Mastercard Survey Offers Tentative Encouragement for Crypto Adoption

The payments giant polled 15,569 consumers in 18 countries; 40% said they plan to use cryptocurrency in the next year.

May 4, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:50 p.m. UTC

Mastercard has some encouraging, if tentative, market research data for cryptocurrency adoption across the globe.

In an online survey of 15,569 people in 18 countries, 40% said they plan to use crypto in the next year, the payments giant said Tuesday.

Among millennials, interest is even higher: 67% said they were more open to using the technology than they were a year ago, 77% said they were interested in learning more about it and 75% said they would use crypto if they understood it better.

The Harris Poll and Mastercard’s research team conducted the survey from Feb. 26 to March 10, polling consumers in four regions: North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific. There were at least 500 respondents in five of the 18 countries and at least 1,000 in the other 13. Mastercard’s press release did not explain why Europe was not included in the survey (which also asked about biometric, contactless and QR code payments).

Neither did it directly mention longstanding impediments to mass adoption, such as the minute-to-minute volatility of exchange rates between crypto and fiat currencies; the disincentive to spend bitcoin, the largest and best-known crypto, when it is expected to rise in value; or U.S. tax law that requires Americans to report and pay taxes on even minuscule purchases made with crypto. 

Mastercard plans to give merchants the option to receive payments in cryptocurrency this year.

“Work is still required to ensure consumer choice, protection and ... regulatory compliance,” Mastercard said. Bitcoin was the only digital currency it mentioned by name.

The company's interest in the sector is more than academic. As CoinDesk was first to report in February, the company plans to give merchants the option to receive payments in cryptocurrency this year. More recently, the Gemini crypto exchange said its upcoming credit card will carry Mastercard’s interlocking-circles brand. Perhaps hedging its bets, the 55-year-old Mastercard is looking at ways to build applications on top of future central bank digital currencies

Rival card network Visa is in the game now as well; among other initiatives, it’s working with USDC, the U.S. dollar-backed Ethereum token created by startup Circle. PayPal, meanwhile, is letting customers buy, sell and spend crypto on its platform (but not to withdraw or deposit it) and making big acquisitions in the field.

Mastercard was an early investor in Digital Currency Group, the parent company of CoinDesk. 

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