Crypto is ready for prime time: Also at Mega Moolah casinos

If you're into race events that pit individuals or teams against one another with the goal of accomplishing some sort of nearly impossible task, the Money 20/20 Payments Race is something you would probably find fascinating.

The annual race sends different teams around the world in a race to reach the finish line using only a single payment system. Guess who won the 2019 race? Team Crypto.

That's right, the team using only cryptocurrency made it to the finish line first. The two-man Team Crypto was led by UK reality TV star Alex Hobern who made sure he and his race partner won the placement portion of the race. Team Mobile won the points collection portion.

Here's the way the race works: five different teams are sent on a journey that takes them through the UK, Ireland, Canada, the US, Hong Kong, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. They finish in Amsterdam. Along the way, they must pay for everything they need through the single payment system assigned to them. They also collect points as they travel. The goal is to be the first to reach Amsterdam and have the most accumulated points.

Crypto is ready for prime time

Cryptocurrency is often criticised due to its lack of global adoption. It is a fair criticism, given the fact that the original creator of Bitcoin had intended for his project to become a viable alternative monetary system shortly after its release. Some 10 years on and it is more of a store of value than a way of paying for things. Nonetheless, Bitcoin still serves well as a method of payment.

If nothing else, the results of this year's Money 20/20 Payments Race proves that crypto is ready for prime time. You just have to know how to use it. You also need to be willing to do things that may be unconventional from time to time. For example, not every retail shop that has a Bitcoin sticker on the door actually accepts cryptocurrency. Hobern found that out the hard way.

One particular shop he visited in Ireland clearly displayed a Bitcoin sign in the window. However, the clerk inside the shop didn't even know what Bitcoin was. So how did Team Crypto overcome these sorts of things?

Hobern says it took a lot of creativity. Most of the actual travel plans, including booking hotels and flights, were no problem. There are a number of travel websites more than happy to accept cryptocurrency payments for travel plans. When Team Crypto did run into trouble, they had other means of their disposal.

One of the things they did was look for cryptocurrency users willing to accept their coins in exchange for buying what they needed for them. So maybe they needed to buy an afternoon meal but couldn't find a restaurant that would take Bitcoin. They paid a local user in bitcoins to buy the meal for them with fiat.

Hobern and his teammate also discovered they could utilise voucher services in some countries. A voucher service lets you purchase a voucher with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, then use it to pay for things at retail outlets.

Learning as they went

The most remarkable thing about Team Crypto's success is that they knew nothing about cryptocurrency when they began the journey. Hobern had heard of Bitcoin - who hasn't - but didn't have any personal experience with it. He told the media that he had to learn on the fly. The race taught him plenty about Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and XRP (ripple).

Team Crypto also had to learn to use internet resources to their advantage. For example, they relied on CoinMap to help them find retailers willing to accept their coins. They learned to use exchanges so that they could arrange for middlemen to make purchases for them in exchange for coins.

It goes without saying that travelling around the world using nothing but cryptocurrency was by no means easy for Team Crypto. But they did prove it can be done. They proved that there are enough people out there enthusiastic about cryptocurrencies that you can buy just about anything you need if you are willing to think outside the box.

A team breakdown

In addition to Team Crypto and Team Mobile, the race was also run by teams using cash, plastic cards, and wearable devices. So you essentially have five different teams using five different payment methods. There is one big difference for Team Crypto though: they are the only team that runs the Money 20/20 race with a payment method not linked to fiat.

Team Cash is obviously using fiat. Their biggest problem would seem to be booking flights and hotels online. Being that cash is their only payment method, they would have to pay for everything in person. Paying exclusively with cash is inconvenient more often than not.

Teams Mobile and Wearables would encounter some of the same problems as Team Cash, but perhaps not to the same extent. With a little creativity they could use their devices to get online and then pay for what they needed by purposely searching out merchants that accept their mobile payment plans.

Of all the teams, Team Card should have had the easiest time. Debit and credit card payments are so ubiquitous in the 21st century that it is nearly impossible to travel to a place where they cannot be used. Carry a card and the world is your oyster.

For the record, last year's race saw a first-place tie between Team Cash and Team Card. Team Wearables came in third while Team Crypto and Team Mobile finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The shifting payment environment

The point of the Money 20/20 Payments Race is to both track and demonstrate the shifting payment environment we now find ourselves in. It is more than just a bit of casual fun in the name of publicity. The race actually serves as a valuable tool to stay abreast of the payments industry.

When looked at in that light, there are some rather valuable lessons to note here:

1. Cryptocurrency has utility

The first lesson is arguably the most important: cryptocurrency does have utility. What makes this so important is the debate over whether or not Bitcoin and other cryptos have any inherent value outside of trading price. This race proves they do.

Those critical of cryptocurrencies base many of their objections on the fact that digital coins are neither tangible nor backed by another asset. And by the way, that is only true of pure cryptocurrencies. Stablecoins get their name from the fact that they are backed by some other, stable asset.

Be that as it may, the lack of a printed bill or minted coin somehow makes people believe that cryptocurrencies do not have inherent value. But nothing could be further from the truth. They do have inherent value similar to the value of fiat. That value is found in utility. As long as you can buy and sell with bitcoins, those coins have utility. Where there is utility there is also value.

2. Cash is not dead

The next lesson is that cash is not dead despite the many reports of its passing. The fact that Team Cash could complete a 12-day journey around the world using nothing but printed bills and minted coins proves that there are still plenty of businesses accepting cash.

What you may not realise is that there are plenty of people in the world who live a cash-only lifestyle. Some do so because they have an inherent trust of the banking system and do not want to involve themselves with bank accounts, debit cards, credit cards, etc. Others do it because of their financial circumstances. Still others live the cash-only lifestyle because their local area doesn't offer a lot of support for technology.

The reasons behind living the lifestyle are not as important as the fact that it can still be done. People do not have to tie themselves to electronic payments in order to buy what they need and pay their bills.

3. Geographic boundaries aren't so important

Next, the Money 20/20 race demonstrates that geographic boundaries are not so important anymore. If you don't understand why that is so, just think about what it used to be like to travel before there were credit and debit cards. Think about how this race might have been run in the post-war era.

Travelling through Europe in the 1950s would have been considerably harder than it is today, from a monetary standpoint. Every country still had its own fiat (the euro didn't exist back then) and banking system. You would have had to exchange your currency at every border as you went.

Furthermore, you might not have gotten the best exchange rates at some borders. Depending on your travel destinations and who you sought out to provide exchange services, you could easily have lost money every time you crossed a border. Just the mere task of exchanging currency could have increased your travel budget quite a bit.

None of that matters anymore. You can use your crypto debit card and mobile payment system virtually anywhere in the world. And if you want true economic freedom without any cross-border exchange rates, cryptocurrency gets it done. The 2019 Money 20/20 race proved that.

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