Mastercard Deepens Tie to CBDCs as Nations Mull Issuing Digital Currencies

Payments giant Mastercard has created a forum where crypto industry players can discuss and collaborate on central bank digital currencies, injecting its influential voice into the CBDC conversation as nations around the world consider whether to digitize their money.

CBDCs are not cryptocurrencies, but they’re in the same family. They don’t have to be, but they could be based on a blockchain, the ledger technology that powers Bitcoin and the rest of crypto. A CBDC would simply be a digital version of an existing fiat currency like the U.S. dollar, with the imprimatur of the issuing government.

Initial participants in Mastercard’s CBDC Partner Program include Ripple, Fireblocks, and Consensys, the company announced Thursday.

The program is designed to encourage conversations among key players in the industry and “to drive innovation and efficiencies,” Mastercard’s head of digital assets and blockchain, Raj Dhamodharan, said in a statement.

“We believe in payment choice and that interoperability across the different ways of making payments is an essential component of a flourishing economy,” he said. “As we look ahead toward a digitally driven future, it will be essential that the value held as a CBDC is as easy to use as other forms of money.”

Mastercard’s track record of innovating in the digital asset ecosystem, especially the CBDC space, reaches far back. In early 2021, the payments network launched a prepaid card for people in the Bahamas who were looking to use the country’s CBDC, which was the first CBDC.

Most recently, the payments network said that it was setting up a testbed to explore tokenized bank deposits in the U.K., which will move on to include CBDCs and regulated stablecoins in due course.

CORRECTION (Aug. 17, 18:33 UTC): Makes changes in paragraph six and seven to reflect that Mastercard is a payments network, not a bank.

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