- Lo Furneaux
Bitcoins for Big Macs: The Mainstream Adoption of Cryptocurrency
Fast food giant McDonald's has become the latest company to accept cryptocurrency as a form of payment with a trial in the town of Lugano, Switzerland.
Customers will now be able to order their burgers using Bitcoin or Tether through the use of QR codes, making it the first McDonald's store in Europe to accept digital currency for its goods and services. The Italian-speaking city has also begun allowing residents to pay their taxes, parking tickets and tuition fees using crypto after recently agreeing to accept Bitcoin, Tether and the LVGA token as legal tender.
After an agreement was made with the city, Tether Operations Limited created several investment funds worth a combined $109 million designed to encourage the development of crypto-related startups and to encourage businesses across the city to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.
According to the city’s mayor, Michele Foletti, this partnership with help the city advance it’s commitment to developing FinTech and blockchain technologies:
“We have always followed the development of new technologies very closely and we have identified blockchain as a topic of great interest for both multinational and local companies, citizens and businesses. We believe that a city must be at the service of citizens and with these initiatives we intend to place Lugano as a top-level player on the international scene, for all applications related to this technology.”
AROUND THE WORLD IN FAST FOOD STORES
While Lugano may be the first McDonald's in Europe to accept crypto payments, it was far from the first in the world.
In Sept 2021, El Salvador became the first country in the world to accept Bitcoin as legal tender and McDonald's was quick to ensure that all 19 of the countries' outlets would have the infrastructure to accept this new form of currency immediately.
Not to be outdone, other fast food outlets like KFC and Subway also joined the bandwagon by accepting Bitcoin as payment for certain limited-time offers in select franchises around the world. Burger King and Pizza Hut stores in Venezuela began accepting crypto as a form of payment in 2020 to help boost the economy after harsh sanctions and astronomical inflation rates plunged the country into great debt.
NOT JUST FOR YOUR STOMACH
It also seems the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrency is no longer limited to just food services. The Hartford Steam Boiler (HSB) Nationwide Survey conducted by Zogby Analytics showed that over 36% of small to medium-sized businesses in the United States will now accept cryptocurrencies. The state of Colorado will even let you pay your taxes with crypto after Governor Jared Polis promised to establish the state as a pro-crypto haven.
Popular National Football League (NFL) teams like the Tennessee Titans, the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Mavericks now allow fans to purchase game tickets, raffles and merchandise online using Bitcoin; while the Houston Texans recently became the first NFL team to sell luxury private viewing suites in exchange for crypto through an integration with BitWallet.
Other large companies that have started accepting crypto payments include Microsoft, Apple, AT&T and the Gap; as well as any company that accepts online payments through third-party payment providers such as Stripe and NowPayments or by utilising browser extensions like Purse.io which allow you to use Bitcoin to buy products on Amazon.
Our Cyber Risk and Investigations Officer, Kevin Hart, thinks that the mainstream adoption of crypto will depend on a variety of factors:
“I think the average Joe will likely adopt this new method of payment much slower than people who already understand or own cryptocurrency.”
“We’ll also see a lot of different uses around the world; as users in first world countries are more likely to use crypto to pay for goods and services like McDonald's whereas users in third world countries would be more likely to use it for money transfers for unbanked or migrant workers.”
Whereas Managing Director of Cybital Limited and our Associate Crypto Investigator, Jim Lyons, believes that this signals the start of mainstream acceptance:
“McDonald's is bigger than the majority of third world countries put together. If they start to accept it, that’s it. Mass adoption.”
THE LONG-TERM CONCERNS
Despite a worldwide trend towards mainstream adoption, research conducted by Finder has shown that 47% of UK Banks still don’t allow any of their customers to interact with cryptocurrency exchanges. This includes both leading high-street banks like HSBC, Halifax and Santander and newer digital contenders like Metro Bank, Starling and Virgin Money.
The IRS treats cryptocurrency assets as property since their value can change over time. While this doesn’t affect one-off or everyday purchases like a Big Mac from McDonald's, it can present problems when trying to use it for longer-term purchases like your taxes or a mortgage.
Though our co-founder & CEO Aidan Larkin is keen to see large companies adopting crypto payment methods, he has a few concerns about its effects on the long-term value and the additional opportunities it presents for scammers:
“A Bitcoin Big Mac. Another important step for mainstream acceptance and adoption. For me, it’s clear to see that businesses are able to accept crypto for payments - that shouldn’t even be a point of debate. When the world's biggest brands are taking it seriously it’s time to pay attention.”
“However, if you subscribe to the view that the overall value of Bitcoin will only increase in the long term, is it wise to use it as a currency? Would you cash in investment grade gold or a valuable Rolex that had a long waiting list to buy an everyday item?”
“Thinking of the victims we assist at Asset Reality my own mind immediately turns to the opportunities for scammers. We have the perfect storm of new technology, uncharted territory for many users and people’s funds directly exposed.
“I’ve been saying for almost 2 years that the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology will be affected by the established, trusted brands, bringing their combination of customer service and feelings of trust and safety.”
“I really hope the big brands bring with them the same standards of cyber security and fraud prevention to keep users safe otherwise we’ll fall back into the Wild West clichés that the sector rightly wants to avoid.”
Despite these large companies showing an increased acceptance of cryptocurrency payments, they are still largely confined to limited trials held in smaller markets that already have a positive attitude towards digital currencies.
Thanks to the recent collapse of the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency exchange FTX and the arrest of its founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, there is likely still a long way to go before the reputation of the crypto market recovers enough for widespread adoption to be possible but companies like McDonald's will certainly help.
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