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.