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No margin: Lloyds Group is joining some American banks in banning bitcoin purchases with its credit cards. Lloyds Group, which operates Halifax, Bank of Scotland, MBNA and the flagship Lloyds, is the first U.K. group to block such purchases, worried that consumers will incur debt they can't pay because of bitcoin's extreme volatility, reports Engadget. U.S. banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup have made similar moves over the past few days amid signs of a bursting bubble. Bitcoin's value rose from $800 to nearly $20,000 in the past year, but has since sank to below $8,000.

IMAGE: Bloomberg News

Santander to use crypto payments tech: Ripple, which has built customer base over the past couple of years by supplying its distributed ledger technology (DLT) to companies that wish to cut costs from cross-border transactions, scored a win as Banco Santander took its DLT same-day international payments project out of pilot, reports Finextra. Ripple underpins the bank's service, which has been tested using Apple Pay for transactions between about $14 and $14,000 using Touch ID. The same-day service will be introduced in four countries.

Bitcoin locker: UPS has filed a patent application for a locker service that would support bitcoin transactions. The shipping company would deploy a network of lockers that parties would use to store an item for sale, allowing the buyer to pick it up. The lockers would be outfitted with myriad payment options, including cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, which has generally lagged as a payment option; Visa and Stripe recently announced they would not support bitcoin for transactions.

International crypto regs: U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee he will seek a dialogue with other countries about regulating virtual currencies. NHK reports Mnuchin is concerned about cryptocurrencies being used as part of money laundering and other financial crimes, which could be mitigated by international cooperation on regulation. This makes his call for regulation milder than the heavier hand of countries such as China. Mnuchin is not concerned about cryptocurrencies destabilizing financial markets.

EU blockchain: In a sign that cryptocurrency's underlying technology is maturing, The European Union has launched the Blockchain Observatory and Forum, which will promote blockchain uses cases and reinforce European engagement with the blockchain industry, covering payments, financial services, trading, health care, and other industries that have taken an interest in distributed ledgers.

From the Web

U.S. fintech Stripe picks Dublin for new engineering hub
Reuters | Mon Feb 5, 2018 - U.S. payments firm Stripe said on Monday it would place its first engineering center outside its home market in the Irish capital Dublin, attracted by the city’s growing technology workforce and global outlook. The company helps businesses, including food delivery service Deliveroo and ride-hailing firm Lyft Inc, to accept online payments and was valued at more than $9 billion in its latest funding round. Its co-founders are Irish and Dublin was already home to its European headquarters. CEO Patrick Collison and head of engineering David Singleton told Reuters the firm considered placing its first few dozen engineering jobs outside of the US in countries across Europe, but settled on Ireland because of its international approach and widening talent pool.

Free Mobile App to Help With Delinquent Tax Bill Payments
U.S. News & World Report | Sun Feb 4, 2018 - Wayne County residents can now use a free mobile app to pay delinquent tax bills. The county treasurer's office says the app accepts credit cards or checks and also will allow people to make payment plan installments. The app can be downloaded via smartphones. The county has been working with home owners and landlords to lower the number of foreclosures due to unpaid property taxes. Last year, it extended a special interest rate reduction program for taxpayers facing home foreclosures and urged homeowners to attend show-cause hearings to learn about options that could allow them to keep their houses. More than 14,000 tax-foreclosed properties in Wayne County were scheduled for auction in 2016. About 28,000 homes were foreclosed on in 2015.

PSA: No India hasn’t banned Bitcoin — but it’s still talking tough on crypto
TechCrunch | Sat Feb 3, 2018 - Reports of the death of Bitcoin in India have been greatly exaggerated. On Thursday a budget speech by finance minister Arun Jaitley generated a tsunami of ‘the Bitcoin party is over in India’ headlines, adding to downward pressures on the cryptocurrency. Safe to say, the truth of the matter is a lot more gray. Yes, Jaitley talked tough on crypto currencies. But no, there was no outright ban — not yet, anyway. The Indian government’s plans for crypto regulation remain unformulated (or at least unstated). It did set up a committee to look into crypto back in April. Which reported in Jaitley in August. But no regulations have been confirmed, leaving rumors to swirl.

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