In one key meeting last summer, Dixon told MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes that “the thing that had been missed in a lot of different spaces is how much blockchain and crypto needs MoneyGram.”
But most of the anchors on Stellar are regional players, and not all have physical cash-in or -out locations
The product was built over the next several months, and a pilot began in has licenses and operations in 200 countries and territories, with more than 420,000 agent locations, which allowed for a relatively quick build. ent at Stellar Development Foundation, praised MoneyGram's “ability to abstract out all the complexity.”
With this product, users can bring fiat currency to a MoneyGram location, convert it to crypto and convert crypto back out to fiat. Photo: MoneyGram
Stellar has seen payments grow more than 500% on its network over the past year, but it needs to increase access for retail users. In 2016, it launched its first anchors - a network of regulated financial institutions, money service businesses, stablecoin issuers and other providers of on-ramps and off-ramps. It now has about 50 anchors in places like Brazil, Nigeria, the Philippines and the U.S.
This is how it will work: A customer initiates a transaction on a compatible wallet, then brings dollars or other fiat to a MoneyGram location. The agent verifies identity and loads the funds to the customer's digital wallet as a MoneyGram transaction using the Stellar blockchain network.
Two self-custody wallets, Lobstr and Vibrant, will be live at launch, and the companies are working on supporting other custodial and noncustodial wallets. USDC creator Circle will help convert the funds, and United Bank Texas will handle settlement between Circle and Stellar.
MoneyGram said it is offering the service with no fees for the first 12 months to boost adoption. The price of transactions will eventually be competitive with buying and selling crypto or with sending remittances, said Holmes. The World Bank reports that average remittance fees paid on conventional money transfers in 2021 were a little more than 6%.
MoneyGram sees the Stellar deal bringing in new customers who want to get into or are already into crypto, as well as providing a new product for existing customers. Holmes notes overlap between immigrants who use MoneyGram to send money overseas and Latinx populations that show strong crypto interest. In addition, by integrating with Stellar, it enables any other wallet on that network to plug into MoneyGram, adding more potential customers.
Longer term, Holmes sees crypto as having potential not just in changing money transfers but also in helping redefine money. “If I had a U.S. dollar, and I put it into a stablecoin that was then accessible to someone in Argentina, that's a little bit different than saying I have to convert it all today when I go to pick it up or when I put it into my bank account,” Holmes said. “There are some interesting future concepts around how money moves, and does it really need to be instantly translated into fiat?”
MoneyGram has been focusing on technology and innovation in recent years. Last year it brought on Sara Vassar from Thomson Reuters and Intuit as chief product officer. In 2018 it launched a mobile app through which people could manage and send their money. It also secured a deal last year to let people buy bitcoin through Coinme at MoneyGram locations.
Tomio Geron ( ) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at or