A payments platform called Fold announced a lightning network protocol that will reportedly allow users the chance to shop in-store and online at several retailers, such as Starbucks Whole Foods, AMC, Home Depot and Southwest Airlines. Unlike other retail-focused crypto payment apps that were announced earlier this year, Fold plans to stay with bitcoin’s roots and allow their users to avoid issues associated with the legacy financial system such as Know-Your-Customer (KYC) restrictions and mandatory signups.
Customers will make their transaction through bitcoin, though the payments will be converted into the merchants’ currency choice, therefore eliminating the risk of cryptocurrency volatility for merchants. The protocol integrates with existing payments systems in a merchant’s POS, which deals “directly with prepaid access programs like gift cards, store credit, rails or other options merchants are used to accepting,” said Will Reeves, CEO of Fold.
Those who have been longtime bitcoin users may remember Fold as a startup built around the peer-to-peer digital cash system back in 2014, when the app’s main functionality was allowing its users to save 20% at Starbucks by paying with bitcoin. The company ran into usability issues just a few years ago due to a growing bitcoin network and on-chain transaction fees rising to levels that were unsuitable for Fold’s use case.
“We noticed very quickly that Layer 1 was not going to be the ideal payment rail that we hoped,” said Reeves. “Long confirmation times and, especially, high on-chain fees made it unworkable for most consumer and retail situations. Because of those challenges, we’ve been very proactive in adopting and building on Layer 2 solutions, like Lightning, as early as we could so we could actually make bitcoin payments work.”