Fed up with fees? Crypto use is growing for cross-border payments - survey

The latest survey from Stellar Development Foundation and crypto payment platform Wirex, also shows that women's attitudes toward crypto are "increasingly positive" in four key developed and emerging countries.

A new survey released today by non-profit Stellar Development Foundation and UK-based cryptocurrency payments platform Wirex has revealed a heightened awareness, and increasing use and acceptance, of cryptocurrencies for cross-border payments in four key developed and emerging countries -- United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Singapore -- indicating that crypto is being used for sending money to, and from, emerging markets in the form of remittances, or money sent by people working overseas to their families back home.

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The survey, which gauged nearly 10,000 consumers across Mexico, Singapore, UK and US, suggests that the force behind the shift toward crypto as a form of payment is a frustration with the current financial system for transacting money between developed and emerging countries. More than half of the people surveyed -- 53% -- said they felt they paid too much in fees for international remittances via traditional financial means, such as wiring fiat currencies, while 37% said they didn't know what they paid in fees.

Given these pain points, the Stellar/Wirex survey indicates that cryptocurrencies used in international remittances, especially by people in emerging markets, is growing to the point where 52% surveyed said they see crypto "as a valid alternative to sending money overseas using traditional means," while 45% surveyed said they've already used it for remittances. What's more, the survey revealed that more than 80% of consumers -- in all four countries surveyed -- said they're aware of cryptocurrency.

"For me, the most important finding is that crypto is reaching the mainstream audience, not only in terms of awareness but also with what you can do with this technology to make the movement of money and value faster, cheaper and more efficient," says Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director for Stellar Development Foundation, in an interview with ZDNet.

A bifurcated methodology

This is the second survey from Stellar Development Foundation and Wirex. The first survey, released last year, consisted of responses from people in 89 countries. But despite that vast number of countries, the first survey was limited only to Wirex and Stellar network users, reflecting only the opinions of those familiar with -- and biased toward -- crypto. However, this year's survey broadened the scope to include the general public with Stellar/Wirex customers, but only in four countries that Stellar and Wirex believe represent a range of socioeconomic segments and cultural attitudes. So, the UK and US represent developed markets. In contrast, Singapore represents the Asia-Pacific region with a forward-thinking attitude towards crypto. Mexico represents an emerging market with high remittance volume, according to Stellar Development Foundation -- the non-profit arm of the Stellar network that enables users to create, send and trade digital versions of all forms of fiat money.

To help capture a more diverse sample of the general population and to be able to compare better developed and emerging markets, Stellar and Wirex hired PR and research firm 72Point as a third-party resource to expand its coverage. This year's survey is bifurcated. According to the report, 72Point surveyed 2,000 people in each country -- a total of 8,000 people representing the general public -- from late September to early October 2021, comprising a mix of crypto-aware and non-crypto aware individuals. At the same time, Stellar and Wirex surveyed 1,257 of its users in those countries. Combining the responses from Wirex and Stellar with those of 72Point means that both people familiar with crypto and a larger group representing the general public were surveyed, for a total of 9,257 respondents.

According to the report, the survey asked 18 questions, including banking habits, methods of sending money abroad, cryptocurrency ownership, concerns surrounding cryptocurrency, and the future of cryptocurrency. "It was important for us when undertaking this research that we tried to hit broadly representative markets to see crypto awareness and adoption through a different lens," Dixon told ZDNet. "When we approached this latest survey, we saw an opportunity to step out of our own ecosystem and network, to gain knowledge from a general audience that spans four countries on three continents, and ultimately understand more about the future utility of crypto," Dixon added.

Women's attitudes towards crypto are "increasingly positive"

That diverse sample resulted in about 48% of total respondents identified as women. Of the 8,000 respondents from 72Point, 52% identified as women, while 21% of the 1,257 respondents from the Stellar/Wirex sample were identified as women. The survey revealed that women's attitudes toward crypto are "increasingly positive", with about 45% of women and 59% of men seeing crypto as a "viable way of sending money overseas."

Other findings from the survey concerning women and crypto include:

  • 48% of men vs. 32% of women from the general population have owned crypto.
  • 85% of men and 79% of women have heard of cryptocurrency
  • Of the general population, half of the women surveyed, vs. 34% of men, say that one of their main concerns about crypto is that they don't know how to use it.

Dixon says she's ecstatic to see the level of crypto ownership by women: Nearly a third of 72Point's general sample of 8,000 respondents around the world. "We know that when women have financial access; the positive ripple effects can be powerful, not only for those women but also for families, for communities and for countries. So to see that more and more women are finding crypto to be a viable alternative to traditional money transfers could ultimately have really meaningful benefits when sending money cross-border, and for improving financial access overall," Dixon said.

An opportunity to broaden financial literacy

According to the Stellar/Wirex announcement, the broader sample of respondents from the survey indicates that women are slightly less likely to have a bank account than men overall, but just by a mere 2% difference. What's more, in the broader survey, about 25% of women, compared to 16% of men, don't know how much they're paying in fees for money transfers.

The release of the Stellar/Wirex report comes at an opportune time as the month of March -- Women's History Month -- makes way to April -- Financial Literacy Month. As the survey shows an increasing adoption, and more positive attitude, of crypto by women, it also shows there's a need to further educate both men and women on equitable financial access. For the Stellar Development Foundation and Wirex, the center of that education is understanding new financial technologies such as blockchain and crypto.

Dixon sees 2022 as a pivotal year of growth and opportunity in digital currencies, where theory makes way to practice. "I believe 2022 will be the year that focus is put on the user, whether they're native or new to crypto. We'll see a concerted focus on meeting users' needs. As a result, it will be less about the technology and more about using it to solve real problems. Applications will be built with a focus on simplicity, ease of use and in-context education. Because of this, we'll see growth in all directions -- better user interfaces, more bright minds joining the industry, smarter policymaking -- all leading to more adoption and mainstream use cases," she said.

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