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Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zcopley/

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zcopley/

Speaking with the Wall Street Journal‘s MoneyBeat blog, Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) CEO Jason Oxman weighed in on the rapid development of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as payment platforms. As a trade organization representing payment giants like Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon, Google and AT&T, the ETA’s position on bitcoin carries significant weight.

What is that position? If Oxman’s tone is indicative of his organization’s stance, it appears to be cautious optimism.

We are in, without question, the single most important period of innovation since the invention of the magnetic strip. It is truly a revolutionary time for payments,” Mr. Oxman said, noting that the magnetic strip, the base technology for credit and debit cards, was created 50 years ago.

Although the popular view of bitcoin holds that decentralized cryptocurrency will be hugely disruptive for old guard payment methods like Visa and MasterCard, the reality is a little more complex. In fact, traditional payment systems stand to benefit from bitcoin’s innovations at least as much, if not more, than the average user. Payment providers currently experience huge losses due to middleman fees and fraud.

Oxman noted that while the payment industry is “paying attention” to bitcoin’s development, the infrastructure and ecosystem is not yet developed to the point that ETA members would “feel comfortable deploying that kind of solution.”

That said, the ETA is clearly anticipating a time in the near future where bitcoin, or at least bitcoin-like systems, will be in use by its members. As Oxman explained:

ETA’s position on bitcoin and alternative currencies today is that they have a right to exist and they should comply with whatever laws are regulations apply to payment companies that offer services akin to kin to what they are offering.”

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