02.06.18 Your morning briefing

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The information you need to start your day, from PaymentsSource and around the Web:

Crypto-utopia: As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from last year's hurricane, it's drawing entrepreneurs who wish to build a community that runs entirely on cryptocurrency. The New York Times reports the group of mostly men who have made money investing in blockchain and cryptocurrencies are buying property near airports and docks and contend they are close to getting regulatory approval form local authorities to operate a cryptocurrency bank. Once that approval is secured, they will begin to operate the community, in which all money will be virtual and all contracts will be public. Their aim is to demonstrate the utility of cryptocurrencies and blockchain to power payments and other tasks.

What correction? While some "crypto-leaning" companies are scaling back or retooling because of the past month's slide in bitcoin value, not all execs are abandoning their plans. deVere Group CEO Nigel Green has launched Crypto, an Apple and Android app that allows users to store, transfer and exchange in bitcoin, ethereum and litecoin, with plans to add other cryptocurrencies in the coming weeks. In a release, Green acknowledges volatility, but adds cryptocurrencies are here to stay. "It is perhaps unsurprising that some have questioned the timing of the official launch of deVere Crypto," Green said in a release. "However, demand for cryptocurrencies is set to skyrocket in 2018 as more people get to know about them and use them, and as the interest of governments and businesses, and more regulation, demonstrate how the market is maturing and becoming ever-more mainstream."

Frequent blockchainers: Singapore businesses are already collaborating to use the blockchain to power international payments, and Singapore Airlines is bringing the concept to its marketing. The airline plans a blockchain-based wallet that will provide special offers for frequent flyers, who can use "miles" to make point of sale payments, reports ChannelNewsAsia. The product comes as blockchain-based payments start to gain ground as airports and airlines test new revenue models.

Interac reorganizes: Interac, Canada's national debit system, has been behind lots of payments technology projects, including P-to-P innovation. In an effort to more easily manage the flow of current and future technology projects, Interac and the Acxsys Corporation are formally joining together to form Interac Corp. The banks that back Interac formed Acxsys as a development and technology arm. "Our new corporate structure will allow us to better invest in our innovation pipeline and potencial," said Mark O’Connell, president and CEO of Interac Corp., in a release.

From the Web

Week ahead in tech: Top regulators to testify on digital currencies
The Hill | Mon Feb 5, 2018 - Senators in the coming week will hear from two top regulators about how to handle the booming market in digital coins. The Senate Banking Committee will hear Tuesday from Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Christopher Giancarlo. The two agencies are the primary regulators of cryptocurrencies in the U.S. The hearing comes as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies capture the public's attention. The currencies rocketed in value before taking a heavy dip in recent months. That volatility has attracted the scrutiny of regulators in the U.S. and other countries.

Virgin Money joins ban on buying Bitcoin on credit cards
BBC News | Mon Feb 5, 2018 - Virgin Money has joined Lloyds Banking Group in banning customers from buying Bitcoin and other digital currencies with their credit cards. Virgin Money's spokesperson said: "Following a review of our policies, I can confirm customers will no longer be able to use their Virgin Money credit card to purchase crypto-currencies." Like Lloyds, Virgin's ban only applies to its credit cards, not debit cards. The value of Bitcoin fell a further 10.86% to $7,297.65 on Monday. Like Lloyds, Virgin Money is concerned about customers running up large debts following a sharp fall in the value of digital currencies. Over the weekend, several of the biggest issuers of credit cards in the US also banned customers from using their cards to buy digital currency. The list of financial firms included Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan, Capital One and Discover.

As Bitcoin Bubble Loses Air, Frauds and Flaws Rise to Surface
The New York Times | Mon Feb 5, 2018 - You did not have to be a technophobe to worry that the virtual-currency boom of the past year papered over plenty of problems. The scale of those problems is starting to become clear as digital tokens have slid more than 50 percent in value from their peaks in early January, with steep drops on Monday pushing the value of Bitcoin specifically below $7,000. Hackers draining funds from online exchanges. Ponzi schemes. Government regulators unable to keep up with the rise of so-called cryptocurrencies. Signs of trouble have appeared at nearly every level of the industry, from the biggest exchanges to the news sites and chat rooms where the investment frenzy has been discussed.

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