Australia’s biggest banks have ruled out any notion of barring customers from buying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. In marked contrast to a handful of US-based Wall Street banks and one major UK banking group, Australia’s traditional ‘big four’ banks won’t be withholding their customers from buying cryptocurrencies using their banks’ services, including credit cards, Australia’s ABC news reports. While Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) rejects dealing with businesses operating as ‘issuers, dealers or exchanges’ of cryptocurrency due to their unregulated nature, the bank has no qualms about its customers buying cryptocurrencies with their money.
The timing of the rollout couldn’t be better. Zug, Switzerland-based bitcoin wallet startup Bread unveiled plans to accept international bitcoin purchases via credit card. Bread is boasting features such as “high limits” and same-day delivery for bitcoin purchases, both of which are often missing from cryptocurrency exchanges. By allowing this service, which is a product of a relationship with Simplex, investors can bypass cryptocurrency exchanges, which incidentally top US banks have taken aim at of late. Bread tweeted – While Bread is making it easier for investors to get their hand on bitcoin, banks are making it more difficult. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Lloyd’s in recent days placed a ban on bitcoin purchases via credit card. Cryptocurrency exchanges appear to be tops on banks’ radar for credit card bitcoin purchases.
The company made the announcement on Twitter, stating that “our engineering team has begun the final testing phase of SegWit for Bitcoin” and that “SegWit-compatible Bitcoin sends/receives will be available for customers in the next few weeks.” As CCN reported, SegWit (or Segregated Witness) was activated on the Bitcoin network via a soft fork last August. By decreasing the size of transactions, SegWit lowers fees and optimizes the limited space in Bitcoin blocks. However, users only take advantage of this feature if they use SegWit-compatible wallet addresses. According to data from hardware wallet manufacturer Trezor, only about 15 percent of Bitcoin transactions currently employ SegWit, down from a high of about 18 percent in late January. This recent reduction could be linked to users taking advantage of lower transaction fees to move funds from legacy addresses to SegWit-compatible ones, but in any case it is clear that the network is not experiencing the full benefits that the scaling upgrade offers, in part because Coinbase and a few other large firms have been slow to implement it.
The hearing, which was held by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, touched on a broad range of regulatory concerns related to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, including initial coin offerings (ICOs), trading platforms, derivatives and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the assets’ perceived use to perpetrate financial crimes and subvert international sanctions. In their opening statements, both Clayton and Giancarlo expressed concern about the fact that cryptocurrency exchanges are currently regulated at the state level rather than the federal, and each reiterated that, at some undefined point in the future, Congress may want to increase federal regulators’ ability to oversee the spot markets.
Cryptocurrency prices began to creep back into positive territory after two top US market regulators signaled a cautious approach to cryptocurrency regulation during Tuesday’s high-profile Senate hearing. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo spoke before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs for more than two hours, delivering prepared remarks and answering pointed questions from regulators. As CCN reported, Clayton and Giancarlo largely stuck to the script during the hearing, calling for “carefully tailored” regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges at the federal level but cautioning legislators against acting too quickly — or with a heavy hand.