Bitcoin surged to the highest level since July 2019 after PayPal Holdings Inc. announced it will allow customers to use cryptocurrencies.
The largest digital coin increased as much as 8% to $12,854 Wednesday, surpassing the previous high for the year of $12,473 set in August. Gains among so-called alt coins were even larger, with Litecoin jumping more than 12% and Bitcoin Cash surging more than 8%.
PayPal customers can use cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ether, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin on the platform. Shares of PayPal jumped as much as 5.2% to $212.50, the biggest intraday increase since Sept. 9.
Mike Novogratz, who runs Galaxy Investment Partners, on Twitter called it “the biggest news of the year in crypto,” adding that banks will embark on a race to service digital currencies. “We have crossed the Rubicon,” he said.
The news sparked an exuberant response from crypto fans who pointed to a string of recent announcements that suggest wider acceptance by old-school financial mainstays. Two public companies — Square Inc. and MicroStrategy Inc. — said recently that they invested in Bitcoin. And Fidelity Investments announced in August that it’s launching its first Bitcoin fund, adding its establishment name and star power to the often-maligned asset class.
PayPal said it plans to make the features available as a funding source for purchases at its 26 million merchants worldwide and plans to expand it to Venmo soon.
Dan Schulman, the firm’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that “the shift to digital forms of currencies is inevitable, bringing with it clear advantages in terms of financial inclusion and access; efficiency, speed and resilience of the payments system; and the ability for governments to disburse funds to citizens quickly.”
Users do face some limitations on PayPal. They can’t transfer coins in and out of accounts and can only hold cryptocurencies that they bought on PayPal. Any crypto coins held in an account can’t be transfered to other accounts, PayPal said.
Bitcoin’s been on a hot streak this month, rising more than 15% in October. Still, the use case for the cryptocurrency remains limited. Data from blockchain researcher Chainalysis Inc. last year showed hardly anyone used Bitcoin for anything beyond speculation.
Partly it’s due to its wild price swings. The coin is up about 70% this year but is still around $7,000 away from its all-time high of about $20,000 set in December 2017. In March, during a coronavirus-induced selloff, it fell 31%.
— With assistance by Felice Maranz