Visa expands interest in cryptocurrency for underbanked customers

Visa announced this week a new partnership with Tala, a digital financial services provider in emerging markets. The new arrangement is designed to provide easier access to cryptocurrencies for underbanked consumers, realizing one of the original goals of Bitcoin when it was first described in Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper.

Through the integration with Circle and Stellar, Tala’s customers will gain access to USDC, a stablecoin backed by US dollars, in Tala’s digital wallet. The integration will support asset storage, cross-border transfer and crypto-fiat exchange functionalities. Tala’s partnership with Visa will provide the company with the ability to issue Visa cards linked to the wallet, allowing Tala’s customers to make purchases against their USDC balance at any of Visa’s 70 million merchants worldwide.

Visa’s head of crypto, Cuy Sheffield, points out that, because of the growth of stablecoins like USDC, the company “has been really interested to see how they could have the potential to help consumers in markets where they don’t have great access to financial services.” In December, the credit card giant partnered with Circle to drive USDC integration into its growing network of digital wallets.

Tala is an ideal partner for the new initiative. Founded in Santa Monica seven years ago, it has given over $2 billion in credit to more than six million customers across India, Kenya, Mexico and the Philippines. Clients have access to microloans that range from $10 to $500 using Tala’s smartphone app, regardless of their formal credit history. The company has raised more than $200 million from PayPal Ventures, RPS Ventures and GGV Capital, as well as a few others.

Tala hopes that it can drive lowered costs of remittances for its customers with the crypto offering, according to company CEO Shivani Siroya. He founded Tala after researching the impact of microcredit in sub-Saharan and West Africa for the U.N., realizing that, in recent years, crypto remittances have become a popular way for migrant workers to send money across borders. The increase in adoption has been fueled by the faster and cheaper options that crypto offers compared to traditional financial services like Western Union and MoneyGram.

This is the first major crypto initiative for Tala, which recently began expanding its product suite to offer more financial services to consumers in developing economies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company launched its Tala Rebuild Fund, which provides 0% interest, six-month loans to small businesses with essential services. Additionally, Tala began offering, at a subsidized rate, COVID-19 medical insurance available to all of its customers in Kenya as a result of the pandemic.

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