With widely used fintech platforms such as Square's (NYSE:SQ) Cash App and PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) allowing their tens of millions of users to by, sell, and hold bitcoin, investor interest in cryptocurrencies has soared. But what about everyday Americans? Will people ever use cryptocurrencies as a primary method of paying for goods and services, or as a store of value?
In this Nov. 30 Fool Live video, two of our financial sector experts weigh in. Hear what Fool.com contributor Matt Frankel, CFP, and Jason Moser, host of Industry Focus: Financials, have to say about what's standing in the way of mainstream cryptocurrency adoption.
Jason Moser: But it also feels like there are challenges for crypto, at least in the near term. You mentioned it in regard to mainstream adoption. Now, maybe that clears up, maybe as time passes, maybe that adoption as a medium of exchange, maybe that becomes a little bit more commonplace. I don't see a big reason today why I need to go to the store and pay for something with bitcoin. I mean, it just doesn't seem like there's any real advantage, but I mean, given what we know today, given the small steps these companies are taking, it feels like maybe that mainstream adoption right now doesn't even matter.
Matt Frankel: Well, as far as mainstream adoption as a currency, there's two use cases. There's adoption as a currency and as historic value. As a currency, I see three main obstacles to really mainstream adoption of bitcoin. One, it's very volatile. You don't want to buy a type of currency that could be worse twice or half as much in a week. If you don't think bitcoin could do that, look at some of the charts from the past few years, bitcoin going up or down by a few thousand dollars in a week. So that's another thing, the volatility scares people away. Number two, there are too many cryptocurrencies and it's easy to make a new one. When I was checking just before we were on the show, there are over 4,100 active cryptocurrencies right now. Most of them aren't big, but there are a lot of big ones. There's over 10 that have a billion-dollar market cap or higher. There is a lot of cryptocurrencies out there, and it's pretty easy to, for institutions if they want to, to make their own. The idea of bitcoin at first was one central currency. But if there's 4,000 of them floating around, it defeats the purpose. Number three, as you mentioned, there are some really easy ways to pay with U.S. dollars right now.
Frankel: With a lot of these fintech innovations, I tap my wallet on a card reader at some places now and I could make a payment. U.S. dollars aren't that tough to use anymore.
Frankel: In my mind, for bitcoin to get mainstream acceptance, it needs to do something that you can't do with dollars. Which I get that there is a lot of use case for international money transfer and stuff like that, but between volatility and the fact that there's literally thousands of them, and innovations in dollar-based fintech, I really can't make the mainstream use case myself, but apparently a lot of people disagree because there's $359 billion worth of bitcoin out there right now and it's now over $19,000 a piece, so apparently if some people agree and they are buying.
Moser: Well, yeah, it could be argued certainly that there's a lot of speculation in that market. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people that are speculating on the market don't really understand exactly how it works. I can't sit there and say that I fully understand how it all works. My basic understanding is though that there there's a fixed amount. There's a fixed amount of Bitcoin. If you have something that is limited in supply, that obviously will make a difference in something like dollars, for example, as we've seen, not limited in supply.
Frankel: That's the big argument for bitcoin being a store of value is that it's essentially inflation proof in that sense. U.S. dollars, the government can always print more of them, which they do pretty regularly, and with bitcoin, that's not the case. There is a finite amount. As a store of value, it could make sense. But if that's the big use case, then who cares if you can use PayPal's merchants if it's just the store of value? Bitcoin might decide which way it's going to go, and I guess I can't make a use case for owning bitcoin as a store of value over gold right now, and I can't make a case of using it as a payment over U.S. dollars.