Visa Inc, the world’s largest payment processor, launched a global crypto advisory service for its banking clients and merchants on Wednesday, as the adoption of digital currencies gains steam.
The move is aimed at financial institutions eager to attract or retain customers with crypto offerings, retailers looking to delve into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) or central banks exploring digital currencies, the company said.
Visa’s services include educating institutions about cryptocurrencies, allowing clients to use the payment processor’s network for digital offerings, and helping manage back-end operations.
A new global study by Visa showed nearly 40% of crypto owners surveyed said they would likely or very likely switch their primary bank to one that offers crypto-related products in the next 12 months.
Visa is set to launch services this year that will allow buying, selling and custody of digital currency through its banking partners.
There are also a number of Visa card programmes that let users earn bitcoin on purchases and the network will also allow its client the use of USD Coin, a stable coin cryptocurrency whose value is pegged directly to the US dollar, to settle transactions on its payment network.
However, for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to be used as a medium of exchange, price stability is needed, Visa’s chief financial officer, Vasant Prabhu, told Reuters.
“If the price is going to fluctuate from $60 000 to $50 000in a few hours, it’s a very difficult thing for a merchant to accept (bitcoin) as a currency,” Prabhu said.
“I don’t know if cryptocurrencies like bitcoin will ever be a medium of exchange. Stable coins will,” he said, adding that Visa would facilitate such transactions when the time was right.
The Western Cape provincial government wants the national government to introduce a “remote working visa” aimed at international digital nomads, but they are struggling to convince the Department of Home Affairs.
Cape Town is perfectly positioned to take advantage of people who live in and work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was voted the best city in the world for many years running in the Telegraph Travel Awards which illustrates its appeal to international travellers.
With good Internet infrastructure, quality restaurants, and an idyllic setting, Cape Town is an attractive location for digital nomads.
It wants to follow in the footsteps of Dubai which launched a remote-work programme last year.
This programme allows international professionals to live in the Emirates while continuing to serve their employers in their home country.
The remote-work visa gives applicants access to all services in Dubai, including telecoms and schooling.
The Western Cape provincial government wants to do the same for Cape Town through a South African remote-work visa.
The city’s mayoral committee member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, James Vos, said the pandemic created a great opportunity to take work on a holiday.
“Cape Town has everything it takes to be the best remote working location in the world. We just need to make it easier for people to travel to South Africa,” said Vos.
To make it even more attractive to travellers, Western Cape tourism company Wesgro has partnered with Airbnb to promote the province as an ideal location for digital nomads.
The partnership includes offering people up to 50% off stays longer than 28 days through Airbnb.
“Digital nomads will now be able to take advantage of the Western Cape’s tech- and entrepreneur-friendly economy at an affordable price,” said the DA’s provincial spokesperson for Finance, Economic Development, and Tourism, Deidré Baartman.
There is, however, a snag – the national government.
The Western Cape government has tried to engage with President Cyril Ramaphosa and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, but their request has not been successful.
Cape Town is, however, not giving up. The Cape Town city council continues to put pressure on the national government to make this happen.
It also wants the application process for the remote working visa to move online.
Vos told Rapport it is high time that South Africa implements its electronic visa (e-visa) system to accommodate international travellers.
South Africa has already piloted the new e-visa system, but the pandemic has delayed the implementation of this system.
By Sam Rutherford for Gizmodo; and Angela Monaghan for The Guardian
Despite the prevalence of credit cards and payment services like Venmo and Apple Pay, when things go wrong, cash is still king.
Europe and the UK got a really good reminder of that after a network crash on 1 June prevented millions of Visa credit and debit card holders from making any transactions.
Things got even worse when some MasterCard and American Express cards started getting declined after transactions were rerouted through Visa’s IT network.
All told, this issue created a pretty big headache for a lot of Europeans who found that when trying to buy tickets for a train or bus ride home after work, the cards in the wallets had suddenly reverted to being useless pieces of plastic.
In addition to many gas and railway stations, other major outlets including Mark’s and Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s were unable to accept payments from Visa cards, with The Guardian reporting that after learning about the issue, “some customers were simply dumping their shopping at the tills”.
Apparently people with Visa debit cards were still able to withdraw cash from ATMs.
Visa UK first tweeted out a statement regarding “service disruptions” shortly before 6pm London time, after problems first started around 2:30pm. This was later followed up by an announcement from UK Finance, the trade association that represents payment firms in Britain:
Visa is currently experiencing a service disruption which is preventing some Visa transactions in Europe from being processed. It is investigating the cause and acting as quickly as possible to resolve the situation. Visa is working with banks, building societies, merchant acquirers and card providers to return to a normal service and will provide regular updates.
Meanwhile, MPs are demanding answers from Visa, who were down for half a day after a “hardware failure”.
“A third of all spending in the UK is processed by Visa. It’s deeply worrying, therefore, that such a vital part of the country’s payment infrastructure can fail so catastrophically,” Nicky Morgan, the chairwoman of the Treasury select committee, said.
“The consequences were sudden and severe. Many consumers and businesses were left stranded on Friday, unable to make or accept payments, with chaos reported in shops.”
A committee has been formed, and is seeking answers on a number of issues, including whether or not cardholders or shopkeepers will be entitled to compensation, and what steps Visa will take to prevent a similar system failure in the future.
South Africa is overhauling its controversial visa regulations that saw a 6% decrease in arrivals – the worst industry performance since 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis – but the changes are not in effect as yet.