The new debit card by Y Combinator-backed Shift Payments
One of the cool things about the Ripple protocol is how it bridges the old world with the new, much like how the internet transformed the way we distribute, digest, and even create information. Books, music, and videos breathe new life online in digital form online where they enjoy greater accessibility and utility. More people have more access to more culture than ever before. That’s amazing.
As the Ripple ecosystem continues to mature and evolve, we’re starting to see the same thing happen in the world of finance. By converging established tools with our new digital reality, the protocol enhances what we’re already familiar with and what we already know works.
One example is Gold Bullion International’s recent integration of Ripple. Since the gold balances issued by GBI are fully backed by and redeemable for physical gold, we essentially get all of gold’s great features—its historical legacy and universal acceptance—with nearly none of its traditional drawbacks—its unwieldiness in comparison to paper money.
Gold in digital form is a lot more useful than the classic variety. It’s accessible to you anywhere you have an internet connection, and you can trade it, send it, or spend it like a virtual currency. Such is the promise of what we call the internet of value. It will change our expectations of value exchange just as the internet of information did for sharing data.
Now it seems like debit and prepaid cards are next. Xapo became the best-funded Bitcoin startup around with $40 million raised off the back of its Bitcoin debit card.
Recently, SnapSwap, which operates Ripple gateways in the US and Europe, launched SmartyCash, a prepaid card powered by Ripple that is available through SnapSwap.eu that offers a 5 percent rebate on purchases.
As SnapSwap founder Denis Kiselev explained to me, “the card could be used not only in connection with traditional payment networks like sending funds from banks, but it will be directly loadable from the Ripple network.”
The result is the power of the Ripple protocol in a convenient form factor we’re already familiar—which means you can even use it at an ATM. Users can load their card—it has a balance limit of $15,000—in the amount of time it takes to send a transaction on Ripple, a few seconds.
Then there’s also Y-Combinator-backed Shift Payments, which, according to TechCrunch, is “working to make it as easy to spend digital currencies, cryptocurrencies and loyalty points as it is to spend regular, fiat money.” Founded by Meg Nakamura, Eugene Otto, and Greg Kidd (who is the Chief Risk Officer at Ripple Labs), the Shift card is integrated with both Coinbase and Ripple.
Between Smartycard and Shift, newfound utility emerges when you add an internet layer to traditional tools. That means that you never have to worry about currency conversions, and you have near-instant access to less common options like gold and airline miles, which can then be spent pretty much anywhere or withdrawn from an ATM for cash.
“Bitcoin’s market cap today is only $8 billion. We’re talking about 6 times larger per year in just the loyalty points alone. We think it’s a big opportunity,” Nakamura told TechCrunch.
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