Crypto Takes A GIANT Leap Forward... in Near Total Silence...

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Am I dreaming?  This can't be true.

If major retailers were REALLY accepting cryptocurrencies - there wouldn't be a crypto message board, subreddit, or telegram channel where you could avoid hearing about it, even if you wanted to. 
It would be the biggest story of the week! Probably of the month... actually, maybe so far this year.

I bet it's just another Visa or Mastercard debit card that just converts your crypto into USD.

...This is the mental roller coaster I took a ride on, until taking a closer look and arriving at the conclusion i'm still in shock over.


And I just bought my dinner from Whole Foods, in all crypto.

Let's rewind a bit -  technically, I first heard of this last week when a member of the team I sent to cover Consensus (for those unfamiliar, it's a big annual conference centered around blockchain/crypto in NYC) met someone from the company behind this, and going over the team notes afterwards, we all brushed it off.

For good reason - several times now, we've been contacted by marketing people from companies using verbiage like 'Now you can buy that coffee with crypto!' to grab attention, then it turns out to be a debit/credit card that automatically sells crypto to cover any transactions you use it for.

Not only would another one not be newsworthy, but these crypto-funded Visa/Mastercards are kind of awful. The big advantage of accepting and using crypto is freeing both customers and retailers of the hefty fees that feel small at the time, but seriously add up.

Let's use Starbucks, and the fees of a popular credit/debit card processor for example.  The Starbucks store could do 1000 transactions throughout the day, paying about 15 cents each time - that's $150 in fees in a day for 1 store - now imagine having 28,000+ stores just in the US.

Lowering those costs is an appealing idea, but these crypto debit cards typically double the fees, first the exchange of your crypto to USD, then the usual credit card processing fees, and that's why we've come to ignore someone telling us about using crypto in stores.


The stores involved actually oped-in, and the solution requires access to some of their internal resources.  That's worth noting - these retail giants are actively seeking, and are involved in finding a way to take crypto payments.

The company behind it is called Flexa, and how they're doing it is one of those 'I can't believe someone didn't think of this earlier' simple solutions.  Stores do not pay a processing fee when you purchase something using one of their own gift cards - and Flexa taps into this system.

No, you don't actually purchase a gift card - you're just piggybacking on the payment processing network that handles all of those transactions!

I'm guessing behind the scenes it works like this:  I first sent some Ether to my wallet address in the app, when it came time to pay I held up my phone where a QR code was on-screen, the store scanned it, the bill was a little over $20.

This must be where the QR code the app generated indicated that this is a transaction paying with crypto via Flexa, and the app already verified I have the funds - so the store then instantly generated a $20 gift card,  charged it, and that's it - transaction complete!

The user will have that amount worth of crypto deducted from their wallet, and at the end of the week (or month?) Flexa sends the funds in USD to the retailer in one lump sum. Before, there would have been thousands of those small fees for each transaction, now they're all just... well, gone.

An instant revenue boost for the retailers using it - a big one too!

Starbucks serves 8 million cups per day, if just half of those are on credit/debit card, and those cost them $0.15 per transaction - that represents a $600,000 per day or $18,000,000 per month loss that any company would love to lower.


Officially, all this is in beta testing. 

But from what I can see - it's built, it works, and the ability to handle the transactions is live and functional - the App is even in the Apple App Store. (Note: Flexa is the company behind it, but the App is called Spedn)

Unfortunately, while it'sin this beta testing phase you won't be able to get past the home screen without an invite code.

But I was able to get my hands on an invite, no one said I couldn't share these - so here's some screen shots!


Suspiciously missing from the list is Starbucks, but it is confirmed to be working at their stores.  This could either be because the announcement is being saved for marketing purposes, but others have speculated that they may be pursuing another solution through their own crypto venture Bakkt.

Current coins supported are Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Gemini's stable coin

So what's next?

I honestly have no idea, this seems ready to go - and that's why i'm predicting an official public launch is coming literally any day now! 

Looking a bit further into the future, i'm also predicting Square will be providing this same ability to smaller independent retailers, of which they have millions. They can update their point of sale hardware remotely, no new equipment needed.  Their mobile app 'Square Cash' already has the ability to buy and hold Bitcoin, and convert it between BTC and USD - it's practically ready to go already.

Author: Ross Davis
E-Mail: Twitter:@RossFM

San Francisco News Desk

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