Bitcoin Is Outperforming World Currencies As The Dollar Gets Stronger

As world currencies are tanking against the USD (US Dollar), Bitcoin is holding its ground. A strong USD is creating a debasement as the DXY hit an index high of 114.61. The strength of the USD has increased relative to a basket of other currencies (e.g. British Pound, Japanese Yen, etc.). Since the USD is the global reserve currency, a stronger dollar means higher costs for international trading. This affects prices of commodities that are paid for in USD, because of the exchange rate.

In the last 7 days (as reported on Fortune 9/28/22), Bitcoin has grown 6.3%, hitting $20K+ before eventually settling back to a lower level. Other currencies did not do as well. The biggest losses were the British Pound at -5.3% and the Euro at -3.5%. Even the Yuan was not spared, dropping -2.2%.

(Source Fortune)

Safe haven asset gold did just as poorly as the other world currencies. It has fallen by -1.7% against the USD, while Bitcoin has gone up. At this point it is risk off, and many investors are selling off assets in stocks/equities and moving to the USD. Crypto traders are likewise moving their assets from volatile cryptocurrency to stablecoins (e.g. USDT, USDC) that are pegged to the USD.

To further complicate matters, inflation is getting higher. The US has hiked interest rates in order to combat rising inflation, which kills demand and destroys risk on assets. For many investors crypto is being treated like tech stocks, so there have been many sell-offs regarding that. However, there are still those who believe that Bitcoin can be a way to solve that problem.

The idea behind Bitcoin (per maximalist thinking) is that it could or should be a hedge against inflation or economic uncertainties like currency debasement. That means that Bitcoin should be inversely correlated to inflation, but it has been more correlated to the traditional financial markets. Even though the founder Satoshi Nakamoto never stated that it was Bitcoin’s exact purpose to hedge inflation, it has opened that idea since it is outside the current financial system. It is not state controlled or corporation held, which makes it a neutral store of value. It also has a capped limit (21 million coins), so it cannot increase in supply. Despite this, there are large holders (i.e. whales) who can still manipulate prices.

It is interesting to see how this all plays out. It has been observed over the last few years that a stronger dollar equates to a weaker Bitcoin or BTC. At the moment we are seeing that it is not always the case. People who do not want to lose value in their wealth could start putting their money into crypto like BTC. What is slowly happening is that people from those countries where their currency is getting debased are exploring crypto as a way to preserve their wealth. Perhaps it is a short term trend, but if it remains stable within the next few weeks or months, this could be a sign that the value of BTC is being realized.

We Were Warned About Terra LUNA

Prior to the great Terra LUNA meltdown of May 2022, there were warning signs to investors. This came from some notable crypto experts. The main problem was not about the team or developers. They actually have a solid project team with great ideas. It was more about the design of the stablecoin that worried critics. Terra developed an algorithmic stablecoin called UST (Terra USD) that has no actual commodity or asset backing its value. Instead it relies on minting tokens that peg its value to the US Dollar (USD).

In order to meet its peg to the USD, users must purchase Terra’s main coin called LUNA. UST is minted by burning LUNA, and users can hold UST in a DeFi protocol called Anchor to earn yields on interest up to ~20% (has fallen to 18% as of writing). It is a high earning interest rate that attracted investors to flock to UST. This includes many crypto influencers who also urged their followers to put their UST on the Anchor protocol and earn money.

The second problem with this system, is the sustainability of the Anchor protocol in being able to pay users the interest on their deposited UST. It turns out there were liquidity problems that exposed the protocol before. It was back in May 2021, during the cryptocurrency market crash that UST fell to as low as $0.96. That means a deposit of $1,000 would go down to $960 (a loss of $40) not including any yield on interest. This happened once again in May 2022, and this time the price of UST has gone well below the May 2021 mark. As of posting the value of UST was $0.1101 (Coinmarketcap). If you had deposited $1,000, the value will go down to $110.10 or about 90% of your money’s value was lost.

In order to return the peg back to $1, UST needs to be burned to mint more LUNA. During the meltdown that was what happened, but it hyper-inflated the supply of LUNA in the open market pumping into the trillions. This led to a drastic fall in LUNA prices as a “bank run” started with users dumping their UST. The Luna Foundation Guard (LFG) then stepped in by selling reserves in Bitcoin (and other assets supposedly) to try to mitigate the free fall of UST. It just was not enough because more users were selling off their UST than holding. On the Anchor protocol, the UST locked value fell from $14 Billion to under $5 Billion (and still falling as of writing).

Investment and crypto analyst Lyn Alden was one of the experts who warned about Terra’s UST. In a report from Daily HODL:

“Unlike a crypto-collateralized stablecoin, there is no specific threshold where UST breaks. However, if LUNA gets small relative to UST, the probability of an algorithmic bank run increases… Many of them would liquidate their BTC for cash since their positioning at the time was meant to be a stablecoin.” 

The fall of UST did affect Bitcoin prices, as the LFG had to sell off its reserves in BTC. The worst case scenario seems to have played out because it dragged several assets to the downside (UST, LUNA, ANC and Bitcoin). The LFG reserves would not be enough to cover restoring the peg to USD unfortunately.

She also cites some worries about the Anchor protocol:

“Then there’s the unsustainable Anchor yield timebomb. The time bomb is not about how well-managed the yield decline will be. It’s about what happens to UST demand structurally, when the primary demand driver (artificially high Anchor yields) no longer exists.”

In other words, Anchor did not appear to have the money to cover the interest payments. The payments would be coming from money borrowed using the protocol. However, there were more lenders than borrowers, so there was no balance. The yields were so high it could not be sustainable to pay in the long run.

Another warning about Terra LUNA came from Kevin Zhou of Galois Capital. He was one of the critics to sound the alarm and warned the public. Zhou told Coindesk:

“Even if it happened in slow motion, even if it was something like a bank walk, it was more about this thing not being solvent.”

Solvency was indeed an issue. To quote Zhou, “mechanism was flawed, and it didn’t play out as expected.”

There is also a crypto YouTube channel Coinsider that reported about the risk with Terra LUNA and UST. You can check the video which was made back in March 18, 2022 prior to the meltdown. The analysis was spot on and very informative. It may have also helped some people make the right decision of not investing in LUNA/UST or using the Anchor protocol.

What happened to Terra was catastrophic, and probably the worst if not one of the worst collapses in crypto history. Many people have lost money in the Anchor protocol with their UST deposits, while holders of LUNA now have a worthless (under $1) coin that once was valued at over $100 per coin. Regulators are aware of this problem and they could now begin to apply regulations that require money earning protocols to register or comply with financial rules for consumer protection.

The lesson from all this is to be careful when depositing your money into a DeFi protocol. Anchor was not the first protocol to fail like this. Iron Finance had their own meltdown that should have been another warning sign about high interest protocols. It was even endorsed by public personalities, making it more attractive to users which makes it even more problematic. The problem exposed in these systems is that during extreme market volatility, the algorithmic stablecoins were not able to keep the peg to USD. There was nothing the protocol can do when you have a bank run.

Sometimes when it sounds too good to be true (e.g. high interest on deposits), it probably is. It can be risky when big money is involved. Research the project thoroughly and listen to both sides to get a better understanding of the risks involved, and not just the benefits.

Disclaimer: This is opinion and not financial advice. The information provided is for reference and educational purposes only. Always DYOR to verify information.

Things To Know About Getting Paid In Bitcoin

Would you be willing to accept your salary in the form of Bitcoin (BTC)?

Some people are willing to accept their salary in the form of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. These are not just ordinary people, but includes athletes, celebrities, social influencers and even politicians. It is becoming a popular way for some brands to gain exposure by building up the hype around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency by using public figures as ambassadors.

In the sports world, you have athletes like Aaron Rogers, Odell Beckham Jr., Russell Okung and Sean Culkin who have agreed to accept some part of their salary in the form of Bitcoin. These athletes did not have to do that, but the incentives are great. Either they had done their own research or someone may have advised them on the value of Bitcoin.

Some politicians have also agreed to get paid in Bitcoin. One example is Miami mayor Francis Suarez, who agreed to get a paycheck in Bitcoin. This falls in line with the mayor’s own plans of transforming Miami into a cryptocurrency hub. Another example is the mayor of New York, Eric Adams, agreeing to have his first salary paid in Bitcoin. These moves could be politically motivated to promote their respective cities as being open to the crypto space. Nonetheless, it sends a positive signal.

There are countries that are also allowing Bitcoin as payment for salaries. At the top of this list is El Salvador, which is officially the first country to accept Bitcoin as a form of legal tender. Prior to El Salvador, New Zealand had been the first country to allow salaries in Bitcoin, back in 2019. Elsewhere in Latin America, there are proposals in Brazil to accept Bitcoin as an option for salary payments. 

Since the world has become more global in terms of business, Bitcoin is also providing a way for companies to pay for workers who are based overseas. There are now crypto payroll services that process such transactions. What is important here is that these services meet legal requirements, in order to be able to allow companies to pay their workers in Bitcoin. It is much easier with integration to Layer 2 payment rails like the Lightning Network (LN). The LN works with apps to allow Bitcoin payments to be made quickly and cheaply, so it is just like sending any electronic payment. This can be made using a smartphone app, which can help adoption since many users around the world own a smartphone.

Getting paid in Bitcoin is not yet common, but gaining popularity. What is important for anyone who accepts their salary in Bitcoin is to understand that this is a volatile asset. Prices are subject to swings, where the value can fall by 40%, but it can then suddenly recover much higher. This also does not excuse anyone from not paying taxes. Treating it more as an investment asset rather than as just another form of currency is the whole idea of Bitcoin. It may not be ideal if you need fast liquidity like cash, but more so for storing value in the long run.

Another important thing to know about getting paid in Bitcoin are tax laws in respective jurisdictions. In the US, this is a taxable event. An accountant or lawyer who has an understanding of virtual currency laws as it relates to cryptocurrency can help. The taxes are to be paid in fiat, unless the jurisdiction accepts BTC for tax payments. There are states like Arizona which will allow it, so if a payment is received in BTC, the taxes can also be paid in BTC that is commensurate to the fiat amount of that payment. For the most part, taxes are paid in fiat based on the conversion from the Bitcoin payment.

It is easy to just convert Bitcoin to fiat currency after every paycheck. However, it has future price appreciation in valuation for holders which is just like stocks. You also get the benefits of a non-confiscatable store of value that grows over time. If you custody your own Bitcoin in your own digital wallet, it cannot be frozen or taken by anyone. As more people realize that there is more to Bitcoin than currency, perhaps they will be more open to considering it for their next paycheck.

(Photo Credit by David McBee)

Disclaimer: This is not financial advice. The information provided is for reference and educational purposes only. DYOR always to verify any information.

Ethereum Reaches A New Milestone As It Prepares For ETH 2.0

There have been plenty of great developments in the Ethereum blockchain. This has been good for its native currency ETH (Ether) and has restored confidence in holders toward the end of the first quarter of 2022. This has led to a rally in ETH price to above the $3K level, starting in March 22. Some analysts take this as an ominous sign that ETH has turned bullish once again, but what is really the motivation behind it?

Toward the end of 2021, Ethereum developers released the Kintsugi Merge test network. This is a more realistic approach to testing how the Ethereum network will be like post-merge (i.e. when the Beacon Chain merges with the mainnet). This allows developers to test the features of the network in an environment that supports PoS (Proof-of-Stake). This is where smart contracts can be tested without any additional costs to developers.

Ethereum developers have also released the Kiln public test network in March of 2022. This is the final test network before the transition to PoS. This is where developers can test their applications and tools before deploying on the mainnet. Node operators and stakers can also test on Kiln, to evaluate the performance on a simulated blockchain.

Toward the end of March 2022, the number of ETH 2.0 validators has reached 300,000+ with over $28 Billion TVL (Total Value Locked). That is based on the valuation of ETH (~$2900-$3,000 circa March 1, 2022). The total amount of ETH locked (requires 32 per validator) has reached 9.6 Million ETH. At the price of ETH in March 28, 2022 at $3,300.62 (10:46 PM EST), the total value locked would be $31.6 Billion. The value of ETH increases with the market, and any surge also brings up the TVL for the validators.

Ethereum is receiving not just retail support, but institutional as well. Macro guru Raoul Pal has become more bullish on his outlook of Ethereum. He believes it is on track to outperform Bitcoin based on its performance. Pal is looking at long term metrics that show that the market Ethereum is capturing covers a much larger base than Bitcoin. This includes the derivatives and money markets, where billions of dollars are sitting. Should even a small percentage of the money flow into the DeFi space, where ETH is a major currency, it can create network effects that can further drive ETH value higher.

Other reports are coming that banks are positive on Ethereum. It seems banks like JP Morgan had at one time been very critical of cryptocurrency. The sentiment has changed, and they now invest in projects that involve cryptocurrency like Ethereum. Perhaps the recent developments in how Ethereum will become more energy efficient and how it is a platform that facilitates a decentralized financial system opens opportunity for capital investments.

The transition to a new consensus mechanism can greatly impact Ethereum network performance. A faster and more energy efficient system gives it a positive outlook compared to Bitcoin and other energy intensive cryptocurrency that use PoW (Proof-of-Work). The more important matter that investors are keeping an eye on is how the move to ETH 2.0 will improve the network’s overall performance. This attempts to solve the problems of scaling, which Ethereum competitors (e.g. Solana, Harmony, Avalanche) have already been addressing. A more stable network with the capability to process more transactions will be huge for Ethereum, and can establish it as a dominant platform for years to come.

All I Want Is Bitcoin For Christmas!

What better idea to give for Christmas than Bitcoin! The premier digital asset is a gift to behold. There will only be 21 million BTC in existence, so having at least one or a fraction of BTC will be very valuable. Here are ways on how you can gift your friends, family and loved ones with the number one cryptocurrency in an easy and secure way.

Bitcoin ATM Voucher

Give a voucher to redeem BTC from a Bitcoin ATM (BTM). Go to the BTM to purchase Bitcoin.  A printed receipt will be given that contains the wallet address of the Bitcoin(s) purchased. The BTC can be redeemed at any time. Best to give with a Christmas or holiday greeting card. This is the best way to give Bitcoin to first time holders.

Hardware Wallets

Purchase a hardware wallet (e.g. Trezor, Ledger) for storing a Bitcoin address private key. This in itself is enough for the gift, but you can also add some BTC to the wallet address. Ideal gift for more advanced users who may already have a hot wallet (i.e. online wallet) on an exchange. Hardware wallets allow users to have full custody of their Bitcoin(s).

Direct P2P (Peer-to-Peer)

Gift Bitcoin the way it was intended to be used, peer-to-peer. Just get the recipient’s wallet address and send the Bitcoin from your wallet. This is now simpler thanks to smartphone apps (e.g. CashApp, Coinbase) which have features for sending cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to other users. You can also use Lightning Network apps (e.g. Strike), which makes it faster to send BItcoins.These apps are  easy to use, but do be wary of transaction fees. It could be a little more expensive during the holidays when the network is busier than usual. 

Crypto-Gifting

Some crypto companies like Coinbase offer a crypto-gifting service. You must have an account on their platform to do this. This will allow you to choose the cryptocurrency of your choice (choose Bitcoin!) and send it as a gift. Provide the recipient’s e-mail address and instructions will be sent on how to claim their Bitcoin present.

Bitcoin Is A Gift That Keeps On Giving

The overall value of Bitcoin is everlasting. It can be worth more than it is currently priced in the future due to demand and supply. It is even more scarce than gold. It is also something that cannot be easily confiscated or restricted, because of its decentralized nature. Bitcoin’s properties make it a good asset to own for storing value.

The takeaway here is to give Bitcoin(s) responsibly. Recipients should be educated on cryptocurrency in general, not just Bitcoin. Spend some time with them to help them learn. With that understanding, you can make sure they will be responsible enough to never reveal a private key and that once it is lost the Bitcoin might never be recovered.  It is about safety and security first in order to enjoy Bitcoin this holiday season.

Disclaimer: This is not financial advice. The information provided is for reference and educational purposes only. DYOR always to verify any information.

The Anchor Protocol For The Terra Network Blockchain

This article provides information about the Terra network and the Anchor Protocol. This will allow access to the Terra blockchain ecosystem, which provides users with access to DeFi (Decentralized Finance) applications.


Terra Blockchain

Anchor is a savings protocol offering low-volatile high yields on Terra stablecoin (UST) deposits. While banks are offering less than 0% interest on savings, Anchor offers between 19 – 20% APY. The Anchor protocol makes use of the Terra blockchain ecosystem to earn users higher yields on their deposits. 

The protocol is decentralized. There are no required sign-ups other than access to a wallet. There are no minimum deposits, account freezes and users can immediately withdraw funds at any time. 

Anchor also lets users borrow against their digital assets as the collateral. The borrower is issued Terra stablecoins based on an LTV (Loan-to-Value) ratio. The higher the LTV for borrowing against collateral, the higher the risk of liquidation if the borrower is not able to maintain the ratio. The good thing about it is that this provides liquid assets to users without losing their original assets. As long as they pay back what was issued, they can recover their collateral.

Users can also stake ANC tokens to earn more tokens. This can also be provided to liquidity pools for the ANC/UST token pairing. The protocol’s simplest earning product is a UST savings deposit, which can earn up to 20% APY.


Participants

The participants are the users of the Anchor protocol. There are 4 main types.

  1. Lenders – Deposits Terra stablecoin UST for lending to earn % APR. In return they receive a token bond issued as aTerra. This is used to redeem the deposit along with accrued interest.
  2. Borrowers – Deposits collateralized digital assets in the form of bonded assets or bAssets (e.g. bETH or bLUNA) in order to borrow money based on an LTV ratio. The borrowed money is against the borrower’s collateral and is in UST stablecoins.
  3. Liquidators – Purchases liquidated collateral from bidding. When a lender is about to default or has reached the threshold LTV, the liquidation process allows for bids to liquidators.
  4. Liquidity Providers – Provides liquidity to a pool for token pairing of UST/ANC. In return, liquidity providers earn from transaction fees made from the liquidity pool.


Tokens

There are 5 types of tokens involved in the Anchor protocol.

UST (USD Terra) – The Terra stablecoin that is pegged to the USD (US Dollar) in price.

– 1 UST = 1 USD

aTerra (Anchor Terra) – Represent the deposited UST stablecoins. 

– Redeemable for initial deposit D and accrued interest i

aTerra = D + i

– To receive aTerra, a user must deposit their digital asset as bAssets. 

The aTerra is then issued based on the LTV ratio. 

bAssets (Bonded Assets) – The locked collateral

– Locks the value of assets from collateral

  • Bonded Luna (bLuna) – Token backed by Luna
    – CW20 compliant for fungible tokens (ERC20 based)

– exchangeRate = lunaBonded / bLunaSupply

  • Bonded ETH (bETH) – Token backed by ETH
    – CW20 and ERC20 standard

– ETHexchangeRate = stETHbalance / bETHSupply

Anchor (ANC) – Governance Token

– Allows token holders to participate in digital governance for  policy making decisions and development of the protocol.

ANC-UST LP – Liquidity Pool (LP) token issued for users who provide ANC/UST token pair.


How to Earn From Anchor 

There are 4 DeFi products that allow users to earn from Anchor.

  1. Deposit UST to earn up to 20% APY (subject to change)
    • Users deposit their UST to earn % interest APY.
    • Users receive a bond of their deposit as aTerra.
    • The longer the user keeps their deposit in savings, the more interest they can earn.
    • Withdrawals can be made at any time.
  2. Stake ANC and earn ANC
    • Users stake their ANC governance tokens.
    • There is a % APY of staking rewards given to ANC stakers.
    • Rewards from staking are claimed when users unstake their ANC.
  3. Provide liquidity for ANC/UST token pair, earn ANC
    • Users provide equivalent amounts of ANC and UST for liquidity.
    • Their pool contribution is issued as ANC-UST LP token.
    • Users earn from transaction fees from the pool.
    • The ANC-UST LP token is used to redeem the user’s earnings, when liquidity is removed by burning the LP tokens.
    • Users receive the amount of the ANC and UST they provided along with the earnings, depending on the number of LP tokens burned.
  4. Collateralize bLUNA or bETH to borrow UST and earn ANC
    • Users provide digital assets (ETH or LUNA) as bonded assets for collateral.
    • Users can borrow against their collateralized assets using an LTV ratio.
    • Users can borrow until the loan’s LTV ratio reaches the MAX LTV, calculated based on collateral types, their prices, and deposit amount.
    • Users can use the money they borrow to earn ANC.


Liquidation Contracts

  • The higher the LTV, the higher the risk of liquidation.
  • Manages collateral liquidations of loans at risk of under collateralization.
  • Used by liquidators to purchase liquidated collateral.


Synopsis

Anchor allows users to earn by allowing deposits of their UST for % APY.

They can also borrow for collateralized lending using bETH and bLUNA tokens.

Staking allows users to stake ANC tokens for yields and claim rewards.

Contribute to liquidity, allowing users to provide ANC-UST token pairs to a liquidity pool and earn from transaction fees.

Disclaimer: This is not financial advice. The information provided is for educational and reference purposes only. Do your own research always to verify facts.

London Hard Fork Brings The Burn To Ethereum

The Ethereum network has activated the London Hard Fork successfully (12:34 UTC, Block# 12,965,000, 8/5/2021). In the first two days, $30 Million of ETH (Ether) were burned. That amount of ETH burned, removes approximately 3,000+ ETH from circulation. This is part of the EIP 1559 specification in which a certain portion of the transaction fee is burned per transaction. The hard fork also makes transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain more predictable. This creates lower gas fees that can bring the costs of transactions down since there is now a base fee.

The introduction of a base fee addresses the volatility in transactions. This is regarding the cost of gas prices during times of network congestion. When the network is at its busiest, the cost of gas can suddenly increase which is why recent transaction costs on the Ethereum network has been high. With a base fee, this can prevent gas prices from suddenly shooting up to levels where it makes more sense to send large transactions than lower ones.

Since Ethereum uses an inflationary currency model, the burning introduces a deflationary system for the first time. This puts a check on the amount of ETH in circulation, which can affect prices to the upside. This has become controversial since it affects miner rewards, but the Ethereum network is moving away from mining (Proof-of-Work) consensus. A protocol difficulty bomb is part of the design for Ethereum 2.0 (ETH2.0) that will make mining more difficult, encouraging validators to move towards staking (Proof-of-Stake) consensus. The London Hard Fork will delay this at the moment to allow time for transition.

In a nutshell the London Hard Fork has enabled the following features:

  • Establish a base fee for transactions
  • Provide more transparency and predictability to transaction fees
  • Make ETH a more deflationary asset with a burning mechanism

Here are other EIPs activated during the London Hard Fork:

EIP 3554 delays the “difficulty bomb”.

EIP 3529 reduces gas refunds. Gas tokens (e.g. Chi) will become obsolete.

EIP 3198 allows users to return the base fee opcode.

EIP 3541 enables future upgrades to the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)

Overall this introduces steps that will bring Ethereum closer to a minerless future. This gives time for miners to transition to staking, but once the difficulty bomb is activated it begins the “Ice Age” for mining. The new structure for transaction fees is also a positive development in light of the skyrocketing costs to run a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t exactly lower gas prices, but makes it more manageable with a base fee. At least users will not have to deal with sudden increases when all they want to do is transfer ETH to another wallet or swap tokens. ETH will also be headed towards a more deflationary asset as well, with the burning of portions of its transaction fees. All of this creates positive market signals that drives further utility on the Ethereum blockchain.

(Photo Credit by Chris Schippers)

Come On Amazon, Get Into Crypto Already

In Big Tech, Apple was usually the one who was late to the party. When it comes to crypto, that does not seem to be the case. Apple has made moves to hire an “alternatives payment” manager that we can assume involves cryptocurrency. It became obvious when one of the key qualifications mentioned was experience with cryptocurrency. Google has been involved with blockchain technology related matters like their partnership with Theta Labs network. Other Big Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft have dabbled with blockchain and cryptocurrency on occasion but there is one company that we have not heard much about recently being involved in crypto … Amazon.

Amazon has actually patented a blockchain-based product authenticator back in 2020. It is not using cryptocurrency (as of writing) and has not really been in the news much. Amazon even removed crypto from their payment methods from the Twitch.TV platform . There is however news that Amazon is moving towards cryptocurrency payments. Just like Apple, Amazon is looking for a digital currency and blockchain expert. They might be considering crypto payments for their online retail business.

It is a big deal if Amazon embraces crypto. Not just for payments, but if the company invests in digital assets like Tesla. Amazon has a large retail empire which they could open to retail for cryptocurrency. This will most likely require payment processors like Visa, who have started to process cryptocurrency for payments in 2021. Amazon may permit payment processors to handle cryptocurrency to fiat conversions, meaning the final payment will still be in fiat.

Developers would find it an opportunity to create gateways for payment processors from crypto to fiat. Regulations must be followed as part of jurisdiction laws, so how it will be implemented is the challenge. The less you have to deal with regulators, the better it will be to just allow others to deal with it. Then again why would Amazon need a third party, when they are more than capable of implementing a system with their vast resources available.

According to an Amazon spokesperson:

“We’re inspired by the innovation happening in the cryptocurrency space and are exploring what this could look like on Amazon. We believe the future will be built on new technologies that enable modern, fast, and inexpensive payments, and hope to bring that future to Amazon customers as soon as possible.”

It sounds like the type of news that can move the market to the upside. It is also what speculators want to hear because it can generate more interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. That usually leads to FOMO buying sprees that help drive prices of digital assets higher. While the news cycle from the media had been full of FUD the past few weeks since “Elon FUD” back in May, it has since become more positive. Whether or not Amazon does finally consider cryptocurrency payments or develop their own token, they have confirmed their interest. For many analysts that is a sign that cryptocurrency is not about to go away any time soon.

(Cover Photo Credit by Anna Shvets)

Apple Pay and Coinbase Bring Crypto Payments To Retail

As of June 2021, users who have Apple Pay can now pay for items with cryptocurrency by way of the Coinbase debit card. The card also supports Google Pay with the option to pay with cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In a press release statement (From the Coinbase blog):

“You can now use your Coinbase Card with Apple Pay and Google Pay to make it even easier to spend crypto at home and on the go.”

It is Coinbase that has integrated cryptocurrency payment options, and is not directly from Apple Pay. This means that users will need a Coinbase card first, which can then be added as a payment option on Apple Pay.

Coinbase provides a debit card from which users can attach their cryptocurrency wallet to use funds. One of the perks it offers is a cash-back spending feature (up to 4% according to Coinbase). This rewards heavy users back to their iPhone.

Before a user can pay with cryptocurrency, it is clear that it is not a direct exchange of value. It must first be converted to fiat at the point-of-sale. The merchant must also support payments in cryptocurrency, so this means that users cannot just use their card to make any payment in cryptocurrency. Merchants who accept the card can offer designated cryptocurrency payment methods (e.g. ETH, XLM, BTC).

Cryptocurrency debit cards are providing users not just a new payment method, but a way to actually use digital assets as a medium for exchange. They can be used to pay for goods and services where it is accepted, and that allows more utility for cryptocurrency. There are other types of cards offered by Crypto.com and BitPay, with their own reward system for users.

With crypto payments going toward mainstream adoption, the question is whether the volatility will have any negative effect. An example of this is sudden change in price of a cryptocurrency in the middle of a transaction. How will payment processors handle the variations, which can suddenly increase or decrease without warning? The idea is making the payment at the point-of-sale, but users may delay in paying from the time of quote. In the real world, prices are fixed with fiat currency and users pay for an item as listed. Prices don’t suddenly change after a few minutes. With crypto, prices can suddenly change while a user is waiting to make a payment. This is certainly something that will be tested.

Certain crypto, like Bitcoin, may be considered too valuable to spend. However, that would probably be the digital asset merchants would like to accept for cryptocurrency payments. Users will have to consider whether they want to spend fractions of their BTC for a pair of sneakers or just HODL it. There are other crypto options of course, which is why this can still work out for both users and merchants. Another thing to take note of are the transaction fees. Users would probably want to use a blockchain where transaction fees are cheapest to spend their crypto.

Stablecoins may provide a better solution to go around the volatility. This might be a good option since it is pegged to more stable assets. Users can set their Coinbase card to use a stablecoin like USDC as their payment option method. All users will need to do is convert a certain amount of their base crypto like Bitcoin to a stablecoin. From there they can fund their debit card with less worries about volatility.

Both Apple Pay and Google Pay come from large tech platforms that serve millions of users. Integration with cryptocurrency payments is further simplified through the use of smartphones. Apple Pay users have iOS (iPhone) while Google Pay users have Android (Samsung, OnePlus, Huawei, etc.). This finally takes the world of retail digital payments to the blockchain.

Meme Coins – Opportunity Or Stupidity?

I am convinced that the rise of Meme Coins in the cryptospace is nothing innovative like DeFi (Decentralized Finance), but more a distraction. If the pumps going into these coins were instead going to legitimate projects, perhaps the market would be better off. Perhaps I am wrong, but when you think about it, why do coins like Dogecoin (DOGE) have a market cap of $40+ Billion (as of June 15, 2021)? I feel the same way about hard forks that could have injected more liquidity into the original coin, but instead are diverting funds away to an offshoot. There is plenty of hype behind it, and it can be fueled by public figures who have influence (e.g. Elon Musk for Dogecoin).

After the Dogecoin hype, the Meme coin mania continues with Shiba Inu (SHIB), Safemoon (SAFEMOON), Cumrocket (CUMMIES) and more dog themed coins. At first glance many would think there is no particular utility for these coins. SHIB actually wants to help protect the Shiba Inu dog breed, so it has a specific cause. Other than that it seems like a pump and dump scheme. CUMMIES offers a crypto for adult themed entertainment. SAFEMOON claims to be a DeFi token despite its classification by some exchanges like Coinmarketcap as a Meme Coin.

Critics say that these coins lack fundamentals when it comes to money supply. If you look at Dogecoin, it has no supply limit which means that it is highly inflated. Others implement a sort of burn mechanism to deflate the supply, but the total circulating supply is already very high (in the billions). It doesn’t seem to make much sense that the circulating supply is so high, but you can buy them cheaply because they are barely 1 cent in value. Buying at such low prices appears to be a bargain but with no limit to money supply, prices just don’t really increase unless there is some scarcity or deflation.

Meme Coins do not really have any ground breaking purpose other than transfer value on a blockchain. The coins target specific use cases like causes and communities for the purpose of the coin. That already gives it a use case, but it is not like other projects that have a more serious purpose. Instead, developers of Meme Coins are doing it more for fun. They were meant to be a joke for good humor. It surely does not seem like a wise long term investment or even for storing value. It can all be lost when a big bag holder dumps the market. Then you have to wait for more people to come in with their money, but there are no guarantees that will happen.

For starters, most of these coins were copied from existing projects. Since many of the top crypto are based on open source code, it is easy to copy them and create a new crypto. Dogecoin was copied from both Bitcoin and Litecoin. Another path for Meme Coin developers is the issuance of a token using a standard like ERC-20 on the Ethereum blockchain (e.g. SHIB) or a BEP-20 token issued on Binance Smart Chain (BSC). The reason they are called a meme is because they don’t offer any specific purpose other than “going to the moon”, which is the term for making money in the cryptospace. Some Meme Coin developers offer their rationale behind their coin, but many of these talking points do not have solid proof or evidence behind the theory.

The main concern is that when these coins pump, they can as easily dump. That would leave the newcomers as the bag holders until new money pumps. It is a sort of Ponzi scheme since liquidity is determined not by utility, but from hype. Those who came late give their money to those who came early during a dump, leaving newcomers rekt (i.e. losers). The system will not be sustainable unless you have new people who put money in the coins. So far, it seems to be working and there is a reason why.

First there is a community driven market that is keeping these coins alive. Without the network effect, there would be no further liquidity in these markets. There are evangelists and shillers of each coin who propagate the benefits of putting money. These groups are all over the Internet on social media sites like Instagram, messaging apps like Telegram and video streamers on YouTube. The power of the network is exponential, and this is what has led to market caps that are in the billions. There is a belief system around most crypto, including Bitcoin, and this also helps to drive Meme Coins. A lot of the enthusiasm with DOGE was led in part by tweets from Elon Musk. Entrepreneur Mark Cuban also added to the hype by accepting DOGE as payment for his Dallas Maverick’s sports merchandise.

Second motivation is the money. Obviously, there is plenty of money to be made just by looking at the market cap of the top Meme Coins. It gives many the belief that there is a chance to become rich, and that has already happened to some people. There are reports that a Goldman Sachs executive quit their job after striking it rich with Dogecoin. There are people who will get rich, but others will lose a lot of money. Those who are mortgaging their homes or selling their cars just to get into Meme Coins should be aware of the risks from price volatility in the cryptospace. There are no guarantees with Meme Coins. It is like gambling when you place your life savings in a coin with the hopes that it will increase in future value. Always put no more than what you are willing to lose, as the saying goes.

Meme coins add a new dimension to the cryptospace. I call it distraction because of the amount of capital it has taken away from the rest of the market. There is approximately $48+ Billion (based on Coinmarketcap data in June 2021) total value in Meme Coins. Some would say that money would have been better off going into Bitcoin or Ethereum. It can be an opportunity for the wise when used as a way to earn quick money from a small amount invested. You can have a million of some of these Meme Coins for less than $20 initial investment. It does become stupidity when you decide to invest all your money into one Meme Coin. There are other coins where that money could have been yielding higher profits and earning from DeFi protocols.

In seems you cannot stop people who are motivated by community and money. Greed backed by a strong support system will keep the belief in Meme Coins alive. Some jurisdictions are taking a harsh stance on Meme Coins. Regulators may determine the momentum moving forward. The SEC in the US has the power to restrict trading in Meme Coins if they deem it to be more harm than good for investors. What could be good news is if some of these Meme Coins actually do succeed not just from new users, but in accomplishing a purpose. Dogecoin is seeing some form of development in the works. In any case, be very careful with Meme Coins. Anything is possible, but it can go either way. Do plenty of research and understand the risks involved. There is just no way of knowing what will happen.

Disclaimer: This is not financial or investment advice. The information is an opinion piece for reference purposes only. Always do your own research.