While bitcoin was created to be a peer-to-peer payments tool, that never really caught on. Instead, the first cryptocurrency transformed into an investment, with many in the industry saying its transaction fees are too high and slow, and its price too volatile.
That’s starting to change as payments processors and merchants are beginning to see customers who want to pay with blockchain-based currencies growing from a fringe into a groundswell, as bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies move into the financial mainstream and a growing percentage of Americans jump in.
Last year, PYMNTS’ Cryptocurrency Payments Report found that 16% of Americans have already bought or received crypto, and that 29% planned to jump into the market. That includes 18%, or about 46 million, who plan to use it to pay for everything from groceries to travel.
A handful of early believers, such as BitPay, Block’s CashApp, and crypto exchange Coinbase’s Coinbase Commerce have offered merchants the ability to accept payments in bitcoin and a few other cryptocurrencies for years. This past year, the field got a lot bigger, with PayPal opening its 32 million-strong merchant network, and Visa and Mastercard jumping in with with both feet.
And the field is opening rapidly, with stablecoins waiting in the wings as regulators wrestle with new rules and the metaverse offering brands and merchants a new path to retail consumer sales that, by their very nature, have to be crypto-based.
There are now several ways that consumer can use crypto to make payments directly: Visa- and Mastercard-branded debit cards. While the number of companies — many of them crypto exchanges — offering these card accounts is growing, they are at best an indirect route to crypto payments. The vast majority simply take the crypto the client wants to spend, sell it on an exchange and pay the merchant in fiat fast enough for the transaction to be seamless at the point of sale.
Here’s a look at the top companies offering merchants the ability to accept crypto directly, and how they do it.
BitPay: Founded a decade ago, the early blockchain-based payments provider sees an “inflection point” coming as regulations are put in place and consumer interest grows, BitPay’s leaders recently told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. And it’s not just bitcoin anymore, with ether and various stablecoins like USD Coin accounting for a combined 28% of its users’ crypto purchases, and a handful of smaller coins driving the total to nearly one third.
On the business side, BitPay offers tools for payments, including hosted payments and checkout tools, as well as billing and bitcoin transfers, while consumers can access a debit card — allowing merchants to accept a variety of cryptocurrencies directly — and a digital wallet.
Block: The payments company formerly known as Square is 100% bitcoin and offers CashApp users a Visa debit card. But for merchants, its Seller product has a number of payments tools, while its Square Payroll handles salary payments.
Blockonomics: The Bitcoin-centric company is focused on eCommerce, offering invoicing and direct-to-wallet payments.
B2BinPAY: This long-time firm offers wallets, gateways, merchant integration and an exchange service for direct-to-fiat settlement. Hosted cryptocurrencies include ether, ripple’s XRP, bitcoin cash and Litecoin, among others.
Coinbase Commerce: The public exchange’s Coinbase Commerce arm has offered merchants a turnkey API for years, focusing on ease of use with tools including invoicing, hosted checkout, payment buttons and eCommerce options.
CoinPayments: Along with easy-to-use merchant tools, CoinPayments stands out for the breadth of its payments support: nearly 2,300 different cryptocurrencies are accepted. Tools include shopping cart plugins, payments buttons, APIs, point-of-sale tools and invoicing.
CoinsBank: A broad platform focused on being an all-in-one platform for blockchain services, CoinsBank’s merchant platform is focused on online commerce with flexible payouts, as well as integrating with its other services, which include hardware wallets, consumer debit cards and an exchange for advanced traders.
TripleA: A leader in Asia, TripleA’s payments gateway offers retail PoS, eCommerce, invoicing, international remittance support and settlement in crypto or fiat, among other services.
PayPal: Opening its 32-million-strong merchant network to crypto payments was a big step in bringing crypto payments to a broader consumer base who are new to — and uncertain about— cryptocurrencies.
payWALA: European payWALA supports mobile payments and online gateway tools, and settlement in crypto or local currencies.
MasterCard: Recently announcing support for settlement in crypto, as well as fiat and other tools such as compliance support, MasterCard is pushing hard into crypto payments. It’s worth noting that it also recently bought CipherTrace, one of the top blockchain intelligence firms experienced in tracking transactions across blockchains and back to the people behind them.
NowPayments: The website-focused payments gateway handles more than 50 cryptocurrencies and offers APIs, CMS plugins and invoicing support.
OpenNode: Using the highspeed Bitcoin Layer 2 Lightning Network, OpenNode offers instant settlement, APIs, eCommerce payments and hosted payments.
Stripe: Having pulled out of crypto in 2018, the payments processor said last fall that it is closing in on returning to the market.
Visa: Having announced plans to settle transactions in crypto almost a year ago, Visa is moving into crypto very broadly and aggressively, with offerings including a universal payments channel for currencies, cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and upcoming central bank digital currencies.