Beyond Borders: Exploring the Role of Cryptocurrencies in International Transactions

Published on 19 June 2023 by in ArticlesResearch

cryptocurrency in cross border transactions


Cryptocurrencies, with Bitcoin at the forefront, have witnessed an unprecedented rise in popularity, capturing the attention of investors, technologists, and the general public alike. One area in which cryptocurrencies hold particular promise is in international transactions. 

Most economic activities in our world today are no longer limited to one country. With globalization of production processes, easy international travel, migration, and increased global connectedness due to the internet, many transactions carried out on a daily basis cross borders. International transactions play an essential role in the global economy, facilitating international trade, remittances, and financial flows. However, traditional mechanisms for conducting these transactions, such as banks and remittance services, are often burdened by inefficiencies, high fees, and long processing times. These limitations hinder economic growth and financial inclusion, especially for individuals and businesses in developing countries. Cryptocurrencies offer a promising alternative to traditional cross-border transactions, which gives them high potential for stimulating further economic development worldwide, and increasing inclusion of people in the economy. 

In the following sections, we will delve into the role of cryptocurrencies in cross-border transactions, exploring the benefits they bring and the challenges they face. Furthermore, we will analyze the regulatory landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies and discuss the future outlook for cross-border transactions in this evolving space.

Understanding cross-border transactions

The importance of cross-border transactions

Cross-border transactions hold a pivotal position within the global economy, facilitating the movement of goods, services, and capital across national boundaries. These transactions involve the transfer of funds or assets between individuals, businesses, or financial institutions located in different countries. They play a crucial role in international trade, foreign investment, remittances, and multinational business operations.

However, their extent is not limited to business-related transactions only. With global migration movements, made easier by modern day travel options such as planes, it is not uncommon that members of the same family live in different countries. The movement of capital between relatives in different countries, therefore, is also a type of cross-border transactions.

International transactions in traditional financial systems

Traditionally, international transactions have relied on established mechanisms such as banks, remittance services, and international payment networks. These mechanisms involve a series of steps, including currency conversion, compliance with regulatory requirements, and the involvement of intermediaries to facilitate the transfer of funds. These traditional methods have been associated with several challenges.

Processing times

Firstly, the efficiency of traditional cross-border transactions can be hindered by bureaucratic processes, resulting in extended processing times. Delays in transaction settlement can impact businesses’ cash flows and create unnecessary friction in global trade, and difficulties in accounting processes. Additionally, the reliance on multiple intermediaries often leads to higher transaction costs, which can disproportionately affect individuals and small businesses.

Regulatory obstacles

Furthermore, traditional cross-border transactions often face regulatory hurdles imposed by different jurisdictions. Compliance with diverse regulatory frameworks, such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) requirements, can be complex and time-consuming. Moreover, iconsistent regulations across countries can create barriers to seamless cross-border transactions and limit financial inclusion, particularly in regions where access to traditional banking services is limited.

No equal access to cross-border transactions

It is also crucial to acknowledge that not everyone has equal access to robust financial systems that facilitate seamless cross-border transactions. In many regions, particularly in developing countries, a significant portion of the population remains unbanked or underbanked, lacking access to basic financial services. Traditional banking infrastructure may be limited or absent, making it challenging for individuals in these areas to participate in cross-border transactions through conventional means. This lack of financial access perpetuates financial exclusion and limits opportunities for economic growth and development.

The potential of cryptocurrency in international transactions

Many of the disadvantages of traditional banking in international transactions can be resolved by using cryptocurrencies for these movements of capital.

Decentralization eliminates the need for intermediaries

One of the key advantages of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, lies in their decentralized nature, which eliminates the need for intermediaries like banks. This decentralization streamlines the transaction process, reducing the reliance on multiple parties and expediting settlement times. Consequently, cross-border transactions conducted through cryptocurrencies can offer significantly faster transaction speeds compared to traditional methods.

Lower transaction fees

Moreover, cryptocurrencies have the potential to significantly lower transaction costs associated with cross-border transfers. Traditional banking systems often impose substantial fees for international transactions, especially when currency conversion is involved. In contrast, cryptocurrencies can facilitate direct peer-to-peer transactions without the need for costly intermediaries, resulting in reduced transaction fees. Cryptocurrencies also do not need to be converted when being sent across borders.

This cost-effectiveness can be particularly beneficial for individuals and small businesses engaging in frequent cross-border transactions, allowing them to retain a larger portion of their funds.

Increased accessibility to cross-border transactions

Cryptocurrencies offer enhanced accessibility to cross-border transactions, especially for individuals in underserved or remote areas. In regions with limited access to traditional financial services, cryptocurrencies can enable financial inclusion by providing a means to participate in global transactions. All that is required is an internet connection and a digital wallet, empowering individuals who may not have access to traditional banking infrastructure. Consequently, this may stimulate economic development in these parts of the world.

Financial privacy and security

Finally, cryptocurrencies have the potential to enhance financial privacy and security in cross-border transactions. With traditional banking systems, transaction data is typically recorded and stored by financial institutions. This can raise concerns about data privacy and the vulnerability of sensitive information. Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, utilize cryptographic techniques to ensure secure and anonymous transactions, providing individuals with greater control over their financial data and a more anonymous way of sending and receiving money.

Challenges for cryptocurrency in international transactions

While cryptocurrencies offer many benefits over traditional banking when it comes to transactions across borders, there are also still some challenges or obstacles.

Development of regulation for crypto in international transactions

Currently, several big players in the global economy are working on regulation for cryptocurrencies and other crypto assets. The European Union is set to introduce the MiCAR regulation by the end of 2024, and the OECD has recently proposed a first set of policy guidelines for tax-related regulation of international crypto transactions. 

While many businesses and institutions welcome the regulatory clarity because it provides clear guidelines and increases trust and clarity in the industry of crypto assets, the bureaucracy associated with regulation might complicate the process of international transactions. However, it is understandable that regulation is needed, for example to prevent malicious use of cryptocurrencies and avoid tax evasion.

Scalability challenges

As cryptocurrencies gain popularity, scalability becomes a pressing concern. Blockchains, the underlying technology for most cryptocurrencies, may face scalability issues when processing a large volume of transactions simultaneously. Scaling solutions, such as off-chain transactions and layer-two protocols, are being developed to address this challenge and safeguard the efficiency of cross-border cryptocurrency transactions.

Adoption and acceptance

While cryptocurrencies have gained significant attention and adoption, their acceptance as a mainstream payment method for cross-border transactions is still limited. Not all businesses and individuals are equipped to accept or transact in cryptocurrencies, creating a barrier to wider acceptance in cross-border transactions. Especially in many of the more developed countries, adoption of cryptocurrency is lagging behind, because traditional financial infrastructure is typically very well developed here.

Increasing adoption and establishing a robust infrastructure that supports cryptocurrency payments are ongoing challenges. It is, however, expected that the clarity provided by upcoming regulation, such as the MiCAR, will increase the confidence in the use of cryptocurrencies.

Examples of the use of cryptocurrency in international transactions

Supply chain management

An example of the benefits of cryptocurrencies in international trade can be found in supply chain management. Cryptocurrencies, with their transparent and immutable nature, provide increased transparency and security in cross-border transactions involving multiple parties. For instance, cryptocurrencies and smart contracts can be leveraged to streamline documentation, track goods, and ensure trust in international trade. By reducing paperwork, enhancing traceability, and mitigating fraud risks, cryptocurrencies facilitate smoother cross-border transactions within global supply chains.

Decentralized finance

Furthermore, decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols offer innovative solutions for cross-border transactions and financial services. These platforms leverage cryptocurrencies and smart contracts to provide decentralized lending, borrowing, and asset management services, removing the need for intermediaries. For instance, protocols can enable individuals to lend and borrow digital assets globally, transcending traditional banking boundaries. By eliminating geographical restrictions and reducing costs, DeFi presents new opportunities for cross-border financial interactions and investment activities.

Future outlook: Regulation

As mentioned before, upcoming regulation and the current lack thereof might pose a challenge for the role of cryptocurrencies in international transactions. On the one hand, regulation might provide more clarity and thus more confidence in using cryptocurrencies for international economic activities. On the other hand, lack of global regulatory uniformity adds complexity to cross-border transactions, because compliance requirements may vary between jurisdictions. The OECD proposed a set of guidelines for tax-related regulation of crypto assets, but it is up to individual countries if, and how to implement these guidelines into national policy.

However, in other instances, regulation is developed for a whole set of countries, such as with the MiCAR regulation in the European Union. This regulation will ensure uniformity in rules throughout the EU, which makes it easier for businesses to expand their crypto related activities within EU countries. 

Despite the regulatory challenges, the future outlook for cryptocurrencies in cross-border transactions remains optimistic. Governments and regulatory bodies are recognizing the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies, including increased financial inclusion, improved efficiency, and reduced costs. Consequently, efforts are underway to develop clearer and more comprehensive regulatory frameworks that strike a balance between innovation and risk mitigation.


The rise of cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin, has brought forth a new era of possibilities for cross-border transactions. By leveraging decentralized technology and blockchain, cryptocurrencies offer a solution to the challenges that traditional banking systems present in cross-border transactions.

While challenges remain, the future outlook for cryptocurrencies in international transactions is optimistic, driven by regulatory advancements, and growing acceptance. As we navigate this evolving landscape, cryptocurrencies have the potential to reshape cross-border transactions, fostering a more interconnected and prosperous global economy.