Will cryptocurrency help Mastercard to grow?

It could have been the case that Mastercard ignored cryptocurrencies and the fintech revolution in payments, but the opposite is true. As one of the leading payment networks in the world, it has instead forged relationships with startups, and even added new products to its core range.

Now, as cryptocurrencies are showing strength, Mastercard is once again demonstrating its flexibility by supporting cryptocurrencies.

According to Trevor Jennewine, Mastercard’s data reveals “as many as 20% of consumers now own cryptocurrency in certain countries,” and merchants and financial instotutions are taking notice of this. Last year Mastercard expanded its cryptocurrency programme last year, making it easier for partners to issue crypto payment cards.

In the USA, Mastercard has teamed up with Bitpay – a payment processor that allows merchants to accept digital currencies like Bitcoin at checkout – and launched a prepaid crypto card in June 202o. This card allows consumers to make in-store and online purchases anywhere Mastercard is accepted, with funds loaded from their BitPay wallet. Consumers can load their card with BTC (Bitcoin), ETH (Ethereum) and other cryptocurrencies and BitPay converts those funds into fiat currencies, such as USD, EUR and GBP.

BitPay noticed a spike in transaction in July, one month after the launch, and has recently added support for Apple Pay so that customers can use an iPhone to make contactless payments.

In Europe, Mastercard has partnered with London-based fintech Wirex to launch a crypto debit card. This is a slightly different product to the BitPay card. The Wirex product allows consumers to spend up to 18 digital and traditional currencies in real time, meaning the funds are not converted until the moment a purchase is made. Furthermore, the Wirex card also allows consumers to earn 2% cash back (in cryptocurrency) on any in-store or online purchase.

Although the products may be slightly different, the one thing they have in common is this: at some point prior to completing a transaction, the cryptocurrency is converted to a fiat currency. This means that it’s fiat currency, not cryptocurrency, that’s flowing through the Mastercard network. But that is about to change.

Mastercard’s CEO Michael Miebach recently announced plans to add digital currencies directly to the company’s network. This means no more conversion to fiat currency, which should make it easier for consumers and merchants to adopt crypto payments.

This is an important move for crypto enthusiasts, because it removes one of the biggest arguments against cryptocurrency use, i.e. they are difficult to spend. Plus, for Mastercard, it adds another form of payments to its product range, and this could be a major growth driver for the network, especially if cryptocurrencies keep gaining traction.  It also shows forward thinking on the part of Mastercard.

Mastercard introduces AI-powered cybersecurity

Cybersecurity remains one of the hottest topics around. While browsing today’s media I noted one article said that cyber attacks rose by 250% during the pandemic. Apparently it was the perfect time for scammers and hackers to wield their weapons.

This may be one of the things that prompted Mastercard to launch Cyber Secure, “a first-of-its-kind, AI-powered suite of tools that allows banks to assess cyber risk across their ecosystem and prevent potential breaches.”

 

It all comes down to the fact that the digital economy is expanding rapidly and is more complex. Alongside this positive news, comes the less appealing revelation that the growth creates a vulnerability that some are delighted to take advantage of.  For example,it is estimated that one business will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 11 seconds by next year.

 

Ajay Bhalla, president, Cyber & Intelligence, Mastercard said:

“The world today faces a $5.2 trillion cyber breach problem. This is one of the biggest threats to consumer trust. At Mastercard, we aim to stay ahead of fraudsters and to continually evolve and enhance our protection of cyber environments for our bank and merchant customers. With Cyber Secure, we have a suite of AI-powered cyber capabilities that allows us to do just that, ensuring trust across every experience, for businesses and consumers.” 

 

Cyber Secure will enable banks “to continuously monitor and track their cyber posture,” writes Polly Harrison. It will allow banks to be more proactive in managing and preventing data compromise, as well as protecting the integrity of the payment ecosystem and consumer data. It should also, of course, prevent financial loss caused by attacks.

Mastercard has based its new product on the AI capapbilities of RickRecon, which it purchased in 2020. It uses advanced AI for risk assessment, which evaluates multiple public and proprietary data sources and checks it against 40 security and infrastructure criteria.

Harrison writes, “In 2019, Mastercard saved stakeholders $20bn of fraud through its AI-enabled cyber systems,” so it is to be hoped that Cyber Secure prevents even more theft in 2021 and beyond.