- The adaptation of cryptocurrencies and the number of acceptance points has continued to grow.
- Especially debit cards which are connected with cryptocurrencies are becoming more and more popular.
It’s now more than a decade since “Bitcoin Pizza Day” when Laszlo Hanyecz made the first real-world purchase using Bitcoin. In what seems almost unbelievable at today’s prices, he spent 10,000 BTC on two pizzas from Papa Joes. Since then, Bitcoin has come a long way in terms of more than just price. There are now thousands of crypto-assets that have gained widespread recognition with 47 million blockchain wallet users in 2020.
However, cryptocurrencies haven’t gathered the kind of widespread adoption as a medium of exchange that many people anticipated during crypto-mania back in late 2017. Leading up to that time, many companies, including Microsoft, Overstock, and Shopify, started accepting Bitcoin and crypto as payment. It seemed only a matter of time before crypto became a mainstream form of payment.
Unfortunately, the crypto winter then hit, wiping billions off the value of the markets. This long dip took its toll on merchant faith in crypto as a medium of payment. Some bigger firms, including Stripe, Fiverr, and Dell, withdrew from accepting crypto as payment. Stripe cited slow confirmation times and high fees as the reason.
Who accepts crypto in 2020?
Now in 2020, there are still some ways to spend crypto, but they tend to be online. Some of the major companies, such as Overstock, have held in there. There are also opportunities to buy services such as VPN or domain names or pay for gaming-related fees on Xbox or Playstation using Bitcoin.
It is also possible to pay tuition fees at certain institutions using cryptocurrencies. The Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, close to Switzerland’s Crypto Valley, accepts tuition fee payments in BTC. It’s also possible to pay tuition fees in crypto at the University of Nicosia in crypto-friendly Cyprus.
But in general, it may be that waiting for millions of merchants to start accepting cryptocurrencies is the long way round. It involves a massive shift and requires merchants to accept the volatility inherent in crypto. Perhaps a faster route to cryptocurrency payments is to allow consumers to spend their crypto in a way that doesn’t expose merchants to the inherent volatility.
Making loyalty points spendable
Loyalty points offer some low-hanging fruit in terms of bringing spendability to cryptocurrencies. Furthermore, there are massive opportunities to make loyalty programs more attractive to consumers. One survey shows that we only tend to engage with half of the loyalty programs to which we sign up. What tends to happen is that customers accrue points but don’t spend them because they don’t accrue enough to buy any meaningful rewards. Because loyalty programs tend to be brand-specific, those points can’t be transferred elsewhere. So the loyalty program is effectively redundant – it doesn’t generate loyalty from consumers or offer a return on investment to the company operating it.
MiL.k Alliance allows brands to make their loyalty points transferrable, and spendable, in the form of crypto tokens. The project brings together different brands from the travel, leisure, and lifestyle sectors. By participating, they agree to make their loyalty points tradeable on the MiL.k platform. This means that customers will earn their points from each brand, and effectively they can spend those points across all participating brands. So someone could accumulate points for a flight, and then use those points to buy apparel in a store. Users can also buy more points at a discount using the network MiL.k token, or cash them in by converting them to the MiL.k token and selling them on an exchange.
MiL.k Alliance is based in Korea and has already onboarded several partners on its home turf. These include Yanolja, which is the biggest online travel agency in the country with around 8 million users. It’s also partnering with car-sharing platform Delivery Car, and airport transfer service Seoul Airport Limousine.
Crypto debit cards
Another way to spend your cryptos is by using one of the available crypto debit cards, which are really having a moment in 2020.
A crypto debit card works in the same way as other prepaid debit cards, by allowing you to top up your balance in the currency of your choice. You can use it to pay in the same way as you’d use a regular Visa card. In most cases, the card provider performs an automatic conversion of your currency to the payment currency. So if you top up with BTC, and you’re paying for goods in USD, your vendor will receive their payment from the card in USD. You can also make fiat ATM withdrawals from your account.
Currently, competition between the big card providers is hotting up, meaning that there are some impressive benefits to be had from crypto debit card providers. Both Wirex and Crypto.com offer Visa debit cards with cashback on all purchases, plus additional interest if you’re prepared to buy and stake their tokens.
The journey to true crypto spendability has been a slow one to date. However, 2020 looks as if it could be a turning point in allowing crypto users to spend their assets on a broader range of goods and services than ever before.