The Bitcoin ATM phenomenon is growing at a rapid pace. Bitcoin ATMs allow clients to convert dollars into their Bitcoin account or withdraw cash from their Bitcoin wallet, without the kinks that come with online transactions. As news pours in daily of the technological advances in Bitcoin ATMs, skeptics of the electronic currency will find it harder to argue with the cheaper models, improved safety, and overall convenience of the machines. Here is a tutorial on the who, what, when, where, and wow of the Bitcoin ATMs popping up across the globe.
Bitcoin ATM Locations
Where can I find a Bitcoin ATM?
As of the writing of this article, Bitcoin ATMs are found in 20 countries across 4 continents. Proposals of additional machines in these countries along with newcomers Brazil, Portugal, and New Zealand show the Bitcoin market creating traction in all geographical spheres.
The Bitcoin ATM market seems to be trending towards countries with strong economies and clients with disposable incomes. Almost all hosts of the machines are among the top 25% of countries with the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Analysts see this trend as finding a balance between attracting hardcore Bitcoin users and curious first-timers who may find a new appreciation for the cryptocurrency. The unveiling of a Bitcoin ATM in Austin, Texas brought out new clients who bought some Bitcoin “just for fun,” a luxury less-fortunate countries may not be able to afford.
Although less than 100 Bitcoin ATMs are currently in use around the world, manufacturers are heating up the competition for potential buyers. LocalBitCoins.com is preparing to mass-produce their two-way ATM, of which only 5 are currently built (none have been sold). Lamassu, who has compared their technologies in their ATMs to “writing apps for an iPhone,” have shipped over 200 of their units to buyers. Other companies, including General Bytes (Slovakia), Hot Butler (Finland) and BitAccess (Canada), all have machines in operation and are working on cheaper, smaller, and thus more attractive models, to sell in the near future.
As the Bitcoin ATM market continues to blossom, only time will tell if economic factors are the main draw for investing in the machines. Just like the Bitcoin currency itself, the growth of Bitcoin ATMs will rely on support of both the populace and their respective governments.
Bitcoin ATM and the Government
As the emergence of Bitcoin ATMs is becoming more prevalent, businesses and manufacturers are trying to work with lawmakers as regulations on the digital currency seem imminent. Haseeb Awan, co-founder of the BitAccess ATM, plans to do a presentation this week on his creation to the Canadian Senate. Awan believes lawmakers should have a strong knowledge of the in’s and out’s of the machines before they attempt to apply regulations on sales and use of them.
Similarly, Jordan Kelley, CEO of Robocoin ATM, debuted his creation to lawmakers in Washington D.C. on April 8th. Bitcoin is currently unregulated in the United States, although the government is creating tax laws that will require users to claim the currency as property.
Bitcoin itself is currently under the magnifying glass of lawmakers shifting tax codes for the digital currency. Bitcoin ATM manufacturers are taking advantage of the chance to show off their hardware to gain their respective governments’ approval of the digital currency, thus allowing businesses to feel more secure about owning a machine and increasing the popularity of Bitcoin.
In’s and Out’s of Bitcoin ATMs
Googling “Bitcoin horror stories” might make you believe Bitcoin users are paranoid, gullible, and susceptible to schemes. This can be traced to a few bad eggs. Face-to-face Bitcoin transactions with strangers should always be conducted in a well-lit public place, although the slyest of the sly can always figure out a way to leave your virtual and actual wallet in ruins. Bitcoin ATMs are found in public areas including bars, airports, and businesses that have heavily invested in the machines to provide safety for their clients.
Transactions on Bitcoin ATMs are advertised as safe, reliable, and speedy. Some models of ATMs, such as Robocoin, go as far as requiring users to provide a Government-issued ID, PIN code, telephone number, vein scan, as well as photographing your face in order to complete the transaction. Most other models, including machines produced by Lamassu and Hot Butler, only require clients to provide a PIN code and downloadable receipt from your smartphone.
Regardless of the two extremes and all those in between, safety concerning the transaction of large amounts of bitcoins remains the manufacturers’ greatest priority. Although no official monetary regulating authorities monitor the machines, Bitcoin ATMs use the same hardware and network security as banks. In the United States, Bitcoin ATM owners need an official Money Transmitter License or to register as a Money Service Business.
Hunting down a Bitcoin user, making plans to meet, and carrying out the transaction can sound like a hassle. Bitcoin ATMs allow the client to complete their transaction in about 15 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes to complete a face-to-face transaction.
Most Bitcoin machines accept banknotes from over 200 countries. As the demand for the machines becomes greater, so does the advancements in its technology. British Virgins Islands-based manufacturer Lamassu have created new machines that not only offers depositing and withdrawing of Bitcoin and global currency, but allows clients to manage their multiple Bitcoin wallets and send bitcoins to other users across the globe, all in a matter of minutes. These benefits may be especially attractive to foreign travelers who may be in a jam and need quick cash.
Although Bitcoin thrives on its “no fees” slogan, some countries, such as Singapore, must comply to international fees imposed on transferring bitcoins online. Bitcoin ATMs allow clients to avoid these fees and guarantees the money is transferred safely, unlike internet transactions where sellers can default on the transaction.
The price of a conventional non-armored ATM in the United States usually starts at around US$2,000 dollars, plus installation fees. Bitcoin ATMs are slowly but surely catching up to those prices. Lasammu offers a fixed price of US$5,000 for 1-4 units. The Robocoin unit in Austin, Texas goes for over US$20,000 and is described as “the size of a vending machine.” Newer models Paymaq are creating models with a market price of US$1400. Many other companies hope to decrease both the physical size and cost of the ATMs into the US$2,000 range like many regular ATM machines.
4. The Future
Cryptex, a Hong Kong start up, has launched a new bitcoin ATM Card that would work on “90% of US ATMS” as well as on thousands more across the globe. The card would send bitcoins to a third party’s address, which will then convert a specified amount of bitcoins into fiat currency and be ready to withdraw. The company hopes the card will intensify the growth of Bitcoin ATMs around the world.
As the ideas and market for Bitcoin ATMs grow, the consumer may not wonder “if” but rather “when” an ATM will pop up in their area. Bitcoin enthusiasts see government regulations as a wave of support and trust for businesses who want to embrace the emerging economy. Although many parts of the world lack Bitcoin ATMs, including the whole of Africa, perhaps the trust of the currency, upcoming laws, and overall popularity of the machines will soon prove to be too fruitful to ignore in all parts of the globe, despite any differences in culture and current reliance on paper money.
The Brixton pound (local currency launched in Brixton, UK) could hardly be called a private currency. It cannot be issued without a 1 pound sterling being available to back it. Bitcoin prices can be manipulated by anyone with enough cash to corner the market. What if the (bitcoin) money is not considered a 'good' but rather a promise (of a good)? Then currencies would compete on the basis not of supply and demand, but on the reputation of the issuer. The future of the ATMs is the same as the future of bitcoins I guess".
'We need more of them, especially in malls and airports. I think they're the future, especially if you can sell coins for cash. The cons: likely to have higher fees than initially set. Many Bitcoin ATMs are thus far very buggy. There needs to be more regulations on these machines before the general public uses them. Also for those without knowledge of bitcoins, it is difficult to get them into it through the ATMs. Maybe these ATMs should dispense Bitcoin wallet cards for those without smartphones or knowledge of Bitcoin. The pros: even if no one accepts bitcoins, as long as you can sell them at the ATMs, your coins can easily be changed into cash. If done properly it will help push bitcoins into the masses. It may be easier to get into the game than figuring out how to buy coins online.''