So far, nobody is making any money betting on Bitcoin to crash. The digital currency on Sunday soared past the $9,000 mark just five days after hitting $8,000 for the first time, and the $10,000 level could be in sight as early as later Monday, according to Coindesk, an online news service that follows cryptocurrencies. As of mid-morning Central Time, Bitcoin was trading in the $9,600s.
The weekend’s development comes in the midst of a banner year for the world’s two largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization. Ether, the native currency of the Ethereum blockchain, traded at $482 Monday morning, up $200 in a month. It started the year around $9. Bitcoin at the beginning of 2017 traded at just under $1,000.
Bitcoin’s market cap now stands at $162.4 billion, while Ether’s has risen to $46.5 billion, according to Coinmarketcap.com. The two combined account for more than two-thirds of the market cap of the more than 1,300 cryptocurrencies the service tracks.
The bullish sentiment surrounding Bitcoin has inspired a number of moves to make the digital currency more useful for payments. The latest development, announced Monday, comes from Qondado LLC, a 2-year-old encryption-software firm that is introducing a mobile app for person-to-person payments. The wallet enables transfers between accounts held at Coinbase, one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges. The system, called Digital Debit, relies on quick-response codes for exchanges between wallets.
Users can buy Bitcoin through the Digital Debit app and see the value of their holdings stated in a local fiat currency. The San Juan, Puerto Rico-based company is banking on that feature to encourage usage. “We are delivering an easy-to-adopt app that hides the complexities of Bitcoin behind fiat-currency values that users understand,” says Edward Robles, chief executive of Qondado’s Digital Debit Group, in a statement. “With the assurance that users can pay and get paid using local-currency translation with one globally backed store of value, we see Digital Debit playing a significant role in the adoption of Bitcoin for day-to-day transactions.”
The move follows news earlier this month that Square Inc. is piloting payments using Bitcoin with a small number of users of Square Cash, the P2P service the San Francisco-based point-of-sale provider launched in 2013. The test allows Square Cash users to buy and sell Bitcoin, but so far does not permit them to send the currency to other users.
Square’s stock, however, tumbled Monday morning as the market reacted to fears that the company may have tied itself too tightly to Bitcoin’s volatility. Even though the P2P test is limited, some analysts see more downside risk than upside potential. The shares, which are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, were down more than 11% as of mid-morning, at $43.20.
Square Cash competes with popular P2P services like PayPal Holdings Inc.’s Venmo and Zelle, a network launched this summer by many of the nation’s biggest banks. All three apps are targeted by Digital Debit, according to Qondado’s news release.