary Authorities for this pilot.

Fujifilm to Trial Blockchain Tech

Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings announced a Blockchain pilot for sharing trade documents. It will use TradeWaltz’s platform to securely record several sensitive and high value bills of lading and letters of credit. Fujifilm hopes to reduce the time taken to share the documents by 40 to 60 percent.

Coinbase to Go Public on April 14

The San Francisco-based crypto exchange, Coinbase, is on track to become the first crypto firm to go public in the US. This week, the company announced that its registration statement on Form S-1 related to direct listing of its common stock was declared effective by the regulatory body SEC on April 1. As a result, Coinbase expects that its Class A stock will begin trading on Nasdaq on April 14, 2021.

Oakland A’s Sell Their First Bitcoin-Purchased Ticket

Oakland Athletics, a US major league baseball (MLB) team, announced last month that it is allowing the fans to buy tickets with a Bitcoin to access private suites in its stadium. This week, as the MLB regular season commenced, it said that a New York-based crypto platform Voyager Digital Ltd. had bought a six-person suite at Oakland Coliseum for the entire season.

And Finally, a Beer for Sun

An iconic Australian beer from Victoria Bitter (VB) can now be earned for trading excess solar energy generated. VB has teamed up with Diamond Energy and Blockchain firm Power Ledger and launched its solar exchange program. The participants can track the transactions involving solar energy credits and beers earned on public Blockchain and trade the excess energy on an open marketplace.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s