Mastercard plans to allow US partners to offer crypto loyalty rewards

Millions of loyalty rewards program users who may have never had any knowledge or use of cryptocurrencies could soon have some exposure.

Major credit card company Mastercard has announced it is preparing to integrate cryptocurrencies into its loyalty program offerings for U.S.-based banks, merchants, and fintech firms on its payment network.

In an Oct. 25 announcement, Mastercard said it would be working with digital asset platform Bakkt to allow its customers based in the United States to buy, sell and hold digital assets through custodial wallets. The partnership will also enable card holders to earn and spend rewards in crypto rather than using loyalty points, accruing tokens or redeeming them for purchases.

“We’ll not only empower our partners to offer a dynamic mix of digital assets options, but also deliver differentiated and relevant consumer experiences,” said executive vice president for digital partnerships at Mastercard Sherri Haymond.

According to data from Colloquy Loyalty Census research conducted in 2017, U.S. consumers held 3.8 billion memberships in loyalty programs, though these numbers have likely changed following the evolving financial landscape amid the pandemic. Mastercard also reported there were 249 million of its cards in the United States as of the end of Q1 2021. Millions of loyalty rewards program users who may have never had any knowledge or use of cryptocurrencies could soon have some exposure.

Related: American investors inclined to buy crypto with credit card, new study reveals

Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach said in July the company “[has] to be in this space” in part due to the growing interest around central bank digital currencies and crypto. In February, the credit card firm announced its roughly one billion users would be able to use crypto at its more than 30 million supported merchants. However, Mastercard has not yet clarified which tokens would be supported.

The digital assets management arm of the Intercontinental Exchange, Bakkt recently listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbols BKKT and BKKT WS. The platform has also partnered with Google to allow customers to convert their crypto balances to make fiat payments using Google Pay.