The End of an Era for Visa: It’s No Longer the Only Alternative Cash Payment Method at the Olympics

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As the largest card network in the United States, Visa has been dominating most of the payment processing market for many years. In fact, it has gained exclusive rights as the only electronic payments provider at the Olympic Games since 1986. 

If you’re at the Olympics, you only have two ways to pay for purchases: cash or a Visa card. But that 36-year reign ended in Beijing this year with the Winter Olympic Games.

In the Olympic Village in Beijing, athletes, staff, media, and other guests now have three payment options instead of the usual two: cash, Visa, and the e-CNY, China’s new digital currency.

What We Know About Payment Methods at the Winter Olympics in Beijing

China is all about digitizing payments these days.

With the largest population in the world, China has been working on digitizing most of its payment transactions. With mobile payment processing networks WeChat Pay and Alipay powered by Tencent Holdings Ltd. And Ant Group Co., the movement to slowly eliminate the use of physical cash is taking shape. 

Just recently, China introduced its first digital currency, the e-CNY, and it will be used as one of the payment methods in the Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympics is the perfect way to launch e-CNY.

With the Winter Olympic Games being one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, it only makes sense for China to use it as the platform for introducing its digital currency to the world. 

Author Richard Turrin, author of Cashless: China’s Digital Currency Revolution, explained: “The Olympics has always been scheduled by the People’s Bank of China as the global coming-out party for the digital yuan.” 

China has been rolling out this digital currency since April 2020 and more than 140 million users have already registered for an e-CNY account. 

It has also processed more than $8.3 billion in transactions within 6 months (Cheng, 2022), which means that a lot of locals are already embracing this digital currency. 

In the Olympics, however, guests need cash to top up an e-CNY card, which can then be used to make contactless payments within the Olympic Village. 

Although there’s no real distinction between paying using an e-CNY card and a Visa card, it is said that the digital currency is a lot cheaper than paying with Visa since there are no extra fees for it. 

When someone uses a Visa card to buy something in China, processing fees are applied for the international payment.

China Ahead of the Digital Payment Processing Game

China is definitely making headway in the digital payment processing industry and it won’t be long until others follow suit. 

So, if you’re a business, this is the perfect time to start looking for reliable high-risk merchant account processors that will allow you to process digital payments and offer more payment options for your customers. 

As an era ends for Visa being the sole cashless payment provider in the Olympic Games, we are waiting to see what’s next for payment processing.


Cheng, E. (2022, January 18). China’s digital yuan notches $8.3 billion in transactions in 6 months, taking a tiny share of payments. CNBC.