Crypto Buying Boosts Mastercard Customer Spending, CFO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Mastercard Inc. doesn’t traffic in cryptocurrencies, but it’s benefiting from them just the same.

The payment network’s cross-border volumes -- a measure of customer spending abroad -- have risen 22 percent so far this year, fueled partly by clients using their cards to buy digital currencies, Chief Financial Officer Martina Hund-Mejean said Thursday on a call with analysts. Higher spending on travel in Europe also contributed, she said.

“We don’t really plan on any of this continuing in any big way,” she said in a telephone interview. “Just last week -- as some of the prices came down -- you already saw the trend slowing.”

More issuers are limiting customers’ ability to purchase digital currencies, which could also slow the trend in its cross-border business, she said. Banks have come down on all sides of whether to allow customers to use their cards to buy cryptocurrencies. Discover Financial Services and Capital One Financial Corp. don’t allow it, while JPMorgan Chase & Co. does. Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. are both reviewing their policies on the issue.

Crypto Pilot

Under a limited pilot program being developed, cryptocurrency companies would be able to offer a Mastercard-branded prepaid debit card, Hund-Mejean said. The network still has to ensure there’s a level playing field for its banking partners in terms of compliance with anti-money-laundering and know-your-customer rules, she said.

“We should always look at every new area and that’s what we’re doing, but it’s more in a very small, extremely controlled pilot phase,” Hund-Mejean said. Mastercard wants to ensure the cards benefit consumers “rather than having them stomach some of this unbelievable volatility that’s going on in cryptocurrency values,” she said.

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