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Visa Moves Blockchain Into Acquiring With a Pilot for Merchant Processors

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Digital Transactions

Visa Inc., which has been working with blockchain-based currencies at least since the start of the decade, on Monday said it is starting to expand its cryptocurrency services into merchant acquiring, largely for cross-border transactions. The move, which Visa calls a “pilot project,” involves the major merchant processors Worldpay and Nuvei for settlement to sellers in fiat currencies. It has already entailed processing “millions” of transactions across the Ethereum and Solana blockchains, Visa said.

As with most blockchain projects mainstream processors and networks have embarked on so far, Visa’s latest venture involves a form of cryptocurrency pegged to the U.S. dollar—Circle Internet Financial’s USD coin. Such coins are seen as safer than tokens such as Bitcoin, which can be subject to wild swings in value.

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Tuesday’s news, while a key advance for the deployment of digital currencies, doesn’t surprise some experts who argue that traditional networks can’t avoid recognizing the increasing role the currencies are playing in global payments. “No question Visa saw the writing some time ago, and know they have to play, or they’ll lose the business,” says Cliff Gray, a senior associate at TSG (formerly The Strawhecker Group), a payments researcher and consultancy, in an email message.

Overall, though, observers like Gray see Tuesday’s development as a positive for merchant acquirers, while its attraction may be limited for other parts of the transaction chain. “For many acquirers, it’s good news for expanding their product capabilities,” he says. “To many others, there’s still little or no appetite for (what they consider) bleeding-edge technology.”

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