Raj Dhamodharan, eExecutive vice president of digital asset and blockchain products and partnerships for Mastercard
Raj Dhamodharan, executive vice president of digital asset and blockchain products and partnerships for Mastercard. K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post

One of the world’s largest payments processors, Mastercard, has decided to expand its crypto program and grant Wirex a principal membership status, the firm said in a press release on 20 July.

According to the announcement, the firm has decided to simplify the access to its Accelerate program, and allow crypto card issuers to be onboarded as partners in a matter of “weeks”. The payments processor also announced that Wirex has become the first native cryptocurrency platform to be granted principal membership, allowing it to directly issue crypto payment cards.

The executive vice president of digital asset and blockchain products and partnerships for Mastercard, Raj Dhamodharan, said in a statement:


“The cryptocurrency market continues to mature, and MasterCard is driving it forward, creating safe and secure experiences for consumers and businesses in today’s digital economy. Our work with Wirex and the wider crypto ecosystem is accelerating innovation and empowering consumers with more choice in the way they pay.”

The new enhanced Accelerate program will not only help MasterCard support crypto card applicants with their market entry and international expansion, but will also give them access to the firm’s cybersecurity expertise and market research. Although the process to become a MasterCard principal member has been streamlined, the firm insists that all its partners must comply with its “core principles”, which include providing consumer protection, operating in compliance with regulators, and establishing a level playing field for its stakeholders.

Regulated by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Wirex previously had its cards issued by Mastercard’s rival, Visa. The firm, which offers a payment facility to automatically exchange crypto into fiat, will now be able to use MasterCard’s network for fiat currency payments. Earlier this year the firm announced it had surpassed 3 million active users, and that it is seeing less and less from the “typically hardcore cryptocurrency users”.

Wirex’s CEO, Pavel Matveev, said in a statement:

“We are very excited for Wirex to be the first crypto-native company granted principal membership from MasterCard. It represents a growing interest and recognition in the acceptance of cryptocurrency by leading bodies and regulators and will help us to realize our vision of empowering everyone to experience a world where all currencies, traditional and crypto, are equal.”

Mastercard, which processed more than $1.6 trillion in Q1 2020, collaborated earlier this year with blockchain payments provider BitPay to launch a new pre-paid crypto card for users in the United States. The BitPay Card allowed its users to convert cryptocurrencies into fiat, load it onto their cards, and then use it anywhere MasterCard debit was accepted.

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