Bitcoin buying made easy

There have been some grumbles in the crypto media recently about the difficulties people are encountering when trying to buy Bitcoin. This excellent article by Bailey Reutzel summarises his problems, which is surprising considering he is a seasoned cryptocurrency owner who has been buying it for years. He found that at a number of exchanges he was locked out because of his New York location. In the end he went to PayPal, and after he’d discovered that you can’t buy Bitcoin from a PayPal business account, he set up a personal account and successfully completed a transaction.

PayPal entered the crypto market recently, making it easier for the regular Joe to buy BTC, and it appears to have paid off. According to Martin Young at Cointelegraph, “$242 million worth of digital assets changed hands on the platform during 11th Jan.” PayPal’s recent record was $129 million on 6th January. And, since 1st January, its daily volume has increased by 950%.

This is a moment to reflect on, because as Nuggets News’ Alex Saunders tweeted, “retail has arrived.” That is important for achieving mass adoption.

There is a downside to using PayPal the critics say, because PayPal is like a ‘gated community’ that doesn’t “support withdrawal functionality.” Twitter user Toomas Zobel suggested that the surge in PayPal volume maybe have resulted from retail capitulation, and that there was no way to see if this was a buy or sell volume. He remarked that retail buyers were probably rushing to realise profits when BTC hit $40,000.

However we should be mindful that the PayPal and crypto relationship is just beginning, and that it has plans to extend cryptocurrency services to its 26 million merchants in the coming months. Undoubtedly this will fuel further demand for cryptocurrency and for PayPal’s services. Above all, for the inexperienced crypto buyer, it is a far easier proposition to set up a PayPal account and buy crypto there than venture into the exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase. When you make buying crypto easier for those who have never invested in stocks, you open up the market to the mainstream: something that crypto has been waiting to happen for years. Let’s see if 2021 advances the buying and use of crypto even further.

Why this bull run is not a repeat of 2017

Do you remember the last months of 2017 in the cryptocurrency market? It was everywhere. Even the MSM started talking about it, although its journalists tended to get it all wrong. The ‘haters’ compared it to the Tulip Fever of the 1600s, and when Bitcoin crashed after reaching an ATH of $20,000, perhaps they felt vindicated.

It has taken three years for Bitcoin and the altcoins to retake their 2017 positions, and who would have guessed that it would happen at the same time as the world was mostly staying at home due to a rampaging virus. But that is what has happened, and in the last few days we have seen Bitcoin break through the $40,000 barrier to become ‘virtual gold’.

The question most cryptocurrency owners must be asking themselves is this: is this bull run the same as in 2017? Jeff Wilser has taken a look at it, starting by saying, “for some reason this bull run feels different – not as mainstream, not as talked about, not as Paris Hilton-y.” Dare I suggest this is because people are more hooked on Covid numbers right now?

As Wilser says, there are ways to measure a bull run by looking at the frequency of Google searches for ‘Bitcoin’, and expert market analyses. However, what he has done is take a qualitative approach, to see how it ‘feels’, particularly to those he calls the “OG Bitcoin HODLers.”

One example is Erik Finman, the ‘Teenage Bitcoin Millionaire’, who bought 100 Bitcoin in 2011 with money his grandmother had given him. He dropped out of school at 15 and set up a crypto payments company, Metal Pay. Oh yeah, he also launched a satellite with Taylor Swift. He has a theory about why this new cycle is going relatively unnoticed: “The cultural space that was once occupied by crypto is now gobbled up by politics (Trump) and the coronavirus pandemic.” What did I say earlier?

“[Donald] Trump gets more clicks than crypto,” says Finman. Exactly! He thinks the Biden presidency may change that. Not because he dislikes Biden, but because he believes Bitcoin may be more interesting. And, if Covid-19 becomes about as interesting as the common cold that too will make space for crypto. It’s worth noting that during the shocking scenes of rioting at the Capitol on 6th January, Bitcoin surged by 10%.

Erik Voorhees, the CEO of ShapeShift, takes another view on it. He says: “You see the bull and the bust cycles that repeat several times over the last decade, and you see that each time bitcoin “crashes” the new level is higher than the prior cycle.” So, why the quiet now? Because, “We’re not in the real bubble yet,” Voorhees claims. It needs to get more exciting before the media starts shouting.

Others, such as Jill Carlson of Slow Ventures, says that with 20% of US dollars printed in 2020, Bitcoin has become a hedge against inflation. That doesn’t have quite the same ring for retail buyers as ‘When Lambo!’

There’s less hype this time round, but surely that is a sign that the market is maturing, and those of us who have owned crypto for some time are less anxious about the inherent volatility, while still quietly excited to see where this bull run goes.

Crypto market surges as Capitol burns

Yesterday, 6th January, was a jaw-dropping day for a couple of reasons. American politics reached a new low, as Trump incited his supporters to violence, resulting in a full-scale mob assault on the Capitol building itself, shocking the rest of the world as we looked on.

But, if that was the downside of yesterday, there was also a remarkable upside: the entire cryptocurrency market cap broke through $1 trillion, as Bitcoin and Ethereum continued their upward trajectory. The saying, ‘Maybe the moon’ is not looking so far-fetched right now?

As I write, Bitcoin has tumbled over the $37,000 mark: a remarkable recovery seeing as it was at around $31,000 on Monday. As Cointelegraph reports, “Measured by market cap, the crypto asset class has virtually doubled over the past month,” and BTC and ETH have seen new ATHs. ETH in particular is looking interesting, as it cleared $1,100 for the first time in three years, and now alongside BTC, the two account for two-thirds of the market.

Of course, they are not the only cryptocurrencies seeing exceptional gains, as “dozens, if not hundreds, of cryptocurrencies, report double-digit percentage returns this past week.” However, we must acknowledge that Bitcoin retains its market dominance, and is unlikely to be surpassed in value soon, even though altcoins may make bigger percentage gains.

To reach a $1 trillion market cap is remarkable, and it came only a matter of days after the leading crypto’s passed the highs of the 2017 bull run. Back then, the combined market cap hit roughly $830 billion, according to CoinMarketCap, and we thought that was huge at the time.

It is worth keeping an eye on the smaller altcoins though, if you’re thinking of investing. As Sam Bourgi at Cointelegraph says: “Bitcoin’s bull cycles pave the way for a subsequent altcoin rally, which is often larger than the initial BTC mark-up. Dubbed ‘altseason’ by the crypto community, the parabolic rise in altcoins can happen quickly, leaving investors with little time to prepare. “

Naturally, the current sentiment for cryptocurrency in 2021 is very bullish among crypto analysts and supporters, and those of us who hold crypto will no doubt hope their views are what come to pass. Crypto has often taken us into a beautiful dream, but as those of us who have been involved with it for years know only too well, it’s an edifice that can collapse with the same shocking speed, as a so-called peaceful protestors turn into an angry mob.

Visa goes for USDC with Circle

Visa, the credit card giant, has joined with Circle to connect 60 million merchants to the US Dollar Coin (USDC), a coin on the Ethereum blockchain. This is yet another sign that cryptocurrencies are integrating even further with mainstream payment currencies.

Although Visa won’t have custody itself of the USDC, it is going to work with Circle to select Visa credit card issuers and integrate the USDC software with their platforms, so that it can be used for payments. What this means is that businesses will soon enough be able to make international payments in USDC to other businesses supported by Visa. The funds will then be converted into national currencies when they are spent anywhere that accepts Visa.

Circle is a part of Visa’s Fast Track program, and when it completes the course next year, that is when this new USDC program will begin, with the issuance of a new credit card that allows users to spend USDC. Visa’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, said, “This will be the first corporate card that will allow businesses to be able to spend a balance of USDC. And so we think that this will significantly increase the utility that USDC can have for Circle’s business clients.” 

The partnership between Visa and Circle, helped by the $40 million investment Visa made in another firm developing a platform for holding similar assets issued on a blockchain, “is the latest evidence that the credit card giant sees the technology first popularized by bitcoin as a crucial part of the future of money,” Michael de Castillo writes at Forbes.

Sheffield said, “Blockchain networks and stablecoins, like USDC, are just additional networks. So we think that there’s a significant value that Visa can provide to our clients, enabling them to access them and enabling them to spend at our merchants.”

Currently, according to Visa’s data, “$120 trillion in payments annually are made using checks and instant wire transfers, costing as much as $50 each.” By contrast, since USDC settles on the ethereum blockchain, transactions can close in a little a[s] 20 seconds and, importantly, can be done for nearly free.

Visa has been making strong moves in the cryptocurrency sphere this year. In February 2020. Coinbase became the first company granted principal membership status by Visa. This means that Coinbase, one of the biggest crypto exchanges globally, can in turn issue cards to others.

Circle has done some rethinks of its own in regard to cryptocurrency. In 2019 it had a fire sale of its assets including Poloniex, Circle Invest and Circle Pay. It also rebranded its home page with a focus exclusively on stablecoins and central bank digital currencies. The attraction of the USDC is that it is built on the Ethereum block chain and only tiny amounts of the cryptocurrency ETH are used as “gas” to pay for the transactions.

Jeremy Allaire, the CEO of Circle Internet Finance, says of the new partnership and its probable outcome: “Imagine a capital marketplace that is for anyone who needs capital, or anyone who needs to offer capital that has the same efficiency that Amazon has for e-commerce, the same efficiency that YouTube has for content, effectively, capital markets with the efficiency of the internet, which is essentially zero.” He added, “And that will ultimately return trillions of dollars in value back to the economy, it will reduce costs for every business in the world, it will accelerate the way in which individuals can participate in commercial activity and commerce activity, in conducting their labor and interacting with businesses around the world.”