You Can Now Earn Bitcoin Rewards For Most Purchases (#GotBitcoin?)
Food delivery is about to get a little sweeter for the users of the bitcoin rewards platform Lolli. You Can Now Earn Bitcoin Rewards For Postmates Purchases (#GotBitcoin?)
The startup announced Wednesday that is has partnered with delivery service Postmates, making the popular app the latest partner for Lolli’s rewards program. One of the most popular food services, Postmates mobile app saw 2,094,920 downloads in the last 30 days alone per Crunchbase.
Launched in September 2019 on a seeding round $2.35 million. Lolli has added a range of new partners this summer including national grocery chain Safeway in July and Hotels.com in June. Lolli claims over 750 online retail partners including Walmart and Sephora, among others.
Lolli has said that about 40 percent of its users are new to the cryptocurrency scene.
Speaking with CoinDesk, Lolli co-founder and CEO Alex Adelman says Lolli remains committed to making bitcoin more mainstream.
“This is another step towards the mainstream adoption of bitcoin as Postmates is used daily by people across the US,” Adelman said. “One of Lolli’s objectives to make bitcoin a part of people’s everyday lives. Our partnership with Postmates achieves this.”
“Everybody eats and now you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering in when you’re stacking sats on each order,” Adelman added.
Bitcoin Rewards App Lolli Partners With Major US Pet Store Chain Petco (#GotBitcoin?)
Lolli, an app that provides Bitcoin (BTC) rewards to users when they shop with partner stores, has teamed up with major American pet retailer Petco.
The Rewards Deal With Petco
Lolli announced the new partnership in an official blog post on Aug. 23. In the announcement, the company notes that there are two new veins of rewards that come with the partnership. One is that Lolli users can earn up to 3.5% satoshis (sats) of their purchases on Petco’s website, Petco.com.
Another is that Lolli users can earn a flat 5,000 sats payment for sharing a photo of their dog and commenting on the partnership. A satoshi is 0.00000001 BTC. Therefore, these users would earn 0.00005 BTC for promoting the partnership with their dog photos. At press time, this amount of Bitcoin is equivalent to a little over $0.51.
Petco is the second-largest pet chain retailer in the United States, controlling nearly 20% of the market according to data from Statista.
Lolli’s Expansion With Other Stores
As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Lolli partnered with the American grocery chain Safeway near the end of July. As is the case with the Petco partnership, Lolli announced that they would offer 3.5% back in BTC for their total purchases.
Lolli also partnered with the booking service Hotels.com back in June. This website apparently lists over 325,000 properties in approximately 19,000 locations globally.
Crypto.com: Buy, Sell and Pay With Crypto
Coincheck Survey Service Allows Users to Trade Reward Points For Crypto
Cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck, a subsidiary of Japanese financial services firm Monex Group, partnered with marketing research company Macromill Group to launch the Coincheck Survey service that allows its users to exchange reward points for digital assets.
Survey Participants Can Earn Bitcoin
According to Monex Group’s official press release published on Sept. 4, customers will be able to “exchange Macromill Points, which are offered as compensation for participating in surveys,” for Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple’s XRP starting Sept. 10. The announcement states:
“In partnership with Macromill, a leading marketing research company that offers marketing solutions best suited for clients, Coincheck is expanding opportunities for an increase in the number of people who start investing in cryptocurrencies. […] Macromill typically offers Macromill Points to Macromill Monitors who participate in the surveys conducted by the company.
The launch of Coincheck Survey makes it possible for monitors to exchange those Macromill Points to cryptocurrencies.”
Crypto Loyalty Programs Are On The Rise In Japan
Per the release, a Coincheck account is required for “Macromill Monitors” to participate in the program.
According to Cointelegraph Japan, the program’s exchange rate will be 1 yen per point. It is also noted that “in addition to cashing for 1 yen per point, it can be exchanged for products, T-points, and Amazon gift certificates.”
As we reported on Aug. 20, Japanese cryptocurrency exchange bitFlyer and technology services company Tpoint Japan also announced a partnership that allows local customers to exchange loyalty program points for BTC and earn rewards for paying in crypto.
Alibaba Partners with Lolli to Allow US Shoppers Earn ‘Free Bitcoin’
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has partnered with Bitcoin (BTC) rewards shopping app Lolli, enabling its shoppers to earn 5% back in Bitcoin. Alibaba customers can now get Satoshis (sats), the smallest unit of Bitcoin currency, worth 0.00000001 BTC, when shopping “thousands of items online,” Lolli says.
World’s Biggest Retailer And Biggest One-Day Shopping Event
The partnership was announced on Singles Day, a shopping holiday that is celebrated in China on Nov. 11 and is considered to be the world’s biggest one-day shopping event. According to Lolli, Alibaba shoppers spent more than $31 billion on Singles Day in 2018.
Alex Adelman, CEO and co-founder at Lolli, pointed out that the new move is a milestone partnership for Lolli as Alibaba is the largest retailer and e-commerce company in the world.
“Our partnership allows our users to earn free bitcoin on millions of products online every day. Arguably the most important piece of this partnership is that it supports our mission of connecting the entire world through commerce.”
Feature Is Only Available In The United States
According to a Coindesk report, the new program will only be available for purchases in the United States. Aubrey Strobel, Lolli’s head of communications, reportedly claimed that residents in China will not be able to participate, and products would be shipped from China to U.S. users.
In the report, Adelman highlighted the firm’s plans to expand globally in 2020 and emphasized that the partnership is a great first step to connect China and the U.S. through Bitcoin and commerce.
Earlier today, Cointelegraph reported on Fold, one of the oldest Bitcoin shopping rewards apps, launching support for home-sharing giant Airbnb today. With the new feature, Fold users can get 3% back in Bitcoin on every stay and experience booked on the platform. The app works in selected countries including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico and the United Kingdom, depending on the specific brand.
Regarding Alibaba, the Chinese retail giant has not been friendly to Bitcoin to date. On Oct. 10, Alibaba’s digital payment arm Alipay reiterated its negative stance to Bitcoin, confirming that it will be banning all transactions identified as connected to Bitcoin.
Alibaba Denies ‘Partnership’ With Lolli, Highlighting Crypto Industry Pitfalls
On Monday, CoinDesk reported the shopping app Lolli was offering bitcoin rewards to U.S.-based Alibaba shoppers for Singles Day.
Alibaba Group representatives have since denied the “partnership” touted by Lolli CEO Alex Adelman. The fissure revealed a common misconception in the blockchain industry.
“One of Alibaba.com’s contractors hired a subcontractor who brokered an affiliate marketing program with Lolli. This was done without the knowledge of Alibaba.com,” an Alibaba spokesperson told CoinDesk. “Alibaba.com’s contractor is terminating the relationship with the subcontractor who was working with Lolli. As a result, Lolli should no longer promote or bring traffic to Alibaba.com.”
He added that Lolli “never had the right to claim a partnership with Alibaba.com or imply one with Alibaba Group.”
In response, Adelman said, “There has to be an integration for us to send sales to someone’s site.”
However inflated the promotion of this Singles Day campaign may have been, Adelman’s team wasn’t completely off-base. Contractual agreements seen by CoinDesk appeared to permit the usage of “Alibaba related keywords” in online materials. The startup had already been processing bitcoin rewards for AliExpress shoppers since May 2019.
According to Lolli’s head of communications, Aubrey Strobel, Alibaba.com itself trialed Lolli’s services for 24 hours during the Singles Day campaign, then deactivated “the partnership” after publicity drew attention to the trial.
Subsequent coverage of the announcement misrepresented the deal as Alibaba accepting bitcoin directly. As CoinDesk reported on Friday, Chinese regulators appear to be gearing up for a renewed crackdown on cryptocurrency exchange-related services.
“It seems as though there was a miscommunication on Alibaba’s end and while that’s unfortunate, we look forward to the possibility of working with Alibaba.com again in the future,” Strobel said in a statement. “In the interim, Alibaba Group’s AliExpress is still live on Lolli.”
As it stands, the root cause of the mixed messaging is unclear.
Blockchain companies often claim to have “partnerships” with brands when they really have an indirect affiliate contract or are merely working on a proof-of-concept. On the other hand, some paperwork with representatives from both parties had already been finalized and payments to shoppers were processed before the now-controversial announcement.
This also underscores the challenge of defining what a “partnership” really means at the intersection of e-commerce and crypto.
What the Lolli team saw as expanding on an existing client relationship during a mainstream holiday campaign by the flagship brand, Alibaba Group viewed as a private and “transactional” deal mediated by third parties, according to the Alibaba spokesperson. From Alibaba’s perspective, this was not an official partnership.
The spokesperson claimed there was no direct contact between Lolli and the Alibaba Group, despite the AliExpress rewards processed. The spokesperson added that Alibaba Group does not work with any bitcoin-related companies.
Can Crypto Platforms Help Loyalty Schemes In Shops Make A Comeback?
Retailers have been offering loyalty schemes for decades — but ensuring they are attractive enough to generate repeat customers is easier said than done.
Bond’s Loyalty Report, which surveyed 55,000 consumers in 2019, exposed these challenges in a stark way. Although 73% of those polled said they were more likely to recommend a brand with a good loyalty program, personalization is proving crucial for keeping these shoppers engaged — and just 22% are very satisfied that the rewards they are offered are matched to their individual interests.
Overall, retail initiatives are failing to keep up with customer demand. Just 44% are very satisfied with the programs they use. There are recurring issues that even the biggest companies are failing to address. Sometimes, their schemes are simply too complicated for users to get their heads around, leaving them unsure about what the points they have accrued are actually worth. In other cases, shoppers abandon programs because the returns are disappointing. With hundreds and even thousands of brands offering their own cards and accounts, the process of registering for each one individually and remembering to use them all can be overwhelming. And, on top of all this, too many retailers are failing to reach their target market on smartphones — either through instant messaging, social media or custom-built apps.
This led professional services firm KPMG to release a report calling for loyalty schemes to be given a wide-reaching rethink. Almost two-fifths of consumers polled encountered a problem with a loyalty program they used over a six-month period. But here’s the thing: Businesses can hit a lucrative sweet spot if they get their proposition right. KPMG’s research also revealed that 2 in 3 shoppers end up making special trips to earn a reward on a compelling loyalty program — and better still, 3 in 5 shoppers would actually be prepared to pay a little more for goods and services if they had the chance to accrue points, discounts or free products.
Transforming The Loyalty Market
What’s the solution for giving consumers what they want and ensuring that loyalty programs are viable for businesses? Well, with crypto and blockchain already upending countless other industries, it seems inevitable that this one would be ripe for disruption too.
Digital tokens are beginning to gain momentum, attracting younger audiences who may not be interested or engaged with credit-card loyalty programs or frequent-flyer initiatives. Plus, given how many schemes in the fiat world offer rewards that end up expiring all of a sudden, cryptocurrencies have the benefit of being more permanent. Major players such as Rakuten are exploring this potential, developing a coin that loyal users could convert into cold, hard cash if they wanted to. Other brands are building platforms where customers are rewarded for frequent purchases with points that can be exchanged for Bitcoin.
Businesses are starting to get fed up with investing so much in offering loyalty schemes that end up inactive. Retailers and merchants are paying tens of billions of dollars a year to companies that provide the infrastructure for such initiatives — and research suggests that blockchain could slash these costs dramatically.
For many crypto-based loyalty scheme providers, it’s also about placing the power back in the hands of consumers. Attitudes are beginning to change. Back in the day, it used to be the case that points accrued from a coffee shop would have to be spent at that same chain. But now, multiple brands are coming together under one roof — enabling them to attract a wider audience and welcome shoppers through their doors who may not have made a purchase before.
“A Token Of Discovery”
One company that’s making a foray into the crypto-focused loyalty market is MozoX, which bills itself as a “token of discovery.”
Although its concept is firmly rooted in the future, the company has taken a novel approach by blending the realms of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. It is aiming to motivate shoppers to return to offline stores — driving footfall in malls. The platform’s vision is to entice the public by enabling them to receive MozoX tokens through airdrops established by participating retail outlets, malls and venues simply by visiting their offline locations or by making a purchase. Over time, these tokens can be accrued and redeemed against products and services at any of these venues — “giving shoppers choice, flexibility and convenience,” according to the company.
MozoX says that its cryptocurrency will be easy to transfer and trade on major exchanges, storable in major wallets and purchasable using fiat currencies, including U.S., Hong Kong and Singapore dollars. The company estimates that the worldwide loyalty market is worth a cool $300 billion, with 91 million stores using loyalty schemes to some extent. Executives say they have already signed memorandums of understanding to roll out its technology in 90,000 stores over the next three years — potentially reaching 13 million shoppers — and that its app value proposition to merchants compared favorably to the likes of Facebook and Uber Eats because MozoX guarantees foot traffic.
Round one of an initial exchange offering is set to take place on the LAToken platform from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25, and MozoX tokens can be purchased using Bitcoin, Ether or Tether.
Binance to Launch Crypto Travel Rewards Card with Startup TravelByBit
Major cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced in a blog post on Nov. 28 that it partnered with crypto travel startup TravelByBit to launch a rewards card that facilitates crypto payments on major travel websites.
Per the announcement, the card will function like a traditional prepaid card with access to additional discounts and rewards that users will be able to load with Bitcoin (BTC), Binance USD (BUSD), Binance Coin (BNB) and Ontology (ONT).
The card will be released early next year and will initially target travelers in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Australia and Europe, with plans to gradually expand.
Traveling With Crypto
The service will reportedly allow its customers to book flights and hotels through major booking sites including Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, and Ctrip, as well as TravelByBit’s own platform.
TravelByBit is not the first service enabling its users to travel with cryptocurrencies. As Cointelegraph recently reported, crypto booking firm Travala announced that it will now let its customers reserve any hotel that is bookable through Booking.com with cryptocurrency.
Earlier this summer, the co-founders of Scandinavian air carrier Norwegian Air announced plans to launch their own cryptocurrency exchange, which will subsequently facilitate the airline’s acceptance of cryptocurrency payments.
Rakuten Customers Can Use Their Loyalty Program Points to Buy Crypto
Japanese retail giant Rakuten now lets its customers convert its Rakuten Group loyalty points to major cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC).
According to an official announcement on Dec. 24, this capability is immediately available for Rakuten users in Japan who have an account with Rakuten Wallet, a crypto exchange subsidiary of Rakuten.
The company says its clients can convert their loyalty points to three different cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ether (ETH), and Bitcoin Cash (BCH).The minimum crypto purchase is $0.90
With one Rakuten Super Point worth one Japanese yen (approximately $0.009), users need to have at least 100 such points to meet the minimum for an exchange. Crypto assets cannot be converted back into Rakuten Super Points, and the amount of daily and monthly transactions are capped at 30,000 points and 100,000 points as default, respectively.
Cointelegraph contacted Rakuten to find out more details about the scales of its loyalty program but had yet to receive a response as of press time. This article will be updated pending any new comments.
Rakuten Intends To Boost Crypto Adoption
By launching this new service, Rakuten Wallet apparently aims to boost cryptocurrency adoption while promoting its loyalty program. The company said in the announcement:
“Rakuten Wallet hopes to reduce the barriers of entry to crypto asset trading by providing an easy and more accessible way for new users to start, including novice users who are interested in crypto asset trading with no prior experience.”
Launching its virtual currency exchange back in March 2017, Rakuten is known for acquiring major Japanese crypto exchange Everybody’s Bitcoin in 2018. Often referred to as “Japan’s Amazon,” Rakuten is estimated to be worth $14.5 billion as of late December 2019.
Rakuten is not the only company that lets users in Japan exchange loyalty program points for crypto. In August 2019, crypto exchange bitFlyer partnered with technology services company Tpoint Japan to enable its Japanese customers to convert loyalty program points to Bitcoin, as well as earn rewards for paying in crypto.
Visa Backs New Bitcoin Rewards Card From Lightning-Friendly Fold
The Fold app — a Lightning-compatible mobile app that offers users Bitcoin rewards (BTC) while shopping — has joined Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program.
Joining the program will enable the app to launch a new Visa co-branded card, which continues the offer of Bitcoin rewards for purchases made at retailers.
Speaking to Cointelegraph, Fold’s CEO Will Reeves said that Visa would be providing the company with financial support and a dedicated team to bring the new Bitcoin cash-back rewards card to market.
Earn, Don’t Spend, Your Bitcoin
As reported, the Fold app has so far been offering users the ability to spend Bitcoin or fiat at major retailers such as Amazon, Uber and Starbucks, requiring them to synchronize their accounts either with an existing credit card or Lightning wallet.
The new offering with Visa will enable the firm’s users to use an integrated service. At a time when multiple major industry players are exploring the possibilities of various crypto debit cards, Reeves distinguished Fold’s as follows:
“Other cards announced by major exchanges […] require you to spend your crypto triggering taxable events. Our card enables you to spend dollars and earn Bitcoin.”
Reeves clarified that earning rewards denominated in Bitcoin does not trigger a taxable event “as the Bitcoin is not being sold.” The card will be functional at over 10 million merchants worldwide.
Bridging The Old And The New
With major United States crypto exchange Coinbase recently announcing its principal membership of Visa, the field of crypto debit cards continues to diversify, promising users a more flexible and familiar, “legacy” interface to earn and access cryptocurrency.
This February, blockchain popularizer and sports fan token project Socios announced its launch of an integrated membership and fiat-crypto prepaid debit card, which also provides blockchain-based global ID functionality.
Meanwhile, the likes of Amazon have been slow to directly integrate cryptocurrencies, leaving the field open to third-party projects offering either crypto rewards, prepaid debit or gift cards to bridge the gap between established e-commerce and Bitcoin.
Ledger Expands Crypto Payment Options With Crypto.Com Partnership
Leading hardware wallet producer, Ledger, now allows online customers to pay using Crypto.com’s wallet app.
According to an April 9 announcement, the firm has chosen to accept payment in Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), XRP, Litecoin (LTC), and Crypto.com Coin (CRO) via Crypto.com’s application. This is not the first time that Ledger has allowed its customers to pay with crypto. They already accept Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and XRP via their crypto payment processor, Bitpay.
An Update On An Old Collaboration
Back in December 2018, the two firms signed a memorandum of understanding, which was mean to allow Ledger’s customers to purchase products with digital currency using Crypto.com’s service.
In a separate announcement, Ledger indicated that the first 20 users who make a purchase using this new payment method will receive a limited edition Crypto.com Ledger Nano S. Users who purchase Ledger hardware wallets from now until May 31 using Crypto.com will also have access to 10% cashback. They note that this offer is capped at €50 in CRO per purchase.
Blockchain’s Use In Payments
Payments are among the most important use cases for blockchain technology. Crypto is used for direct payments less frequently than some might suspect, however. As Cointelegraph reported in mid-March, under 1% of Australians used cryptocurrencies to pay for services last year.
Also in March, major cryptocurrency firm Bakkt announced a new direct payment integration which allows customers to pay for Starbucks’ coffee with Bitcoin.
BlockCard Cryptocurrency Debit Card Rewards Spike To 6.38%
Crypto debit card BlockCard, built by blockchain company Ternio, has increased user rewards to almost 7%.
“Starting April 14th, all BlockCard users (existing and new) will be entitled to earn 6.38% back in cryptocurrency rewards on all BlockCard purchases – with no ceiling on the amount they can earn,” Ternio founder and COO Ian Kane told Cointelegraph. “You can spend $100 or $100,000 and earn 6.38% on all merchant purchases.”
Many mainstream stores do not directly accept crypto assets as a payment option. BlockCard works like a normal debit card, except with crypto backing. The card allows users to transfer crypto to their account and then spend that crypto in card form at any location that takes major credit card providers.
Kane confirmed BlockCard is only open to U.S. residents at the moment. Ternio, however, has its eyes set on European availability later in 2020.
“In Q2 we will be launching in 31 European countries and the rewards program will be available to those residents as well,” Kane said, also noting planned availability for Asian-Pacific and Latin American regions later in 2020.
The New Rate Is Now The Norm
Kane confirmed the new 6.38% rate applies to new and existing BlockCard users, and is the new normal for BlockCard going forward.
“We want to raise the bar and expectations of cryptocurrency holders,” Kane said. “BlockCard was the first card program to offer Google+Apple pay support and now we want to raise the bar on rewards programs as well.”
Mainstream card providers also offer rewards, although they may not be as good as they seem upfront.
“The devil is in the details,” Kane explained, referencing the fine print from one card provider.
“AMEX Blue Cash is one of the best rewards cards on the market (as voted by NerdWallet) – offering 6%, but only up to $6,000,” he noted, referring to popular card provider American Express. “Best case scenario is $360 in reward,” he said, also pointing to 3% and 1% rewards touting restrictions.
Several other crypto outfits are now working in the card space as well. Coinbase announced work with Visa in February 2020, while Binance unveiled its own debit card near the end of March.
Binance-Backed Crypto Travel Firms Travala.com and TravelByBit Merge
Hotel booking service Travala.com and flight booking website TravelByBit — both of which accept cryptocurrencies as payment — announced the merger of their platforms.
According to an announcement on May 20, Travala.com and TravelByBit will merge to become a platform allowing users to book from over 2 million hotels and 600 airlines.
An Initiative Backed By Binance
Both the companies are backed by the leading cryptocurrency exchange, Binance. The exchange’s CEO Changpeng Zhao praised the firms as he believes they are able to provide a state-of-the-art travel booking service for the crypto community.
Travala.com currently supports payments in fiat and over 25 popular cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Binance Coin (BNB) and Binance Dollar (BUSD) and features a best price guarantee.
Furthermore, the platform also has its own AVA token which grants users access to bonuses and discounts that shortly will be available on TravelByBit as well. A Travala spokesperson explained:
“As the native cryptocurrency of the Travala.com platform, AVA can now be used for payments, receiving loyalty rewards and accessing exclusive discounts and bonuses as part of our Smart Program. […] Every time a booking is completed on Travala.com, the traveller gets 2% of the total booking price back in AVA.”
High Hopes For Adoption
A representative of the firms told Cointelegraph that “the merged platform is forecasting next 12-month revenue levels in excess of US $10 million based on the existing growth traction in travel bookings prior to COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions being put in place.”
The firms claim that the merged platform will be better than traditional alternatives since it will offer tokenized rewards and more payment options. Furthermore, the platform focuses on the underserved niche of blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
As Cointelegraph reported in November 2019, Travala.com partnered with Booking.com to allow its users to book any accommodation that is present on the travel giant’s website. January reports showed that the platform has seen a 33% boost in usage after the partnership.
Crypto Travel Booking Site Travala Sees 46% Monthly Increase In Bookings Despite Pandemic
Cryptocurrency travel website Travala.com saw a 45.8% increase in the total number of room nights booked in May compared to April.
According to a June 1 announcement, Travala.com also saw its monthly revenue increase by 205% in May compared to April. Still, while the platform is seeing more traction compared to April, May also saw a 60% decrease in room nights booked compared to March.
Travala.com Sees Bookings Surge As Travel Restrictions Are Lifted
Juan Otero, Travala.com’s CEO, told Cointelegraph that the platform is seeing more use as the rest of the travel industry. He explained that domestic travel is seeing growth as the restrictions are being lifted. He said:
“We’re fortunate to see our users coming back as soon as they have the opportunity to travel again, even if it is just locally or for short weekends nearby. […] The increase is mainly driven by domestic travel.”
Data shared by Travala.com also shows that 60% of the bookings made through the platform in May were paid for in cryptocurrency. Bitcoin (BTC) was used for 21% of the payments, the firm’s AVA token for 16%, 23% used other crypto assets.
Otero also explained that people are seemingly more open to spending cryptocurrency now than before. In fact, he said that there has been a sharp increase in crypto payments on the platform:
“Over 60% of our bookings are paid in crypto so we have seen a huge increase in the volume of travel bookings paid with crypto. I believe it’s not just because crypto adoption is growing every day but also because we have built a platform that allows people to pay with [with crypto while removing] a lot of the friction.”
Only 40% of payments on Travala.com in May used credit cards or PayPal. Otero explained that he believes Travala.com would not have grown as much if it supported fiat payments only. He said that the platform’s crypto features play an important role in its business:
“We appeal to a market that has been neglected in travel but is also growing really fast, the crypto enthusiastic so this is helping us grow faster than other [online travel agencies] that rely just on traditional markets.”
Travala.com Seeks Expansion Through Partnerships And Mergers
As Cointelegraph reported in late May, Travala.com merged with TravelByBit to expand its features from allowing to pay for travel accommodations with crypto to also facilitate flight booking with cryptocurrencies.
The merger followed a November announcement that the firm had partnered with online hotel giant Booking.com. The partnership allows Travala.com users to book any accommodation that’s present on Booking.com through the platform. In January the company revealed that following the partnership it saw its revenue grow by over 33.5% month-on-month.
Expedia Partners With Crypto Service Travala.com For Crypto Bookings
Expedia now allows its over 700,000 accommodations to be booked with cryptocurrency through crypto travel platform Travala.com.
According to an announcement shared with Cointelegraph by Travala.com on July 6, the firm added over 700,000 accommodations to its crypto-powered travel platform’s already over 2 million options available in 230 countries.
Senior Vice President at Expedia Group Alfonso Paredes said that the company aims to scale up Travala.com’s business faster than it did expand so far. Furthermore, he said that the firm also recognizes innovation and the importance of allowing users to choose their preferred payment method.
This is the result of a collaboration with a subsidiary of travel giant Expedia, dubbed Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS). EPS allowed Travala.com to access its Rapid application programming interface, which allows the firm to offer Expedia’s accommodations to its users.
The Last One Of A Series Of Deals For Travala
In November 2019, Travala.com struck a similar deal with Booking.com and added its over 90,000 destinations to its platform. Data shared by the firm in January revealed that the firm saw its revenue increase by 33% after the partnership.
Furthermore, crypto accommodation booking Travala.com also merged with cryptocurrency flight booking service TravelByBit in late May. This merger is meant to scale up the platform to give a more thorough service to travelers wishing to spend crypto assets.
Binance CEO CZ Showcases First Use of Binance Card
Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao shows first beta transactions involving Binance’s long-anticipated crypto debit card, Binance Card.
Binance’s CEO has just demonstrated the first use of Binance Card, a cryptocurrency debit card that was first announced by Binance in April 2020.
In a July 10 tweet, Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao revealed that he is taking part in Binance Card beta testing, featuring transactions involving Binance’s native token, BNB.
Travala Adds 1 Million More Holiday Homes You Can Book With Crypto
Travala.com now offers a total of 3 million accommodation options users can book with cryptocurrency.
Online travel booking platform Travala.com has added one million new homes across 195 countries to its site with the release of a designated home bookings section called ‘Homes’.
Holiday homes and apartments can be booked with over 30 different cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Binance Coin (BNB), and Travala.com’s native coin AVA.
The Travala Blog announced that the addition of Homes “marks Travala.com’s entry into one of the fastest growing verticals of the travel industry.”
In a first quarter earnings call with parent company Booking Holdings, it was revealed that there is a trend towards domestic bookings and alternatives to traditional hotels. Travala.com CEO Juan Otero referenced this trend:
“Demand for non-hotel accommodation is growing fast so the launch of Homes couldn’t come at a better time.”
These additions have brought Travala.com’s travel products that can be booked with cryptocurrencies to over 3 million, Otero added.
Earlier this week, Travala.com announced its partnership with booking giant Agoda, while a partnership with Expedia was announced in July 2020 and Booking.com in Nov 2019. The travel booking platform has also partnered with blockchain based booking service TravelByBit and is backed by Binance.
Crypto Travel Agency Travala To Use Binance Chain For Decentralized Services
The firm plans to become a fully decentralized online travel agency.
Cryptocurrency travel agency Travala.com announced that it started a collaboration with Binance Chain aiming to decentralize its services.
Travala.com intends to roll out decentralized reviews, decentralized accommodation bookings, a decentralized referral system and a decentralized salesforce. The firm’s CEO Juan Otero explained that — in the future — users will be dealing directly with the property owners, leveraging blockchain’s disintermediation potential:
“Under this decentralized model, accommodation seekers will be able to book stays without the need for an intermediary. Said another way, individuals seeking to rent an apartment, bedroom, or hotel room will be able to deal directly with property owners.”
Otero explained that Travala.com will only provide the technology needed to facilitate bookings, including tools for user reputation, dispute mediation and governance mechanisms. Travel service providers will be able to control all the aspects of their online listings and deal directly with their customers.
After Travala.com launches the decentralized accommodation booking system, the firm plans to focus its efforts on developing a decentralized review service. Reviews will be stored on-chain to ensure that they cannot be removed or edited after they have been submitted.
Otero also explained that — in order to prevent fake reviews — Travala.com intends to use tokenized incentives and only allow reviews from users that have visited a given location by booking on the platform.
So far, Otero does not have a clear idea of how much of Travala.com’s business he can move on chain. He explained that “in the long-run, ideally all aspects of the [decentralized online travel agency] will be on-chain” but admitted that this may not be practical:
“Realistically we will have to phase out what aspects of the [firm] are on-chain. As we are closer to the implementation of certain features we will review the trade-offs of being on-chain versus off-chain.”
This is the latest in a long series of announcements by Travala.com which apparently is currently pursuing an aggressive expansion of its business.
Earlier this month, Travala.com added over 600.000 hotels through a partnership with booking giant Agoda. In July, Expedia also partnered with the firm, adding over 700,000 accommodations to the platform, which resulted in a 68% increase in bookings.
Wirex Announces Multi-Currency Crypto Card With Support From Mastercard
Wirex’s new Mastercard-supported card will be linked to 19 crypto and fiat currency accounts in the Wirex app.
Wirex — the first cryptocurrency platform to be granted a Mastercard principal membership — will release a new multi-currency card on the heels of the membership.
Wirex is a London-based crypto payment processor and is regulated by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, with a license to issue crypto cards in Europe.
The multi-currency Wirex Card will be supported by Mastercard and linked to 19 crypto and fiat currency accounts in the Wirex app. An official release date has not yet been announced.
In a bid to encourage the use of cryptocurrency for everyday payments, the company is also upgrading its existing “Cryptoback” rewards program, which had until now rewarded users with up to 1.5% back in Bitcoin (BTC) for each in-store transaction.
From now on, rewards will be up to 2% online and in-store, with up to 6 percent rewards on customers’ native Wirex Token balance annually.
Ahead of the Mastercard offering, Wirex is also rolling out several other new features, building on a partnership with payments solution company LHV.
In the European Economic Area, the new features, now live, include support for five new currencies: the Coration Kuna, Czech koruna, Polish złoty, Romanian leu and Hungarian forint.
Earlier this year, the platform hit over three million active users, seeing adoption among more mainstream users “who are not typically hardcore cryptocurrency users,” according to its CEO.
Wirex’s service allows users in 130 countries to spend their cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies using an existing dedicated Visa card and mobile app.
Signs of deepening integration between the worlds of plastic and of crypto have been strong and both Mastercard and Visa continue to establish working relationships with prominent cryptocurrency firms.
Coinbase’s card was the first physical crypto card to be released in the United States market and supported both Visa and Mastercard payment networks.
Mastercard has this year actively sought out crypto exchanges and payment service providers to enlist in its recently expanded cryptocurrency card program.
This summer, Visa’s outline of its approach toward digital currencies affirmed that cryptocurrency has become “a concept that is gaining traction beyond fintechs.”
Crypto Finance Firm Swipe Launches Visa DeFi Lending Card
Borrowers in the U.S. can now get funds with a DeFi-powered Visa card by Swipe.
Swipe, a Binance-owned cryptocurrency debit card provider, is expanding its offering with a new crypto Visa card that allows users to borrow funds using blockchain technology.
Dubbed the “LendFi Visa Card,” the new product deploys major decentralized finance protocols to provide “near-instant access to lending balances.” The card is integrated with the LendFi app — a decentralized lending platform that is connected with the borrower through their mobile device. At launch, the platform will support major DeFi protocol Compound, a spokesperson for Swipe said.
According to an announcement, the new blockchain-based lending platform approves loans for users and disburses them to accounts. The LendFi App also offers a stablecoin aggregator so users can deposit various stablecoins to spend via their card.
Swipe developed the card with California-based payments company Marqeta. Marqeta vice president of business development Salman Syed said that the card enables lenders to issue a loan directly onto a card, which extends the company’s efforts to “remake the lender-borrower relationship.”
Virtually-issued LendFi Visa Cards are available for borrowers in the U.S. by downloading the LendFi app, signing up and completing identification procedures. After applying for a LendFi Visa Card virtually, users can order a physical card. The card will also offer 4% cashback on all purchases.
Cryptocurrency lending is one of the most important use cases for the DeFi industry. In contrast to traditional finance, DeFi lending does not need a central party or a middleman to approve and distribute loans, as DeFi loans are issued through a distributed system and decentralized applications. Still, decentralized lending is associated with certain risks as it is still not 100% secure.
Visa And BlockFi To Launch Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card As Adoption Grows
The new credit card will offer Bitcoin rewards rather than airline miles or cash.
Visa and BlockFi are teaming up to launch a new credit card that rewards users with Bitcoin (BTC), setting the stage for wider mainstream adoption of digital currency.
BlockFi, a New York-based startup specializing in crypto-backed loans and savings accounts, announced the partnership on Tuesday. As Bloomberg reported, the new credit card will reward purchases with Bitcoin rather than airline miles or other cashback rewards. Cardholders will be eligible to receive 1.5% of their purchases back in BTC
The card, which carries a $200 annual fee, will be issued by Evolve Bank & Trust.
Although the credit card will be available to the general public in early 2021, BlockFi account holders will be able to sign up beforehand.
BlockFi is “excited to add credit cards to our suite of products and expand Bitcoin’s accessibility to a broader set of consumers,” said Zac Prince, founder and CEO of the startup.
The BlockFi partnership is part of Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program, which “aims to speed up the process of integrating” with the credit card network. Terry Angelos, senior vice president and global head of fintech at Visa, said the goal of the fast track program is to help innovative companies “scale with efficiency.”
This isn’t Visa’s first foray into cryptocurrency. Earlier this year, the credit card company partnered with digital startup Fold to offer a debit card that earns crypto-based rewards.
More broadly, Visa has outlined a positive vision for digital currency adoption — reversing an earlier, more hostile attitude. As Cointelegraph has reported, Visa’s evolving stance on crypto is to ensure that it maintains its leadership pace in the payments market. Currently, there are more than 25 cryptocurrency wallets connected to Visa’s systems.
The credit card company is also helping to shape regulations toward digital assets around the world, including working with the World Economic Forum to develop recommendations on the use of central bank digital currencies.
New York’s Quontic Becomes First US Bank To Offer A Bitcoin Rewards Debit Card
New York-based Quontic Bank has become the first FDIC-insured financial institution to launch a bitcoin rewards checking program.
Announced Tuesday, the program includes a bitcoin rewards debit card (1.5% back), mobile app, access to ATMs, and mobile payments options like Google Pay and Apple Pay.
The bank had to receive approval from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). In July, the OCC issued a letter enabling nationally chartered banks in the U.S. to provide custody services for cryptocurrencies. Acting Comptroller Brian Brooks has hinted at more “good” actions on crypto by the end of Trump’s term.
At Quontic, customers’ bitcoin will be custodied by crypto asset manager NYDIG, which just scooped Quontic’s former chief innovation officer to serve as its head of bank solutions. Major banking software and payments technology provider FIS will build a mobile app with Quontic to track bitcoin rewards in the second quarter of 2021.
“This is the first time any bank or any core [banking system] has done anything with bitcoin that is consumer facing,” Quontic CEO Steve Schnall said in an interview.
Customers will be able to hold their bitcoin with NYDIG or redeem it in cash, Schnall said. At the moment, customers are not permitted to transfer the bitcoin to another wallet address.
Quontic is a tiny bank with only $1.4 billion in assets, about 0.044% the size of JPMorgan. In 2019, it banked a couple crypto firms. Since then, the bank has pivoted from offering bank accounts to crypto firms to trying to bring bitcoin to the masses.
“Right now we’re not banking crypto companies,” Schnall said. “For the foreseeable future, we’re just going to focus on the consumer.”
The bitcoin rewards program is initially available to residents of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Quontic does business in all 50 states, but these are the states that NYDIG currently operates in.
Simplex Partners With Visa To Issue Crypto Debit Cards
Fiat-to-crypto on-ramp service provider Simplex has partnered with Visa to allow its client firms to issue crypto debit cards.
Over 200 Simplex partner companies can now offer crypto debit cards to their customers, potentially enabling greater adoption of cryptocurrencies for retail transactions.
The development is the result of a recent partnership between Simplex and Visa announced Monday. Simplex, a fiat-to-crypto on-ramp service is now a principal member of Visa in Europe.
A Simplex spokesperson explained to Cointelegraph that the partnership is mainly a boost for the company’s business-to-business activities. “The principal membership is what enables us to roll this out to our partner network, basically giving any Simplex partner the ability to offer a crypto or fiat Visa card.”
For Simplex founder and CEO Nimrod Lehavi, the Visa partnership is an important step in the company’s plans of enabling greater access to digital currencies. Back in October, Simplex added a Tether-to-euro cashout feature to its platform.
Crypto debit cards remain an important component of enabling “fiat-like convenience” for spending cryptocurrencies either online or in physical store locations. Indeed, the increased utilization of digital currencies for microtransactions remains one of the benchmarks for gauging crypto adoption.
In 2020, a number of crypto companies began releasing debit cards that let users spend crypto. Binance Card is the latest entry, shipping to European customers in December. Earlier in the same month, crypto lender BlockFi announced its own card program.
Simplex joins Coinbase in the ranks of crypto-native companies obtaining principal membership status. The exchange had previously achieved the same milestone in February, though it has yet to make direct use of the ability as its cards remain issued by third-party providers.
Gemini Exchange To Launch Credit Card With 3% Cashback Rewards Paid In Bitcoin
Gemini Credit Card will allow users to earn rewards paid in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
Users of the Gemini exchange can now sign up for a cryptocurrency rewards credit card that lets them earn up to 3% back in Bitcoin (BTC).
The Winklevoss-led exchange and custodian announced Thursday that the waitlist for the Gemini Credit Card is now open. According to an announcement shared with Cointelegraph, the new card will be launched later this year.
Gemini disclosed that it has acquired Blockrize, a crypto payments startup headed by product developers formerly of American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Google and BitMEX. Blockrize has a waitlist of 10,000 people and they too will receive early access to the Gemini Credit Card.
Blockrize is Gemini’s second acquisition. It purchased Nifty Gateway, a non-fungible tokens platform, in Nov 2019.
Gemini co-founder and crypto influencer Tyler Winklevoss said the new credit card will make it easier for customers to invest in Bitcoin “without changing their existing behavior.”
“Rather than deciding how and when to buy crypto, customers can do so when making their everyday purchases. We’re excited to welcome the Blockrize team to Gemini and work together to continue to mainstream crypto.”
Gemini’s card operates as an ordinary credit card and will be available to U.S. residents in every state. Crypto rewards will be automatically deposited into the user’s Gemini account.
As digital assets continue to pique consumer interest, crypto-focused credit cards are likely to expand further in the coming year. As Cointelegraph reported last month, Visa and BlockFi have teamed up to launch a new credit card that rewards users with BTC.
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