American Express makes first bitcoin investment

American_ExpressAmerican Express has taken its first steps into the cryptocurrency world, participating in a Series A funding round in bitcoin payments venture Abra.

News of the investment, which brings total funding for the Californian-based startup to over $14 million, comes as the company prepares to roll out its mobile remittance app to all registered users in the US and Philippines in the coming weeks. At the same time, the company also announced its entry into online, digital cash-based merchant payments.

The Abra app enables anyone to store and send digital cash, valued in any currency, directly on their phone with no bank required. For merchants, Abra says it will release a set of APIs in the next quarter which will enable consumers to pay for products or services by typing in their mobile phone number at checkout.

Harshul Sanghi, managing partner, American Express Ventures, says the card scheme is keen to learn more and explore new possibilities for blockchain technology through its investment.

“As people and businesses transact more globally, there’s a need for more convenient and affordable ways to move money,» he says. «We think the blockchain could play an important role in the evolution of money transfer and commerce, especially in emerging markets.»