MasterCard Survey Reveals Users Interest In Purchasing Cryptocurrencies

Payment giant MasterCard has disclosed in an online survey that more people are considering using cryptocurrency for payments of goods and services.

40% Plan To Use Crypto Next Year – MasterCard

The company had polled 15,569 consumers across 18 countries, and 40% of this group plan to use crypto in the next year.

Millennials seem to be more interested in digital currencies.

67% said they were more open to using the technology than they were a year ago, 77% of this group want to learn more about them, while 75% are open to using it if only they understood it better.

The survey was conducted from February 26 to March 10, with consumers in four regions, including North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia-Pacific.

According to MasterCard, no less than 500 respondents in five of the 18 countries and at least 1,000 in the other 13 were contacted by the Harris Poll and Mastercard’s research team.

Apart from cryptocurrency, MasterCard also disclosed that people also voted their interest in biometrics, contactless, and QR codes as a means of payment.

According to the company, people are comfortable with emerging payment technologies and would support services that require them to use less physical cash.

With connections across more than 210 countries, MasterCard is undoubtedly a global technology company in the payments industry. It was first founded 55 years ago in 1966 as Interbank Card Association but was later changed to MasterCard in 1979.

MasterCard Pushing Crypto Frontier

MasterCard has been contributing to the crypto industry for a while now. The payment company was one of the first firms to support cryptocurrencies on its payment network.

Recently, it signed a partnership with crypto exchange Gemini to help launch its cryptocurrency rewards credit card. The credit card would offer crypto cashback to Gemini customers every time they shop with it.

The payment network also has an interest in aiding governments to achieve their CBDC goals. Last year, MasterCard launched a platform that allows central banks to analyze digital currencies. The platform was introduced to facilitate an environment where fintech, banks, and consumers can partner to issue, distribute, and exchange digital currencies.

Earlier in February, MasterCard collaborated with the Bahamas government, which provided the citizens with the option of loading the country’s CBDC onto a prepaid MasterCard.

Now, the company is looking into exploring smart contract technology on central bank digital currencies (CBDC).

MasterCard said it was examining how smart contracts can help central banks worldwide develop digital cash and push towards the realization of state-backed currencies. It is reportedly already in talks with China to explore wider cross-border usage of the digital yuan. Mastercard is awaiting final approval for licenses to start onshore card business.

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Author: Jimmy Aki

Poker Websites Buying Millions of Dollars Worth of BTC Per Day to Meet Crazy High Customer Demand

Bitcoin is helping people get hilariously rich as it continues to surge. According to Bloomberg, online gamblers have also taken to cashing out in BTC to get their winnings bigger and bigger.

Winning Power Network, which operates AmericasCardRoom.eu is one of the poker websites that reported buying millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin a day from the over-the-counter (OTC) trading desks in recent weeks to meet the demands of its players, which is dominated by Americans despite online poker being illegal in most states, said Chief Executive Phil Nagy. He said,

“Right now, 90-95% of our payouts are people asking for Bitcoin because it’s going up.”

“We are constantly having to go out and buy Bitcoin — lots. Lots. More than we’ve even had to before.”

More than 60% of its transaction volume, which is about $100 million a month, is currently in Bitcoin. Due to this crazy high demand, brokers are charging up to a 1.5% premium.

This makes sense given that Bitcoin beats the traditional asset by a wide margin, up 150% YTD reaching $18,600, a level last seen right around the peak of December 2017.

While before this rally, 60 of WPN’s customers were cashing out in Bitcoin, this has now shot over 90%.

Poker sites have been accepting Bitcoin since 2014. Just last year, a Guinness World Record for the largest crypto jackpot in online poker was set for $1 million.

In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the poker business exploded, growing a whopping 43%, as people were stuck home with business shutdowns as part of the lockdown measures.

WPN, whose long-term customers can make both the deposits and withdrawals in Bitcoin, doesn’t hold it but instead converts BTC into fiat right away. Nagy said,

“When Bitcoin drops or does something significant, inevitably, we have people send us $100,000 or $200,000 in Bitcoin because it’s the fastest way to liquidate it.”

“And we are kind of stuck with it.”

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Author: AnTy

US Treasury Dept And Federal Reserve Are ‘Studying’ Possible Launch Of A Digital Dollar

Speaking during the online Atlantic Council webinar, the U.S Deputy Treasury Secretary, Justin Muzinich, said his department, alongside the Federal Reserve, is looking at launching a central bank digital currency (CBDC) tied to the dollar in the future.

This announcement follows a trail of the Federal Reserve’s previous efforts to launch digital dollar wallets liable to the central bank. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester, revealed last month that legislation is being set up so each American would own a digital dollar account with the Feds.

Notwithstanding, the Boston Federal Reserve announced in August that they are testing over 30 blockchain projects to prepare a digital dollar. However, the research and development process for a CBDC is set to take years to complete – having begun in 2015 – the Boston Fed said.

Muzinich stated the learning curve in launching a digital dollar on a distributed ledger would produce “efficiency benefits and cost benefits.” He further targeted the slow U.S. efforts in introducing its own dollar:

“And I also think, more broadly, it’s important for the government to embrace innovation and not be scared by it.”

However, there are still a few factors to consider in launching a CBDC, including regulation of the CBDC to prevent money laundering activities while maintaining users’ digital privacy.

On regulation of a digital dollar, Muzinich states governments worldwide – especially Europe – should work to regulate cryptocurrencies globally. This arises from the different functions of cryptocurrencies, away from payments.

Questions of money laundering have taken center-stage in the adoption of cryptocurrencies. Still, other issues such as financial stability and monetary base of the cryptocurrency should also be put in check. To keep the consumers and users of the digital dollar safe and secure, Muzinich stated the existing laws governing fiat currencies should be extended to crypto.

“Treasury has made it clear that the obligation to comply with U.S. laws is the same, regardless of whether a transaction is denominated in traditional fiat currency or digital currency.”

“Existing laws apply to digital assets in no uncertain terms.”

He explains that even if cryptocurrencies comply with the KYC/AML/CFT rules, there’s still a danger of foreign parties disrupting the monetary base creating financial instability. This could arise if a stablecoin issuer shifts its reserve ratio from fully backed to partially backed, or changing the composition of assets in reserve.

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Author: Lujan Odera

Hackers Extorting Bitcoin from Stolen ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ Accounts

Hackers are targeting the accounts of the popular online game Call of Duty: Warzone and demanding bitcoin as a ransom payment from the victims to return the account, reported Motherboard.

Several victims are also complaining that the publisher behind the game, Activision is unresponsive to their requests for help. One victim told Motherboard,

“I turned it on one day, and my account was logged out, and I couldn’t sign in with my credentials, so I made a new account because I could not get in contact with Activision support, which I’m so mad about.”

Some of the hacks are done through previously compromised passwords from other websites, which is a common technique as finding breached data online is rather trivial. With people using the same password on multiple devices, it becomes easy for the hackers to break into their accounts.

The Warzone accounts that are advertised with rare weapon skins are on sale for hundreds of dollars.

Skins are awarded on fulfilling certain challenges, which at times can be time-consuming. They can also be purchased with an in-game currency, which can be bought with real money.

Activision actually recorded an increase of $596 million in in-game spending earlier this year. A large chunk of this comes from this free version of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Warzone.

In this game, players fight among 150 other players to be the last team standing. All the progress is saved to the Activision account of the player, and losing the account means they no longer have their character, ranking, and items.

In one case, the hacker demanded $400 from the victim to prevent their data, including bank information and posted a bitcoin address.

This bitcoin address has received a total of 1.2 BTC, worth about $12,000.

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Author: AnTy

Food Delivery Giant, Just Eat, Starts Accepting Bitcoin Payments

The online food order and delivery service, Just Eat is now accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment in France, in partnership with bitcoin payment provider Bitpay.

The official page of the company’s France website puts bitcoin as an added payment method besides cash, vouchers, PayPal, and credit cards.

Users can choose the bitcoin option to pay for their food when finalizing the order and which then gets redirected to the payment provider, Bitpay, to complete the process. Just Eat doesn’t charge any fees for the payments made in the digital asset.

In case of order cancellations, a user is refunded in Euros into a traditional bank account, and the rate applicable is the one applied at the time of the payment because Bitcoin has already been converted into Euros.

Home delivery services have become the way of the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, after the lockdown and social distancing forced people to go with these options because they couldn’t go out. Users have also switched to online modes of payment that have the use of cash declining.

Just Eat also recorded revenue of €1bn in the first half of 2020, thanks to this phenomenon. Consumers unable to dine out pushed the food delivery groups’ revenue increasing by 44% year-on-year.

The Netherlands-based platform recently also received the regulatory approvals for its acquisition of US food delivery venture Grubhub. With this merger, which was signed in June for $7.3 billion, will mark Just Eat’s expansion into the US market and is also expected to make it the world’s largest online food delivery company outside of China.

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Author: AnTy

New Law Bans Anonymous Wallet Deposits To Curb Illicit Activities in Russia; Must KYC

The Russian government has passed a ruling to ban anonymous deposits into online wallets to curb illicit use of these anonymous funds. The banning would supposedly affect almost 10 million people who use different online wallet services such as Yandex, WebMoney, PayPal, and Kiwi.

People use these online payment and wallet services anonymously, where they top-up their wallet with a certain amount and then proceed to use it for different purposes, including buying of cryptocurrencies.

The government hopes to curb financing of terrorism and the illegal drug trade, which has been a growing concern given almost 10 million people make use of these online payment portals to make anonymous deposits to these online wallets.

The Russian government has been cautious about legalizing crypto use in the country since they believe legalizing crypto as a legal tender can undermine their sovereignty on issuing cash. However, Antonina Levashenko, an economist by profession, believes the measures taken against anonymous crypto wallet deposits won’t affect the blockchain space and the progress made in the decentralized ecosystem. Levashenko explained,

“Will it affect cryptocurrencies? Currently, these changes have been implemented only about electronic money by the amendments to the law on the national payment system. But shortly, undoubtedly, yes. FATF standards are always applied to new technologies by analogy: if at first the standards were spelled out for classic bank accounts, then they were first extended to electronic wallets and prepaid cards, and then to virtual wallets for cryptocurrencies, ”

Experts Believe the Impact of Ban Would be Minimal

Maria Stankevich, an EXMO crypto exchange business development manager, believes the current ruling by the government would only impact those exchanges which haven’t been following the compliance set by the regulatory authorities. She also noted that the current ban would force bad actors to either shut their operations or make changes to incorporate the compliance guidelines set by the authorities. Stankevich explained,

“A small insider: one large payment system … at one time refused us after a long passage of all compliance procedures. Colleagues explained this by the fact that despite the strong anti-money laundering and anti-fraud procedures, our exchange can replenish an account through the named payment systems, which, in turn, can be replenished with cash. This means that no one can trace the origin of these funds, which contradicts all the policies of this payment giant. We were distraught then but hoped that someday such a law would be adopted.”

Just last week, President Putin has signed a law for Law on Digital Financial Assets, which prohibits the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a means of payment. The rules and guidelines related to the new Law on Digital Financial Assets would come into practice by January 1st, 2021.

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Author: James W

Binance-backed Travala Collabs With Agoda; Can Now Use Crypto Payments at 2.2M Properties

  • Binance-backed Travala.com announces a strategic partnership with an online travel platform, Agoda, in an aim to onboard an extra 600,000 hotels despite the heavy travel bans currently in place across the globe.
  • Travelers utilizing Travala will now have access to a vast catalog of some 2.2 Million listings in 90,124 destinations globally.

Online Travel Company, Travala.com will onboard over 600,000 extra hotels to its crypto enabled platform, the company announced on their official twitter after securing the partnership with Agoda, a leading online booking firm.

Speaking on the latest partnership with Agoda, Travala.com’s CEO, Juan Otero, showed enthusiasm to start working on the journey of bringing crypto to the traveling industry. Over the past few months, the global pandemic has caused a global stigma and travel restrictions but Juan believes the partnership will connect even more people across the globe. He spoke saying,

“This strategic partnership with Agoda puts Travala.com in a league of its own. We can safely say we are the world’s largest blockchain-based online travel agency by number of accommodation options available with over 2,200,000 options to book covering 90,124 destinations.”

The Binance backed travel company extends its users with the option to remit payments for their trips via some 30 cryptocurrencies such as Binance Coin (BNB), Bitcoin (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), EOS, Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Ripple (XRP), Tether (USDT), Tron (TRX), and AVA.

Notably, AVA is a native token by Travala drawing a lot of similarities to the airline miles and loyalty points incentive programs by legacy booking platforms. In the month of June 2020, almost 13% of all bookings on the Travala platform were paid for via the incentive program.

Damien Pfirsch, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Agoda, the Singapore-based travel site, shares a similar growth trajectory of the partnership with Juan. Speaking on it, Damien said the new platform, Travala, will guarantee users an improved travel experience regardless of the geographical position of their trip.

Agoda brings to Travala.com several benefits including competitive rates and the wide listings of hotels to customers. He further said,

“Agoda’s technological expertise and private cloud ensure that partners enjoy best-in-class uptime connection to our supply for a smoother customer booking journey.”

Founded in 2017, Travala has placed itself strategically, forging unique alliances with leading travel firms ensuring their users a smooth travel experience all while leveraging crypto. They recently announced similar cooperation with mega travel booking platform, Expedia as well as Booking.com.

The deal with Expedia brought 700,000 hotels to Travala.com’s platform, marking its first major partnership with traditional search sites. Despite being rivals in the travel industry, the two giants collaborated in a bid to boost their market shares.

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Author: Lujan Odera

ESPN to Launch Blockchain-based Gaming Platform With Bitcoin & Crypto Payments

E-Sports Programming Network (ESPN Global) has integrated online gaming with blockchain technology.

Currently, the platform — a “blockchain-based gaming revolution,” is under the pre-launch phase, which will allow users to win cash by winning battles and tournaments. It will further allow players to make “deposits and withdrawals using bitcoin and other variety of crypto-currencies.”

In the press statement, ESPN Global will be using crypto payment specialist “Cryptopay” to speed up the integration process.

Chris Parker, one of the directors of ESPN Global, noted that e-sports and online gaming is a “$140 billion global industry driven predominantly by digital micro-transaction economies,” as such can benefit immensely from the integrity and resilience of blockchain technology.

The UK-based mobile e-Sports platform is also integrating its recently launched blockchain-based game, Satoshi’s Treasure.

“With this $1 million puzzle game Satoshi’s Treasure, we are promising a bounty-laden bitcoin wallet whose keys will be divided into 1,000 fragments, spawning a global hunt for the prize pieces,” said Parker.

The company is also planning to launch an Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) for its own ERC-20 based token, Smart Gaming Token (SGT). The tokens will be airdropped to all registered players as a gift, which currently has a value of $0.001.

According to Parker, any player who loses money by participating in any of the games or tournaments, their losses will be covered by the corporation. Also, their crypto wallets will be credited with our SGT airdrops equivalent to their losses.

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Author: AnTy

Algorand To Record Chess Player Data And Ratings For FIDE Online Arena on Its Blockchain

The official online Body of Chess has selected Algorand’s blockchain platform to record FIDE Online Arena World Chess Player’s data, which would include ratings and titles of players updated in real-time. People would be able to view the details of the online chess tournaments with a click of a button.

FIDE was founded in 1942, and it acts as a governing body for the sport of Chess and also responsible for creating various international chess tournaments. Fide Online Arena is the server which is often used to host official online tournaments and world champions where participants can earn global ratings and titles.

Silvio Micali, the founder of Algorand, also played a game of Chess against grandmaster Sergey Karjakin as the inaugural game for the FIDE Online Arena, and was recorded on the Algorand’s blockchain and broadcasted via World Chess.

Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Сhess, commented on the decision to move to blockchain stating that it would bring more transparency in record keeping. He said:

“It’s exciting to continue bringing innovation to Chess. The advent of digital games on the internet made Chess more popular than before, and now we can’t wait to further explore blockchain innovation for digital Chess.”

How Algorand’s Blockchain Would be Utilized?

The Official online body of Chess aims to use Algornad’s blockchain to store game results and verify player’s ratings in a way that cannot be manipulated or altered. World Chess would also make use of the blockchain ledger to develop new reward systems and offer incentives to players in using the internal currency.

Blockchain-based ledger would help World Chess to explore the extents of blockchain technology, and they would also like to examine various aspects of the nascent technology.

Sean Ford, COO of Algorand, called their association with World Chess as a historical event and believe the blockchain technology would not only help World Chess to create a robust system for record-keeping but also help in mainstream adoption of the decentralized tech. He said:

“This historical moment brings the blockchain community one step closer to mainstream adoption, as a widely popular competitive game like chess leverages distributed ledger technology to serve as the official record for the trust of millions of online chess players and fans.”

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Author: Hank Klinger

Fireblocks Launches A Digital Asset Transfer Network to Facilitate Faster Transactions

  • Institutional-focused digital asset security firm, Fireblocks, announces an online directory for its clients to enhance the transfer of digital assets across accounts.
  • The official launch of the “Secure Asset Transfer Network” will set up an efficient and quick way for users to find and connect with their peers and transfer digital assets.

The digital asset transfer industry has faced a couple of challenges especially for institutional investors including lack of security of assets and speed of transfers. Fireblock’s ‘Secure Asset Transfer Network’ aims at improving its secure asset transfer environment making the process of transferring assets across wallets and exchanges more efficient and faster.

On the asset transfer environment (previous iteration), Fireblock’s counterparty clients were only able to send transactions after manually connecting their wallets or accounts. In contrast, the new asset transfer network allows users to directly search for the counterparty account which reduces the transaction time to just a “few seconds”.

According to the statement, the Secure Asset Transfer Network also increases the liquidity and operational efficiency opening the door for institutional investors to join the digital asset space. So far, Fireblocks has integrated over 55 institutions and 26 crypto exchanges including Binance, OKEx, Bithumb and HitBTC.

The Fidelity Investments-backed, Fireblocks, offers its institutional clients a secure platform with multiparty computation (MPC) and insurance of assets, both in storage and when in transit. The CEO of Fireblocks, said,

“With more institutional players joining the digital assets ecosystem, the Fireblocks Network serves as an essential layer to streamline the operations and eliminate the biggest risk in moving and settling digital value, and created the most adopted rails for executing blockchain transactions in a way that even non-technical users can use quickly and securely.”

The company received Ernst & Young’s (EY) accreditation by passing a SOC 2 Type II Certification audit that showed it follows the highest data security standards. Fireblock boasted at the end of last year that it was completing $2.5 billion in crypto transactions monthly reaching a total high of $30 billion in digital asset transfers in April.

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Author: Lujan Odera