Crypto's road to respectability is long but true

Register now

Cryptocurrency’s ongoing climb towards respectability continues - mostly unabated. The signs are everywhere. Look at the plethora of payment options now available for bitcoin holders.

Right now, a consumer can step into a local Starbucks, Whole Foods, Home Depot, Office Depot, Petco, Baskin-Robbins, or Lowe's and pay for his or her purchase with bitcoin.

Or can they download an app and start earning bitcoin rewards every time they make an Airbnb reservation. They could even purchase a tony NYC condo - with a price tag exceeding $15 million - and pay for the entire thing with bitcoin.
That’s what respectability looks like, but this is just the beginning. Bitpay, wirex, Bitstamp, Cryptopay, Uquid and TenX are only a few of the many credit and debit cards now in circulation that enable bitcoin and altcoin purchases.

And plastic tells only part of the story; as the world moves towards mobile payments, so too does crypto.

Samsung’s latest phone supports secure crypto wallets, meaning the phone can now house bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. Not to be outdone, Apple countered by introducing its own still-not-quite-defined “CryptoKit,” which offers users crypto-related options like hashing, key generation and encryption. Meanwhile, AT&T raised the stakes for all involved when it became the first mobile carrier to provide genuine cryptocurrency payment options.

Globally, the growth of crypto-payment options is even more intense. Bitcoin Suisse, a Swiss crypto broker, just announced a partnership with Worldline that will enable 65,000 Swiss retailers to begin accepting bitcoin. Turkey, meanwhile, is planning to introduce a digital currency in 2020 - and the EU (which includes 20+countries) is not far behind.

The Royal Bank of Canada is also establishing a cryptocurrency exchange for its users. And China - which famously shut down all crypto and blockchain-related projects in 2017 - recently did an about-face and proclaimed it was once again exploring cryptocurrency and blockchain projects.

Of course, none of this growth will do anything to reassure those holdouts who continue to insist cryptocurrencies are a scam - or worse. All these skeptics need to do is point to headlines reminding us top law enforcement officials continue to voice legitimate concerns about cryptocurrencies or remind us that bitcoin - despite its household-name status - is still the currency of choice for many cybercriminals.

The impact of these shadowy criminal activities isn’t helping the case for crypto going mainstream. Neither does the evasiveness of of some of the founders behind various crypto projects. Both of these factors contribute to unease we see on the part of regulators.

It’s evident every time they come together to wrestle with efforts to mainstream cryptocurrencies.

We saw it this summer when lawmakers convened to vet Facebook's proposed toe-dip into the crypto space, Libra. Members of the House Financial Services Committee mostly appeared angry and frustrated at the hearings - thanks in large part to Mark Zuckerberg’s insistence on providing scant details about his latest project.

We saw it again a few weeks later when the SEC (once again) rejected proposed plans to launch a bitcoin exchange-traded fund. The agency said its decision was based on the fact that backers of the proposed ETF failed to “meet standards to prevent fraud and market manipulation.”

And let’s not forget the always present, not-for-the-squeamish market volatility that is associated with nearly all of the 2,500+ crypto coins on the market. It does little to win over mainstream appeal.

Of course, sometimes volatility can be a good thing. Just ask any holder of bitcoin who saw a 15% price hike in October - on the news that China was once again crypto-curious - following months of sluggish performance. All of this is to say, it’s a long road to respectability. But cryptocurrencies will get there.

Bitcoin has been around 11 years and - despite setbacks and bad actors - it looks like it belongs on the list of respectability.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Cryptocurrencies Bitcoin Digital payments Retailers ISO and agent