Mastercard said Monday it has partnered with three Asia Pacific (APAC) cryptocurrency service providers – Hong Kong’s Amber Group, Thailand’s Bitkub and Australia CoinJar, to launch crypto-funded Mastercard payment cards.

Consumers and businesses in the APAC region will be able to apply for crypto-linked Mastercard credit, debit, or prepaid cards that will enable them to instantly convert their cryptocurrencies into traditional fiat currency, which can be spent everywhere Mastercard is accepted around the world, Mastercard said in a statement.

According to the statement, the three digital asset service providers are the first APAC-based cryptocurrency platforms to join Mastercard’s global Crypto Card Program which was designed to make it simpler and faster for crypto firms to bring secure, compliant payment cards to market, as consumers increasingly seek to fund everyday transactions securely and efficiently with digital currencies.

While some merchants already accept payments in digital currencies such as Bitcoin or Eth, Mastercard noted that this form of acceptance is not widespread. Rather than directly transferring cryptocurrencies to a merchant, it said cardholders will now be able to instantly convert their cryptocurrencies into traditional fiat currency which can be spent everywhere Mastercard is accepted around the world, both online and offline.

Currency will always enter Mastercard’s network as traditional fiat currency, it added.

This announcement comes at a time when interest in cryptocurrencies is at an all-time high across the APAC region. According to the latest Mastercard New Payments Index, 45 percent of those surveyed in APAC say they are likely to consider using cryptocurrency in the next year – a huge jump over the 12 percent that already used it in the last year, and higher than the global average of 40 percent.

“Cryptocurrencies are many things to people–an investment, a disruptive technology, or a unique financial tool. As interest and attention surges from all quarters, their real-world applications are now emerging beyond the speculative,” said Rama Sridhar, Executive Vice President, Digital and Emerging Partnerships and New Payment Flows, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

“In collaboration with these partners that adhere to the same core principles that Mastercard does–that any digital currency must offer stability, regulatory compliance, and consumer protection–Mastercard is expanding what’s possible with cryptocurrencies to give people even greater choice and flexibility in how they pay,” he added.

According to the statement, the Crypto Card Program is part of Mastercard’s strategy in the digital assets space to help provide customers, merchants, and businesses with more choice in how they move digital value. As part of the Crypto Card Program, Mastercard supports participating fintech companies by reducing barriers to entry, streamlining the onboarding process and offering access to dedicated fintech and digital asset experts, and in-market teams to accelerate their growth and execution.

Mastercard said it is also committed to applying its innovation, experience, and scale to emerging cryptocurrency and digital currency partners, building global ecosystems to modernize payments and transform the way people and businesses transact.

Meanwhile, Amber Group Founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael Wu said, the company is committed to serving clients with best-in-class technology and innovative product offerings.

“By joining forces with Mastercard, we will leverage our combined technology, solutions, and expertise to offer users in applicable jurisdictions a more streamlined digital finance experience,” he said.

Bitkub Founder Chief Executive Officer Jirayut Srupsrisopa also said Thailand is one of the most crypto-oriented markets in APAC, and so turning that broad asset ownership into something which is usable in an everyday context is a major step forward for Bitkub and its customers.

“To make this happen, we are very pleased to be connected to Mastercard via our valued payments partner 2C2P to create a sophisticated card solution that allows crypto users to make payments by converting cryptocurrency to traditional fiat currency. I believe that our strong partnership will accelerate consumers’ use of crypto as a means of commerce, making payments more efficient and facilitating new economic activity for businesses worldwide,” he added.

CoinJar Chief Executive Officer Asher Tan also commented: “As one of the world’s longest-running crypto exchanges, we’re thrilled to partner with a global giant like Mastercard to make cryptocurrency more accessible and useful than it’s ever been before.”

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