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By Anna Irrera
LONDON, April 20 (Reuters) - Venmo, the peer-to-peer payment service owned by PayPal Holdings Inc, said on Tuesday it has started allowing users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies on its app, a step that could inspire more mainstream adoption of the asset class.
Venmo users will be able to buy bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin and bitcoin cash for as little as $1 and publish transactions on the app's feed, the company said.
With more than 70 million customers, Venmo is one of the most popular payment apps in the United States, especially among younger consumers who use it to pay friends and family. It processed around $159 billion in payments last year.
California-based PayPal has become one of the most active mainstream financial companies in cryptocurrencies.
In October, it began allowing users to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies in its digital wallets and last month it started allowing customers to spend their virtual coins at millions of merchants globally.
These launches helped to fuel a rally in virtual currencies. Bitcoin has soared nearly 90% since the start of this year, boosted by interest from larger financial firms betting on its greater adoption and use as a hedge against inflation.
Venmo's crypto launch also coincides with increased competition in the U.S. peer-to-peer payments sector.
Square Inc's rival Cash App, which has allowed cryptocurrency purchases since 2018, has seen user growth boom over the last year. Other financial technology startups popular with young consumers, such as broker Robinhood also allow crypto buying and selling.
More than 30% of Venmo customers have purchased crypto or equities, 20% of which started buying during the pandemic, the 2020 Venmo Customer Behavior Study found.
"Our goal is to provide our customers with an easy-to-use platform that simplifies the process of buying and selling cryptocurrencies and demystifies some of the common questions and misconceptions that consumers may have," Darrell Esch, Venmo senior vice president and general manager, said.
Crypto on Venmo is enabled through PayPal's partnership with Paxos Trust Company, a regulated provider of cryptocurrency products and services. (Reporting by Anna Irrera; editing by Barbara Lewis)