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Making Cryptocurrency a Part of Everyday Purchases: A Q&A with Upgrade CEO, Renaud Laplanche

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Cryptocurrency, a digital and decentralized alternative to paper money, has slowly become more widely embraced in recent years. Today, major retailers such as Whole Foods, Home Depot and Starbucks accept cryptocurrency as payment for goods. Bitcoin, arguably the most popular form of cryptocurrency, has increased in value by nearly 500% compared to a year ago. So, it would only make sense that credit card companies want to start embracing cryptocurrency as well.

Upgrade, co-founded by fintech pioneers determined to invent a better credit card to help consumers avoid revolving credit card debt, now offers a credit card that earns bitcoin rewards for everyday purchases. The crypto rewards turn into a balance of bitcoins that cardholders can monitor or sell for statement credit.

The ability to earn cryptocurrency through a rewards program instead of points, miles or cash back reimagines the current credit card rewards landscape. Upgrade CEO Renaud Laplanche sees the bitcoin rewards card as a way to appeal to more mainstream customers: “(Our customers) often don’t have a crypto wallet, but they hear about bitcoin a lot and are curious about cryptocurrencies. They might not yet be comfortable enough to buy bitcoin, but would enjoy owning it if it came with no financial risk as part of a rewards program.”

LendingTree interviewed Laplanche to gain more insight into the cryptocurrency rewards landscape.

Upgrade CEO Renaud Laplanche

Q: What makes your cryptocurrency rewards approach different from others in the marketplace?

Laplanche: Upgrade Card is a pretty unique type of credit card: it comes with a line of credit of $500 to $25,000, and the monthly balance turns into an installment plan that consumers pay over time at a fixed rate and fixed monthly payments. That approach avoids the typical revolving debt trap of traditional credit cards, and helps consumers save thousands of dollars in interest. Upgrade Card launched less than two years ago and already won over hundreds of thousands of customers who want the flexibility and convenience of a credit card without the never-ending credit card debt. We’re already on a $3 billion annual origination pace this year, and believe the bitcoin rewards program will help us reach even more customers.

Q: How do you think the demand for cryptocurrency rewards cards will compare to travel rewards and cashback rewards cards over the next two years?

Laplanche: We believe crypto rewards will grow faster than other rewards categories as more consumers discover the benefits of cryptocurrencies, and bitcoin in particular becomes more mainstream.

Q: What is *one* piece of advice for people new to cryptocurrency need to know before redeeming rewards?

Laplanche: Don’t look at your account every day. Cryptocurrencies can be pretty volatile, and I find it better to play the long game and let my crypto portfolio appreciate over several years rather than trying (and mostly failing) to time the market for short term gains.


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