Cryptocurrencies not a near-term threat ‘in any way’

Cryptocurrencies do not pose a threat to Visa in the near term, but the credit card giant is prepared to implement crypto-friendly systems if the digital currencies become more established, Visa CEO Al Kelly told CNBC on Thursday.

“I think there has to be some market that it becomes somewhat like a fiat currency in order for us to be comfortable,” Kelly said in an exclusive interview with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer, adding that crypto was “certainly” not a threat in the short to medium term “in any way.”

Fiat currencies are issued and backed by governments, like the U.S. dollar and the euro, as opposed to currencies that are backed by physical commodities like gold or silver. Some cryptocurrencies are backed by precious metals; others are seen as having inherent value.

Kelly said Visa would consider entering the business of cryptocurrencies “if we actually think that crypto starts moving from being more of a commodity to actually really being a payment instrument.”

“If it goes in that direction, we will move in that direction,” the CEO said. “We want to be in the middle, Jim, of every payment flow in the world regardless of how it happens or what the currency is behind it. So if we have to go there, we will go there. But right now, it’s more of a commodity than a payment vehicle.”

Coinbase and Circle, two stalwarts of the crypto space, recently announced a joint venture to promote U.S.-dollar-backed digital coins known as “stablecoins” in an effort to offer viable payment alternatives to wild traders like bitcoin.

The rise of cryptocurrencies has been fragmented and volatile, even as the digital currency market managed to withstand the stock market’s most recent sell-off. In mid-October, however, digital currencies lost some $18 billion in market value.

Shares of Visa climbed nearly 5 percent in Thursday trading as stocks mounted a recovery from Wednesday’s brutal sell-off. Visa’s most recent earnings report, issued Wednesday, topped Wall Street estimates and painted a picture of global consumer confidence.

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