Consumers will soon be able to convert fiat money into crypto at MoneyGram locations worldwide, opening up access to people without bank accounts or credit cards.
Tomio Geron ( ) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at or
The lack of solid crypto on- and off-ramps – rails for efficiently converting dollars, yen, euros and other currencies into tokens – is a bottleneck that has held back the industry’s growth.
While wealthier people in big markets such as the U.S. can move in and out of crypto easily, it’s much more difficult if you’re in an emerging market and don’t have a bank account or credit card.
Stellar Development Foundation, which supports the Stellar Network, has come up with a way to address the problem. Through a partnership with money-transfer company MoneyGram that’s launching Friday, people can bring fiat currency to a MoneyGram location, convert it to crypto and convert crypto back out to fiat. The service will use the USDC stablecoin on the Stellar network.
The service – initially available in the U.S., Canada, Kenya and the Philippines and expanding to seven more countries this month and other countries later – is an example of the ways that new crypto markets are converging with traditional finance. It also shows how crypto needs to integrate with existing financial systems to bring in mainstream users.
The partners plan to add crypto cash-outs in almost all MoneyGram countries, more than 200, by the end of June.
“It’s an interesting and tough problem,” said Anand Iyer, founder at venture firm Canonical Crypto, which hasn’t invested in Stellar but is actively watching the infrastructure market. “It makes a lot of sense to [have this deal], because that’s the only way you’re gonna get more crypto into the ecosystem.”
Crypto on- and off-ramps have been a roadblock for the industry
If Stellar and MoneyGram pull off the project and show they can attract new consumers to crypto, it could open up a much larger market for crypto and Web3, and serve as a model for other companies looking to increase access.
Finding a super-anchor
For Stellar, the deal is part of its goal of opening up access to crypto to underserved or unbanked populations. “From that standpoint, this really changes, potentially, a huge amount and really brings the cash-based world into the digital economy,” said Denelle Dixon, CEO at Stellar Development Foundation. “We’re actually really trying to target those users that have cash and really grow their opportunity.”
Since Stellar launched Zie website in 2014, its focus has been payments. Last year, the company added USDC to its network, enabling people to pay much less than on other systems like Ethereum, due to Stellar’s low fees, which are typically a small fraction of a penny.
Especially in today’s bear market, boosting accessibility is a way to address the misconception that crypto is just for trading, since this improves other uses such as payments, Dixon said.
For Stellar, that the new product uses USDC instead of its native XLM token highlights the organization’s recent focus on stablecoins. Dixon sees the future of crypto payments in stablecoins. “We don’t prefer XLM over anything else,” she said. “In fact, we prefer stablecoins. Stablecoins are a really nice way for payments to be leveraged.”