PayPal expands the ability to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency to the UK

PayPal will now allow users outside the U.S. to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency for the first time. The company announced today the launch of a new service that will allow customers in the U.K. to select between four types of cryptocurrencies — including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash — which can be purchased using a connected bank account or debit card.

The company first rolled out support for cryptocurrency in the U.S. last fall, in partnership with Paxos Trust Company. That service reached all U.S. customers as of mid-November. PayPal-owned Venmo also added support for cryptocurrency last spring.

U.K. customers who want to purchase cryptocurrency can now do so via the PayPal website or mobile app, where they can choose from pre-determined purchase amounts or enter another amount of their own choosing. PayPal says users will be able to start buying as little as £1 of cryptocurrency, if they choose. There are, however, transaction fees and currency conversion fees when buying and selling cryptocurrency, the company notes. These vary based on the amount of cryptocurrency being bought or sold.

The new service itself is very much like PayPal’s U.S. offering, with one notable exception. PayPal told us it’s tailoring the transaction limits for its U.K. customers. At launch, the maximum amount for any single crypto purchase is £15,000. The maximum amount for purchases over a 12-month period is £35,000. In the U.S., the company had initially launched the service with a $20,000 weekly purchase limit. But it upped that to $100,000 in July and dropped its annual purchase limit.

The company also told TechCrunch the U.K. made sense as the first international expansion for its cryptocurrency service because it’s a fintech hub, as well as PayPal’s second-largest market globally, where it has a sizable base of consumer customers.

“We think that we’re going to be helping the cryptocurrency ecosystem develop further in the U.K. In the U.S., we knew there was high demand for this service. Yet we were surprised to see the level of customer engagement for PayPal’s in-app crypto service from day one,” a PayPal spokesperson said. “Since we’ve launched, we’ve seen incredible and sustained engagement from our users. Consumers who buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency on our platform in the U.S. log on at 2x their previous rate,” they added.

Cryptocurrency will also be a key feature in PayPal’s forthcoming “super app,” which is due to roll out over the next several months.

The company would not comment on if or when it would expand its other cryptocurrency services to the U.K., including its more recently launched “Checkout with Crypto,” which allows customers to checkout using their cryptocurrency at millions of online businesses by first converting into fiat currency the crypto needed for the transaction. Instead, PayPal said it wanted to first learn and observe how its U.K. customers adopt the new offering to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency before rolling out more features and functionality.

Beyond its support for cryptocurrency in its own apps, PayPal’s venture capital arm has also made a number investments in crypto and the blockchain over the past months, including by participating in the $14 million Series A for cryptocurrency risk management software TRM Labs; in the $40 million Series A for digital asset trading infrastructure company Talos; and in the $100 million Series A for crypto tax software company TaxBit.

“The pandemic has accelerated digital change and innovation across all aspects of our lives — including the digitization of money and greater consumer adoption of digital financial services,” Jose Fernandez da Ponte, vice president and general manager, Blockchain, Crypto and Digital Currencies at PayPal, said in a statement.

“Our global reach, digital payments expertise, and knowledge of consumer and businesses, combined with rigorous security and compliance controls provides us the unique opportunity, and the responsibility, to help people in the U.K. to explore cryptocurrency. We are committed to continue working closely with regulators in the U.K., and around the world, to offer our support — and meaningfully contribute to shaping the role digital currencies will play in the future of global finance and commerce,” he added.

Currently, PayPal offers support for cryptocurrency in the U.S., excluding Hawaii, and U.S. territories, in addition to the U.K., but says it’s exploring the potential for digital currencies through partnerships with licensed and regulated cryptocurrency platforms and with central banks elsewhere in the world.