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"The reality is consumer payments, which is where Visa and MasterCard play, is extraordinarily efficient today," Lisa Ellis, senior analyst at Bernstein, said Thursday on CNBC's "Closing Bell. " Ellis is ranked top payments analyst by Institutional Investor, and the two credit card stocks are her top long-term stock picks.
Consumer payments "are the one spot where there's not a problem waiting to be fixed," she said.
On the other hand, institutionally focused financial markets are still quite inefficient. That's where developers are trying to apply blockchain, the technology underlying bitcoin and other digital currencies, to help speed up transactions and cut costs.
"The vision for these systems, the digital currency systems, bitcoin and ethereum, is to create a global set of payment rails, the same way the internet is a global set of information rails," Elllis said. "That's what they're trying to do, and there's a lot of momentum and a lot of validity to that vision.
"Blockchain is getting a tremendous amount of momentum independent of bitcoin in core banking," Ellis said.
As for the digital currency that leaped to record highs Thursday, she said, "I think it's real. I do."