Stripe Is Bringing Back Crypto Payments, Citing ‘Real Utility’

cryptocurrency tokens

Crypto payments have traditionally suffered from a pervasive “cold start” problem.

Among other issues hamstringing the integration of blockchain-based digital assets as a payments mechanism, many potential customers simply don’t own any crypto and therefore can’t use it to carry out transactions.

And that doesn’t really incentivize merchants to embrace crypto payments as an offering.

But with the news last Thursday (April 25) that Stripe is re-entering the cryptocurrency payment space after a six-year hiatus, the adoption of cryptocurrencies as a mainstream payment mechanism is top of mind for businesses and merchants across verticals.

“Crypto is back,” Stripe President and Co-founder John Collison said at a company keynote entitled “The Future of Payments.”

“We’re excited to announce that we’re bringing back crypto as a way to accept payments, but this time with a much better experience,” he said, explaining that Stripe will start supporting global stablecoin payments this summer, with transactions that instantly settle on-chain and convert automatically to fiat.

Stripe surpassed $1 trillion in total payment volume in 2023, and the company’s re-entry into the cryptocurrency payment market could be viewed as highlighting the emerging potential for a broader acceptance and integration of digital currencies in the payment industry. By focusing on stablecoins like USDC, Stripe aims to mitigate the volatility risks associated with cryptocurrencies, addressing one of the major barriers to their adoption as a payment mechanism.

Read more: Would You Sell Your House for Bitcoin? People Do

Making Transactions More Efficient, Secure and Inclusive

Stripe was one of the first major payment providers to embrace early support for bitcoin, which it did in 2014 before discontinuing its crypto offerings just four years later in 2018.

When ending that support, the company cited technical factors like the lengthening transaction confirmation times, a growing failure rate, transaction fees so high they commonly were as costly as bank wire transfers and the resulting decrease in demand from both Stripe clients and retail customers.

But now, “crypto is finding real utility,” Stripe’s Collison said during his keynote speech. “With transaction speeds increasing and costs coming down, we’re seeing crypto finally making sense as a means of exchange.”

This follows the news that Telegram Messenger, the fourth most popular messaging app by active monthly users after Meta’s WhatsAppWeChat, and Facebook Messenger, announced that it was pivoting to crypto payments for its advertisers, and crypto payouts for content creators on the messaging app.

As PYMNTS has covered, while cryptocurrencies have succeeded as an unregulated store of value — as well as a tool for scammers — digital assets have yet to crack the nut that bitcoin itself was originally founded on: to serve as a form of payment for goods and services.

With cryptocurrency, “a lack of familiarity can lead to a lack of comfort, which will often lead to a lack of adoption,” Ajay Rajani, vice president of expansion and crypto at Tala, told PYMNTS.

PYMNTS looked at the advantages of crypto payments last month in a conversation with Brad Chase, head of liquidity products at enterprise crypto solutions company Ripple, who pointed to studies that show up to a 70% cost reduction by going from traditional rails to crypto.

“Crypto is a digitally native global asset,” Chase told PYMNTS. “And if you think about this new digitally native, tech-savvy customer segment that is emerging, they hold crypto, and they want to use it for payments.”

PYMNTS Intelligence in the 2023 report, “Credit Union Innovation: Bridging the Cryptocurrency Divide,” a collaboration with PSCU, shows that just under 1 in 3 U.S. consumers own cryptocurrency (31%), and those who do tend to take crypto into consideration when making a host of financial decisions.

Read more: Crypto Continues to Serve as Case Study in Behavioral Economics

Embedded Crypto Payments Look to Smooth Integration Frictions

Proponents of digital assets believe that using crypto for payments offers the advantage of faster transaction settlement compared to many traditional methods, as well as gives buyers an attractive, real-world outlet for their crypto holdings.

Stripe is positioning its crypto capabilities as a simple way to embed crypto purchases directly into a checkout flow.

PYMNTS Intelligence has found that a positive checkout experience keeps customers coming back to a merchant.

As Stripe President of Product and Business Will Gaybrick told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in a June interview, consumers often walk away before the transaction is done if they have to struggle with drop-down menus, inputting card details and expiration dates,

“We intelligently ‘order’ the payment methods based on which ones are most likely to convert for that session and for that consumer,” Gaybrick said at the time.