Update (Oct. 6 - 15h00): This article has been edited with updated figures from Visa.

The integration of conventional payment cards with cryptocurrency exchanges is playing a crucial role in driving the adoption of digital assets, according to a Visa executive.

Speaking to Cointelegraph reporter Ezra Reguerra during a panel at the Blockchain Economy Dubai Summit, Visa’s vice president, head of innovation and design, Akshay Chopra, highlighted the role that Visa cards have played as a bridge between fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies in recent years.

Cointelegraph’s Ezra Reguerra (left) on stage with Visa’s Chopra and Accenture’s CBDC and digital assets associate director Vladimir Nikolenko. Source: Cointelegraph

According to Chopra, using cryptocurrencies as a means of payment for everyday items like a cup of coffee at a cafe is still not ubiquitous. To tackle this challenge, Visa partnered with 75 of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges in 2021 to allow them to issue Visa cards.

This opened up a network of some 80 million Visa merchants that could, by extension, serve customers who prefer to use cryptocurrencies as a means of payment. Chopra tells Reguerra:

“Building that bridge alone in 2021 facilitated $1 billion of payment volume.”

Chopra highlighted this as one of several opportunities for conventional financial institutions to tap into the wider Web3 ecosystem.

Related: Visa taps into Solana to widen USDC payment capability

Payments settlement between financial institutions remains another avenue ripe for disruption and innovation through blockchain-based solutions. Chopra says existing traditional payment methods still have limitations, including not being fully functional 24 hours a day:

“Banks have trillions of dollars of transactions with each other at the end of the day, but there is a cut-off time where you simply cannot transact internationally. It’s a big pain point, and it’s also expensive and inefficient.“

Akshay highlights a pilot carried out with Circle using USD Coin (USDC), which enabled a number of cryptocurrency exchange partners to settle payments with USDC at the end of a given day:

“It’s cheaper than traditional methods, it happens 24/7, and it’s innovative. You send the USDC balance, and Visa custodies the funds on the back end of the Ethereum blockchain.”

Regulations remain a hurdle for mainstream financial institutions to truly tap into blockchain technology and cryptocurrency-based payments. However, Akshay believes that progressive regulatory environments in jurisdictions like the United Arab Emirates have benefited industry participants more than reactive regulations in less crypto-friendly jurisdictions.

“When they set up regulatory frameworks, they invited the industry to talk about what it needs, but also what the future might look like in a few years so that regulations are developed well ahead of time.“

Visa made headlines in April 2023 with the launch of a crypto product roadmap to drive the adoption of stablecoin and public blockchain payments by mainstream financial institutions. 

The company is also set to invest $100 million to explore innovative artificial intelligence-powered products and solutions focused on payments and commerce through Visa Ventures.

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