Bitcoin ATMs arrive at a gas pump near you
Machines have multiplied rapidly across the United States over the past year, fueled by a frenzy in crypto trading that sent bitcoin prices above $ 58,000. Kiosk operators such as CoinFlip and Coin Cloud have installed thousands of ATMs, roaming areas that competitors have yet to reach, executives told Reuters.
âI just thought there was a demand and people wanted bitcoin everywhere,â said Quad Coin founder Mark Shoiket, who flew to Montana after scanning an American map for the deserts of bitcoin ATM.
During a week-long road trip, he found seven places to set up machines, including 406 Glass, a store in Billings, MT that sells tobacco, vape juice, and colored glass pipes. .
As of January, there were 28,185 bitcoin ATMs in the United States, according to howmanybitcoinatms.com, an independent research site. About 10,000 have arrived in the past five months.
The growing popularity of Bitcoin has been the main driver of the new installations.
The reasons people use ATMs rather than transacting online vary. Some are paid in cash, some do not have a bank account, some want to send funds overseas or want anonymity, while others feel more comfortable interacting with a physical machine.
Rebecca White, a 51-year-old bitcoin investor who lives in the Pittsburgh area, makes larger investments online and uses Bitcoin ATMs when her family has extra cash.
âWhen we do our shopping and we have $ 60 left, I will stop at the Bitcoin ATM,â said White, who works in the nuclear energy business.
Some machines only offer bitcoin, while others allow customers to invest in various digital currencies. Few Bitcoin ATMs can actually cough up money, and they cost more than regular ATMs or online transactions.
The fees range from 6% to 20% of a total transaction, said Pamela Clegg, director of financial investigations and training at cryptocurrency compliance firm CipherTrace. Fees vary depending on the location and operator of the Bitcoin ATM.
âThe growth of the ATM market – it’s not even a slight increase, it’s almost a 45% increase,â Clegg said. “The growth is quite amazing.”
Government agencies have raised red flags about some machines because of their cost and the potential for illicit activity. The New Jersey State Commission of Inquiry detailed some of these concerns in a February report titled “Scams, Suspicious Transactions, and Questionable Practices at Cryptocurrency Kiosks.”
None of these concerns have stopped the growth of the industry.
Form an ocean to another
According to an online map from Coin ATM Radar, there are now Bitcoin ATMs in all states except Alaska, as well as Washington, DC. Reuters reporters spotted recent additions to gas stations, shops and restaurants in North Carolina, South Carolina, rural Pennsylvania and on the outskirts of New Jersey and New York.
Las Vegas-based Coin Cloud has 1,470 machines in the United States and plans to have 10,000 by the end of the year, CEO Chris McAlary said. While there have been fears the pandemic could hurt businesses, foot traffic actually increased during lockdowns.
âWe expected the worst when Covid hit, but stimulus payments came out and it helped a lot,â McAlary said. “Some people took stimulus and bought digital currency with it.”
Chicago-based competitor CoinFlip increased its ATM footprint from around 420 last year to 1,800 now, CEO Daniel Polotsky said. ATM transactions almost tripled during this period.
âThere are people who don’t have bank accounts or who don’t like to use them,â Polotsky said.
CoinFlip charges customers 6.99% for buying crypto and 4.99% for selling, he said.
Atlanta-based Bitcoin Depot has also increased its ATM count from 500 to over 1,800 machines over the past year, CEO Brandon Mintz said. Most customers are between the ages of 25 and 40 and find machines by searching online, he said.
General Bytes, which makes Bitcoin ATMs, was temporarily out of stock last summer due to soaring demand. The company sold 3,000 machines last year, 90% of which were in North America, said founder Karel Kyovsky.
Not all ATMs draw customer lines.
Quad Coin’s Shoiket removed a handful of the 200 ATMs it installed last year because they had not turned a profit within six months.
At the Grassy Point Bar & Grill in Broad Channel, New York, an employee had to plug in a bitcoin ATM so a Reuters reporter could see how it worked.
And only a handful of truck drivers have stopped at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota, to use a Coin Cloud machine installed five months ago, owner Vivian Sonder said.
Coin Cloud offered him $ 200 a month to host the machine and periodically sends maintenance workers to check it out from Rapid City, 140 miles away.
âI didn’t understand why they wanted to put one here,â Sonder said. “It’s a seasonal business in a town of less than 500 people.”