On Wednesday, Mastercard Inc. said that it will begin allowing merchants to accept some cryptocurrencies on its network later this year, embracing virtual currencies.
"We are here to enable customers, merchants and businesses to move digital value - traditional or crypto - however they want," said Raj Dhamodharan, Mastercard's executive vice president for digital assets in a blog post.
The firm is also "actively engaging" with central banks around the world on their plans to launch new digital currencies, it said.
The company will prioritize consumer protections and compliance in its own plans, Dhamodharan said in the post.
Mastercard has already partnered with some of the biggest cryptocurrency firms, including Wirex and BitPay, that issue Mastercard cards allowing people to spend their crypto assets, but through those arrangements, the cryptocurrencies don't flow through Mastercard's network, as the crypto partners convert the digital currencies to traditional currencies and then transmit them to Mastercard.
"Our change to supporting digital assets directly will allow many more merchants to accept crypto - an ability that's currently limited by proprietary methods unique to each digital asset," Dhamodharan said.
"This change will also cut out inefficiencies, letting both consumers and merchants avoid having to convert back and forth between crypto and traditional to make purchases."