Visa Says You Can Buy Almost Anything, Except Crypto Currencies

The news this week is that several banks in the USA and the UK have banned the use of credit cards to purchase crypto currencies (CC’s). The stated reasons are impossible to believe – like trying to curtail money laundering, gambling, and protecting the retail investor from excessive risk. Interestingly, the banks will allow debit card purchases, making it clear that the only risks being protected are their own.

With a credit card you can gamble at a casino, buy guns, drugs, alcohol, pornography, everything and anything you desire, but some banks and credit card companies want to prohibit you from using their facilities to purchase crypto currencies? There must be some believable reasons, and they are NOT the reasons stated.

One thing that banks are afraid of is how difficult it would be to confiscate CC holdings when the credit card holder defaults on payment. It would be much more difficult than re-possessing a house or a car. A crypto wallet’s private keys can be put on a memory stick or a piece of paper and easily removed from the country, with little or no trace of its whereabouts. There can be a high value in some crypto wallets, and the credit card debt may never be repaid, leading to a declaration of bankruptcy and a significant loss for the bank. The wallet still contains the crypto currency, and the owner can later access the private keys and use a local CC Exchange in a foreign country to convert and pocket the money. A nefarious scenario indeed.

We are certainly not advocating this kind of unlawful behavior, but the banks are aware of the possibility and some of them want to shut it down. This can’t happen with debit cards as the banks are never out-of-pocket – the money comes out of your account immediately, and only if there is enough of your money there to start with. We struggle to find any honesty in the bank’s story about curtailing gambling and risk taking. It’s interesting that Canadian banks are not jumping on this bandwagon, perhaps realizing that the stated reasons for doing so are bogus. The fallout from these actions is that investors and consumers are now aware that credit card companies and banks really do have the ability to restrict what you can purchase with their credit card. This is not how they advertise their cards, and it is likely a surprise to most users, who are quite used to deciding for themselves what they will purchase, especially from CC Exchanges and all the other merchants who have established Merchant Agreements with these banks. The Exchanges have done nothing wrong – neither have you – but fear and greed in the banking industry is causing strange things to happen. This further illustrates the degree to which the banking industry feels threatened by Crypto Currencies.

At this point there is little cooperation, trust, or understanding between the fiat money world and the CC world. The CC world has no central controlling body where regulations can be implemented across the board, and that leaves each country around the world trying to figure out what to do. China has decided to ban CC’s, Singapore and Japan embrace them, and many other countries are still scratching their heads. What they have in common is that they want to collect taxes on CC investment profits. This is not too unlike the early days of digital music, with the internet facilitating the unfettered proliferation and distribution of unlicensed music. Digital music licensing schemes were eventually developed and accepted, as listeners were OK with paying a little something for their music, rather than endless pirating, and the music industry (artists, producers, record companies) were OK with reasonable licensing fees rather than nothing. Can there be compromise in the future of fiat and digital currencies? As people around the world get more fed up with outrageous bank profits and bank overreach into their lives, there is hope that consumers will be regarded with respect and not be forever saddled with high costs and unwarranted restrictions.

The Dollar Could Easily Get Stronger

Ever since the start of 2017, the dollar has been in an almost constant decline.

In fact, the PowerShares DB U.S. Dollar Bullish ETF (NYSE: UUP) has dropped over 12% from its 2017 highs, despite a 2% gain.

UUP is an exchange-traded fund that measures the dollar against six other currencies. When the dollar strengthens relative to the others, the price of UUP goes up.

Generally, the dollar is seen as a safe haven, somewhere for investors to put their money in times of market uncertainty. And since we have seen a market that went straight up over a 15-month period, there was less demand for safety assets like the dollar.

But that can only last so long. Right now, there is a fear of inflation in the markets due to higher employment and wages.

When the economy is strong, inflation usually follows. That’s because when people make more money, they spend more. And when more money is spent, there’s more in circulation, and the excess supply makes each dollar less valuable.

However, inflation fears are likely overblown due to the fact that we haven’t seen an economy this strong since before the financial crash.

When inflation gets too high, it sends production costs up and business slows. But right now, inflation remains steady around 2%.

That may seem high, as it was around 0% for all of 2015 and some of 2016, but in the big picture, it’s normal. In fact, it’s seen as healthy.

As a reference, inflation had gotten over 4% in 2005 and 2006, right as the economy showed signs of slowing.

Many are wondering how to profit from this analysis.

Demand for the Dollar

The dollar could easily get stronger from here as well.

Right now, a huge part of the world’s economy has extremely low interest rates. Much of Europe, for example, is under 1%, and they aren’t planning on raising rates aggressively anytime soon.

The United States, however, has a rate of 1.5%. This isn’t high, but we could easily see that go over 2% this year if the economy stays healthy.

That would also increase the rate of government bonds, which is 2.86% right now. As the rate get higher, international investors will begin to buy more U.S. bonds, which increases demand for the dollar and sends its value up.

How to Profit

Even though the only way to directly invest in the strength of the dollar is through UUP, there are other ways with higher return potential.

One is buying call options on the UUP fund, but that’s much riskier, as you could lose your whole investment.

Another way would be buying a leveraged ETF against a different currency.

For example, the VelocityShares Daily 4X Long USD vs. EUR ETF (NYSE: DEUR)returns four times the percentage that the dollar appreciates against the euro.

Bitcoin Thrives Against All Odds

Since it’s currently en vogue right now, I’d like to announce that I’m launching my own cryptocurrency next week.

Let’s call it “kingcoin.”

Nah, that’s too self-serving.

How about “muttcoin”? I’ve always had a soft spot for mixed breeds.

Yeah, that’s perfect – everybody loves dogs.

This is going to be the biggest thing since fidget spinners.

Congrats! Everyone reading this is going to receive one muttcoin when my new coin launches next week.

I’m going to evenly distribute 1 million muttcoins. Feel free to spend them wherever you like (or wherever anyone will accept them!).

What’s that? The cashier at Target said they wouldn’t accept our muttcoin?

Tell those doubters that muttcoin has scarcity value – there will only ever be 1 million muttcoins in existence. On top of that, it’s backed by the full faith and credit of my desktop computer’s 8 GB of RAM.

Also, remind them that a decade ago, a bitcoin couldn’t even buy you a pack of chewing gum. Now one bitcoin can buy a lifetime supply.

And, like bitcoin, you can store muttcoin safely offline away from hackers and thieves.

It’s basically an exact replica of bitcoin’s properties. Muttcoin has a decentralized ledger with impossible-to-crack cryptography, and all transactions are immutable.

Still not convinced our muttcoins will be worth billions in the future?

Well, it’s understandable. The fact is, launching a new cryptocurrency is much harder than it appears, if not downright impossible.

That’s why I believe bitcoin has reached these heights against all odds. And because of its unique user network, it will continue to do so.

Sure, there have been setbacks. But each of these setbacks has eventually resulted in higher prices. The recent 60% plunge will be no different.

The Miracle of Bitcoin

Bitcoin’s success rests in its ability to create a global network of users who are either willing to transact with it now or store it for later. Future prices will be determined by the pace that the network grows.

Even in the face of wild price swings, bitcoin adoption continues to grow at an exponential rate. There are now 23 million wallets open globally, chasing 21 million bitcoins. In a few years, the number of wallets can rise to include the 5 billion people on the planet connected to the internet.

Sometimes the new crypto converts’ motivation was speculative; other times they were seeking a store of value away from their own domestic currency. In the last year, new applications such as Coinbase have made it even easier to onboard new users.

If you haven’t noticed, when people buy bitcoin, they talk about it. We all have that friend who bought bitcoin and then wouldn’t shut up about it. Yes, I’m guilty of this – and I’m sure quite a few readers are too.

Perhaps subconsciously, holders become crypto-evangelists since convincing others to buy serves their own self-interest of increasing the value of their holdings.

Bitcoin evangelizing – spreading the good word – is what miraculously led to a price ascent from $0.001 to a recent price of $10,000.

Who could have imagined that its pseudonymous creator, fed up with the global banking oligopoly, launched an intangible digital resource that rivaled the value of the world’s largest currencies in less than a decade?

No religion, political movement or technology has ever witnessed these growth rates. Then again, humanity has never been as connected.

The Idea of Money

Bitcoin started as an idea. To be clear, all money – whether it’s shell money used by primitive islanders, a bar of gold or a U.S. dollar – started as an idea. It’s the idea that a network of users value it equally and would be willing to part with something of equal value for your form of money.

Money has no intrinsic value; its value is purely extrinsic – only what others think it’s worth.

Take a look at the dollar in your pocket – it’s just a fancy piece of paper with a one-eyed pyramid, a stipple portrait and signatures of important people.

In order to be useful, society must view it as a unit of account, and merchants must be willing to accept it as payment for goods and services.

Bitcoin has demonstrated an uncanny ability to reach and connect a network of millions of users.

One bitcoin is only worth what the next person is willing pay for it. But if the network continues to expand at an exponential rate, the limited supply argues that prices can only move in one direction… higher.

The Bottom Line

Bitcoin’s nine-year ascent has been marked with enormous bouts of volatility. Therewas an 85% correction in January 2015, and a few others over 60%, including a colossal 93% drawdown in 2011.

Through each of these corrections, however, the network (as measured by number of wallets) continued to expand at a rapid pace. As some speculators saw their value decimated, new investors on the margin saw value and became buyers.