Bestsellers: Crypto news, payment tech grabs headlines in 2021

December 29, 2021 | By Sophie Hares

This past year was tumultuous — COVID surges and shifting guidance, supply chain complications and rising prices on gas and grocery staples. Yet on the payments side, there was some clarity. The continued digital acceleration and the growing embrace of cryptocurrencies provided a glimpse into how we will pay in the not-too-distant future, and what it takes to keep these new choices safe.

And as the push for racial and social equality continued in 2021, it became clear that digital inclusion and innovation could ensure everyone – from farmers in Africa to Black and minority business owners in U.S. cities — get a fair shot at financial security.

But of the hundred-plus stories the Mastercard Newsroom shared in the past year, reports on how tech is reshaping the payments ecosystem have been clear favorites. Here are the  must-read stories from 2021:


Why Mastercard is bringing crypto onto its network

With cryptocurrency usage on the rise, people will increasingly pay with digital coins in the coming years. Continuing the company’s efforts to allow people to spend, save and store their money however they chose, Mastercard announced in February that it is starting work to support certain cryptocurrencies on its network.

The focus will be on stablecoins – digital coins pegged to an underlying asset like the U.S. dollar – and only those that meet the company’s requirements. Read the full story here.

Swiping left on magnetic stripes

Since its introduction in the 1960s, the magnetic stripe running across the back of payment cards has helped people pay securely and swiftly at businesses of all sizes. But the rise of more secure chip cards, contactless technology and biometric features means the magnetic stripe is reaching its expiration date.

Mastercard will be the first payments company to phase out magnetic stripes starting in 2024, giving issuers time to switch to contactless chip cards. By 2033, a magnetic stripe card will be a collector’s item. Read the full story here.

Why buy now, pay later is about to be everywhere

Installment plans are enjoying a 21st century resurgence. Digital buy now, pay later offerings give people the flexibility to split the cost of an item into smaller chunks, and take their purchases home or have them shipped immediately.

BNPL boomed during the pandemic, boosting sales for retailers, particularly in health and fitness, while helping shoppers manage their money. Mercator forecasts BNPL lending will rocket to more than $100 billion in the U.S. by 2024 and expand to new categories. Read the full story here.

Seeding resilience in a digital age

Millions of small-scale farmers around the world lack the technology needed to access reliable markets, fair prices and mainstream financial solutions.

In Africa, the Mastercard Farmers Network gives farmers more price transparency and safer, cash-free ways to get paid. By enabling digital sales records, MFN makes it easier for buyers to sidestep costly middlemen and purchase directly from cooperatives.

Once they can prove their income, farmers can get better access to credit and the working capital they need to buy equipment, seeds and fertilizer to make their farms more efficient. Read the full story here.

Digital ID: In a virtual world, how to prove that you are really you? 

The pandemic has made us more dependent on the digital world, increasing the need for reliable and trustworthy ways to prove our identity online.

During Australia’s lockdowns, Victoria-based Deakin University used Mastercard’s ID, its digital identity service, to verify the identity of students who registered to take exams online. Beyond testing, digital IDs can play a vital role in safeguarding data (particularly in telemedicine and other health care situations) and reducing fraud, while opening the door for people to rent a car or apply for a bank loan without paper documents like a driver’s license or passport. Read the full story here.

Inclusion through action

As part of its ongoing mission to create a fairer and more digitally inclusive world, Mastercard is bringing 1 billion people into the digital economy by 2025 and putting financial security within the reach of everyone. But inclusion is not just about empowering people — it’s also about protecting the planet and fostering prosperity. The company’s $500 million In Solidarity pledge is helping Black business owners remove long-standing roadblocks by providing access to vital tools and credit, among other efforts. See the full story — and explore the map showing the global impact of the company’s inclusion efforts — here.


With the pandemic still simmering, 2022 promises to hold many more surprises for consumers and business owners alike. Amid the uncertainty, one constant remains: Human innovation and resourcefulness will continue to help us adapt, solve problems and build a better future.

Sophie Hares, Contributor