Mastercard partners with Binance to bring Bitcoin payments to high street stores

·2 min read
A customer uses a Bitcoin machine in Old Street underground station in London (Rick Findler/PA) (PA Archive)
A customer uses a Bitcoin machine in Old Street underground station in London (Rick Findler/PA) (PA Archive)

Shoppers may soon be able to buy a loaf of bread with Bitcoin after the boss of Mastercard announced a partnership with world’s biggest crypto exchange to introduce digital currency payments in high street stores.

The card company’s CEO said it was working with Binance to let people use their crypto holdings in over 90 million shops that accept Mastercard payments.

The roll-out will launch in Argentina with plans to expand from there.

Mastercard CEOMichael Miebach wrote in a LinkedIn post: “We can unlock the full potential of blockchain technology when we make it easier to access + easier to use.

“One way we do that is by bringing crypto to everyday purchases.”

Binance, which was founded by Canadian-Chinese billionaire Changpeng Zhao, was put under investigation by US authorities last year amid accusations of money laundering. The company is not permitted to undertake regulated activity in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority has said – which means it could be some time before its technology is adopted in British shops. However, buying and selling crypto assets like Bitcoin and Ether is not regulated by the FCA.

In the UK, Mastercard partners with payments platform Wirex to make Bitcoin transactions. Wirex is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Mastercard’s announcement comes after El Salvador became the first country in the world to recognise bitcoin as legal tender in September 2021, despite protests from citizens and calls from the IMF to stop accepting the cryptocurrency or risk missing out on access to loans from the institution.

The move means businesses in the country are obliged to accept bitcoin as a means of payment, something many small business owners have been unenthusiastic about due to the wild fluctuations in the value of the cryptocurrency.

Mastercard says it does not currently settle payments to merchants in cryptocurrencies. Instead, payments are converted to fiat currency to make the purchase.