BitOasis, one of the largest cryptocurrency trading platforms in the Mena region, and global payments company Mastercard have teamed up to unveil cryptocurrency cards that will allow the use of digital tokens at point-of-sale terminals and across e-commerce platforms.
BitOasis customers will be able to use their cryptocurrency wallet holdings to pay for goods and services at more than 90 million merchant locations globally, the two companies said on Tuesday.
The first BitOasis cards are expected to be available in markets early next year, once regulatory approvals are secured.
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BitOasis chief executive and co-founder Ola Doudin said there was sustained demand among the platform's customers for solutions that make cryptocurrencies more relevant in their daily lives.
“Research tells us that 47 per cent of the Middle East population now believe crypto is the future of money,” Ms Doudin said.
“We want to enable BitOasis customers to benefit from the convenience of linking their wallets to their BitOasis Mastercard crypto cards for use across Mastercard’s global merchant network.”
In March, Dubai became the first in the region to adopt a law to regulate virtual assets in an attempt to provide investors with a safe environment while embracing emerging technology as interest in them grows.
The Mena region is the fastest-growing cryptocurrency market in the world, accounting for 9.2 per cent of global digital currency transactions from July 2021 to June 2022, according to a report this month by blockchain data platform Chainalysis.
Individual investors in the region received $566 billion in cryptocurrencies during the period, an annual increase of 48 per cent, Chainalysis said in its 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index.
The Mena region is “home to three of the top 30 countries in this year’s Crypto Adoption Index: Turkey [ranked 12], Morocco  and Egypt ”, the report said.
Meanwhile, BitOasis customers will be issued with virtual and physical BitOasis cards through a digital signing-up experience on its app, allowing them to make physical and online transactions.
Amnah Ajmal, Mastercard's executive vice president of market development for Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, said consumers looking for “new, fast and flexible digital experiences” were driving the adoption of emerging payment technology solutions.
“With this comes a greater expectation for businesses to provide multiple ways to shop and pay,” Ms Ajmal said.
“Through our collaboration with BitOasis, we enable the consumer experience to be seamless by using their cryptocurrencies in a safe and secure environment.”
Currently, cryptocurrency payments and cash-outs are considered cumbersome, with the overwhelming majority of merchants not accepting such payments directly, according to Mastercard and BitOasis.
Transactions using BitOasis cards will be enabled to take place in fiat currency, thereby adding provisions for dispute resolution and refunds — something that doesn’t exist today when paying with a digital asset, the companies said.
The partnership will address these issues and boost customer awareness and cryptocurrency adoption in the region.
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About 88 per cent of consumers in the UAE used at least one emerging payment method in the past year, with 20 per cent using cryptocurrencies, according to Mastercard’s New Payments Index.
Although the use of cryptocurrencies was low, 40 per cent of digital token users in the Emirates said they had used them more in the past year, Mastercard said.
About 74 per cent of UAE consumers said they would use cryptocurrencies more if they better understood digital tokens. This is despite 95 per cent of respondents admitting to having mainstream awareness of cryptocurrency.
Sixty-six per cent of consumers in the UAE believe that digital assets could be good investments while 67 per cent have undertaken at least one crypto-related activity in the past year, such as opening a wallet, buying, trading or holding a digital token as an investment, the Mastercard survey found.
Merchants around the world are also increasingly willing to accept payments made using cryptocurrencies, with 46 per cent of those surveyed in June by Pymnts.com indicating that they had already integrated virtual assets into their mix of payment methods.
About 77 per cent of these merchants cited lower transaction processing fees as the primary reason behind adoption.