Visa open to facilitating the growing use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies

Visa Inc. has recently launched a digital laboratory where the firm is currently developing a blueprint for the future of payments with the ultimate goal of making transactions frictionless.

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Visa open to facilitating the growing use of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies

Visa Inc.'s senior vice-president of digital solutions Sam Shrauger, is moderating the newly launched digital laboratory where the firm is currently developing a blueprint for the future of payments with the ultimate goal of making transactions frictionless.

- Mr. Shrauger

Former Paypal and Yahoo executive Sam Shrauger, was hired in December 2012 by Visa Inc. and is now in charge of overseeing the strategy of bringing the firm's digital and mobile products to the market. With the booming of digital currencies, payment card providers should be worried about their new competitors who offer a faster, more secure and more cost-effective payment solutions. It isn't exactly the case of Visa, which admitted not wanting to compete with the technology but rather invest in facilitating online and mobile payments, according to Shrauger in an interview with the Australian Financial Review.

Visa's blueprint suggests several innovations that could consequently ease up our daily purchases. For example, the firm suggests that a car's onboard computer would facilitate payments at drive-thru restaurants. An other possibility could be a internet-connected fridge that would order and pay for grocery shopping.

"We are now seeing connected thermostats and cars and everything - our view is that a lot of those things will become points of transaction [...] Our job is to allow that innovation to occur in way that is safe and secure and with the same characteristics as cards allow in the physical world today"

Regarding security, the firm is making significant researches in tokenization through a system that would replace the 16-digit number on a credit card with a unique 16-digit transaction token. The token could only be used once and for a specific transaction; meaning it would be useless to hack the device as the token is only effective for the purpose it was created.

The cloud-based token system will be launched in the US this September.

Two weeks ago, the firm launched Visa Digital Solutions, "a comprehensive suite of offerings that facilitate secure payments across a broad range of Internet-connected devices and wearables", according to a press release issued on July 24. The company has recently replaced its V.me digital wallet with Visa Checkout, a digital payment service directly integrated in e-commerce websites.

While focusing on online and mobile payments, Visa said it was no longer interested in digital wallets. Visa CEO, Charles Scharf, admitted looking for a way to make payments frictionless as well as developing technologies that would enable easier and faster payments of its users. "Payment works best when it is a non-event, it works, it's fast and nothing goes wrong," said the executive, adding:

“Visa is not a currency, it's a network. We can process real or virtual currencies to the extent that it makes sense.”

- Charles Scharf, Visa's CEO

In fact, Visa proved us right when looking at the two Bitcoin debit cards launched recently operating on Visa's payment network.

In mid-July, Hong Kong based cryptocurrency exchange platform ANX, launched its Bitcoin debit card available to all ANX customers.

The ANX debit card allows you to Use your bitcoins to purchase items through conventional credit card payment system such as online retailers or physical retail stores. You can also use it to perform cash withdrawals via an extensive ATM network spanning over 200 countries.

San Francisco based Bitcoin startup Xapo announced its Bitcoin debit card earlier this year and confirmed in July its partnerships with both Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc. to use their payment networks.

But regarding Visa's strategy, it is clear that the firm does not consider Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as competitors and has chosen the wise tactic of focusing on its position as a payment intermediary. And eventually, take its share of the cake on the digital currency phenomenon.

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