You have choices when it comes to buying and selling cryptocurrency. Online cryptocurrency exchanges are popular, where you can use a credit card, debit card or bank transfer. Another option is peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange networks, which involves a more labor-intensive process with lists of Bitcoin buyers and sellers–think of it as Craigslist for Bitcoin. However, more and more people are turning to Bitcoin ATMs for a safe, easy way to convert cash into cryptocurrency.
The Start of Bitcoin ATMs
The first Bitcoin ATM was installed in Vancouver, British Columbia-based Waves Coffee Shop on October 2013. On its first day, that ATM saw 81 transactions, a third of those by first-timers, and $10,000 exchanged from one currency to another.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that a physical vessel that even supplies a paper receipt would encourage engagement. It brings familiarity to the digital world of cryptocurrency, which can seem mysterious if you’re not part of it. With an ATM, you follow its prompts and you’re in–a bonafide member of the cryptocurrency world. It removes the secret-handshake factor, which never actually existed but kinda felt like it did.
Yet, despite that Bitcoin ATM’s impressive first-day numbers, their growth was relatively slow at first, going from 6 ATMs at the beginning of 2014 to 327 in January 2015, onto 502 in 2016 and 965 in 2017. As of writing this, there are 8,928 ATMs in the world. (Find a Coinsource ATM near you on this map, and learn how to place one in your establishment here.)
How to Convert Fiat into Crypto via ATM
In general, Bitcoin ATMs function similarly to the currency exchanges you see in airports when flying internationally. You give the person or the machine your money, and you receive that same amount of money, minus fees, in whatever currency you need. The same goes for cryptocurrency. You put physical dollars into the Bitcoin ATM, follow the prompts, and those dollars are converted into bitcoins or part of a bitcoin since as of writing this a single Bitcoin is over $11,000. They are then stored in your Bitcoin wallet. (Read our article “How Does a Bitcoin ATM Work?” for a more thorough breakdown of the process.)
If you’re worried about the safety of these transactions, don’t be. While online cryptocurrency exchanges require you to input your bank account information, Bitcoin ATMs involve cold-hard cash, so they’re relatively anonymous. And in the day and age of COVID-19, they’re far safer health-wise than going to a bank, standing in line and interacting with others, which increases your chances of encountering the virus. Plus, your transaction occurs nearly instantaneously with an ATM, while online cryptocurrency exchanges involve approval processes and transaction delays that can take weeks.
Not all ATMs allow you to both convert cash into Bitcoin and Bitcoin into cash. Coinsource does. Another lesser-known fact about Bitcoin ATMs: They provide a frictionless way to send money to family in other countries, even if your family is cryptocurrency-clueless. (Get them up-to-speed with this article explaining Bitcoin basics.)
So if you’re interested in cryptocurrency but have been nervous to jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon, Bitcoin ATMs provide an easy way to safely join the party.