2015 has been a stabilizing year for Bitcoin, but now its global expansion has taken a unique twist. Thousands of bitcoin ATMs have multiplied like rabbits all year long, but where they have ended up may surprise you. The new global Bitcoin consumer ATM Mecca has shifted to Eastern Europe near the hotly-contested military crossroads of the Ukraine.
Economic Freedom Reaches Military Hot Zone
The Ukraine, which is considering legalizing Bitcoin through its banking system, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last two years: from commercial airliners allegedly going down via missile attacks; to the nation’s political regime change; to NATO versus Russia military build-ups that may become a precursor to World War III.
What has gone largely unnoticed during this period of geopolitical upheaval is the foundation of Bitcoin business and economic exchange that is beginning to be made throughout the turbulent country, along with other countries throughout Eastern Europe.
If you have used a RedBox movie service you may be familiar with the electronic kiosk concept in the West. Payment companies use similar kiosks for many different services like paying utility bills and loading debit cards. Over the last few months, Ukrainian payments leader BTCU.biz has now equipped over 15,000 of their machines with Bitcoin services for consumer exchange of funds, according to CoinATMRadar.
Now, a person can walk up to a kiosk at over 4,000 locations across the Ukraine. Now, the country’s capital of Kiev can certainly be dubbed a “bitcoin hub” since you can now purchase cryptocurrency almost as easily as adding money to a bank debit card. It should be noted, however, that “bitcoin ATMs” are slightly different from “kiosks.”
“This is probably a bit misleading as those are not bitcoin ATMs in the way we understand it, those are other crypto cash services,” explained Vlad, the owner of CoinATMradar. “However, those are very similar in functions to bitcoin ATMs, that's why I'm adding them to the map. I'm concentrating only on services which allow exchange of cash to bitcoin and bitcoin to cash directly.”
“The ones added in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania are mostly payment terminals, which are used by some local Bitcoin company (1 in each country) in order to organize the process. So the terminals are not used purely for bitcoin, and they are not newly installed. E.g. the service in Ukraine is provided for more than a year already.”
There are two versions run by BTCU.biz: 24nonStop and diBox machines. There are over 7,400 24nonStop and over 5,000 iBox machines throughout the Ukraine, and the two machines work similarly for new Bitcoin transactions
How to buy
With 24nonStop machines, first enter your phone number. Then add the desired amount of money, but not less than 51 UAH (charge for use of terminal is 1% and the Ukrainian Hryvnia is currently worth about four cents in US Dollars). When you have completed your desired transaction amount, print and save the receipt. Then you take the receipt and go to the corporate website, btcu.biz.
Once there, select “Purchase,” then "For cash in the terminal,” and enter the provided code from the receipt. Press the "Pay" button. Make sure that the code is accepted and the amount of money is equal to the one entered at the terminal.
If you want to get money to a bitcoin wallet: click on "Add BTC-wallet," enter your wallet address and click "Pay.” The coins will be automatically credited to the address you specify.
Fees are impressively large for Bitcoin transactions. Besides the 1% fee for the terminal use, the commission charge is approximately 17%, regardless of which machine you use. Maybe the upfront investment in outfitting all of these machines conveniently throughout the capital and the country is passed onto the consumer, initially.
Eastern Europe & Austria
Just south of Ukraine is Romania, with over two thousand kiosks looking to fulfill your Bitcoin needs. The capital is Bucharest, with almost 2 million people, and over 500 Bitcoin locations to choose from. The company that controls this consumer exchange market is called ZebraPay, with over 1,500 locations across the country, and has been in service for the last year, starting with 800 locations.
The fees are reasonable, at 4%, and you will get your bitcoins almost immediately. The downside is these machines do not come with a QR scanner, so you will enter the address manually. They do offer address shortening at their corporate website if you have an account already @ zebrapay.ro.
Further south, your next Bitcoin-friendly country is Bulgaria, where there are now also over 2,000 Bitcoin kiosk locations. The capital is Sofia, in the west, with over 1.2 million inhabitants. There, you’ll find almost 500 Bitcoin locations to choose from, and another 2,000 locations, nationwide. These kiosks are run by CashTerminal, with over 630 locations, charging a more reasonable 1-3% per transaction.
Common places to find kiosks are at malls and public transit locations. Easy Pay is the largest Bitcoin provider in the country, with over 1,400 locations, and it works differently. You make your order through the website, crypto.bg, which will provide a 10-digit code to you. Then, go to their local location, which are manned by people who will process the transaction to your address in about 45 minutes, so it is similar to a Western Union transaction. Their charge is also 1-3%.
Even Austria, in central Europe, is getting in on the Bitcoin wave, with over 650 locations, according to CoinATMRadar.com. The legendary capital of Vienna sports over 100 ATMs to serve 1.7 million people, and the service company’s name is Bitcoinbon. The company sells paper coupons at tobacco shops in denominations of 25, 50 and 100 Euros.
These coupons are good for up to 1 year, but obviously the value relative to a bitcoin is subject to change. You take the coupons to the company’s website, bitcoinbon.at, to redeem for bitcoins. The fee per transaction is well hidden on their site, but given the listed bitcoin price was lower than the going rate, assume the charge is about 3% at Bitcoinbon.
A major step
It’s hard to see these developments in consumer access to bitcoin as anything but a huge positive for the global Bitcoin community. People commonly ask how do I get a bitcoin, and these options make getting your hands on bitcoin more convenient than ever before, at least in these four countries.
Oddly, while London has approximately only over a dozen bitcoin ATMs, according to CoinATMRadar, Kiev has thousands of locations where cryptocurrency can be acquired. Thus, it looks like one global “Bitcoin hub” had better seriously step up their Bitcoin consumer market game. Hopefully, international FinTech competition will replace military NATO insurgencies within Europe as the sport of choice for many years to come.