Feb. 25, 2021, 3:22 p.m. EST

Mastercard executive: Bitcoin is too volatile to be part of its network

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By Steve Goldstein

Mastercard made waves when the payment services giant announced earlier this month that its plan is to start allowing cryptocurrencies onto its network.

But don’t expect bitcoin /zigman2/quotes/31322028/realtime BTCUSD +1.95% to be part of that.

Ann Cairns, executive vice chair at Mastercard /zigman2/quotes/207581792/composite MA -0.45% , told the Future of Money conference that bitcoin wouldn’t really work for its plans.

“Bitcoin doesn’t behave like a payment instrument,” she said. “It’s too volatile and it takes too long to transact.”

“So if you and I went for a cup of coffee, and you know, I decided to pay with bitcoin, our coffee might cost me, I don’t know, 40% more by the time it was served — and it takes 10 minutes to actually settle the transaction,” she said.

That is probably an exaggerated version of bitcoin’s actual volatility, but bitcoin futures /zigman2/quotes/211755589/delayed BTC.1 +1.63% have seen five daily swings of at least 10% this year.

Cairns said it is more useful to think of bitcoin like gold /zigman2/quotes/210034565/delayed GC00 -0.28% , as an asset class, rather than a payment instrument.

Mastercard wants to bring so-called stablecoins onto its networks, and is working with central banks on their plans for digital currencies, she said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank is looking at a digital currency but emphasized there was no need to do it quickly.

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