Coming to a Location Near You: Bitcoin ATMs

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When you think of ways to buy or sell Bitcoin, I’m pretty positive the first thing that comes to mind is not using an ATM. Well a lot of people are beginning to use a Bitcoin ATM and those devices are popping up at more and more locations at very rapid pace.

Now, not to be all “snooty” or “snobby” or anything, but you will certainly not find one of these ATM’s at the French Laundry restaurant up in Napa or Harrods in London. But, when you go into your favorite sandwich shop, visit your local gas station/convenience store or have a drink at your local tavern, you will likely be seeing more and more Bitcoin ATM’s.

Just a few years ago it was very rare to locate one of these machines. It was a bit of a joke that “evildoers” had to drive to some far away gas station to make a transaction. But no more. These new ATM’s are referred to as digital currency ATM’s and many now will actually dispense hard cash in exchange for Bitcoin. So why not just transact online? Well some people actually get paid in cash, some don’t have bank accounts, some may want to send money overseas or just want anonymity.

Certainly the popularity of Bitcoin, coupled with the price rise, has contributed to the rapid growth of these ATM placements. Ironically the Covid pandemic has hastened this rapid growth since many recipients of government stimulus payments used the funds to buy digital currency. According to the independent research site howmanybitcoinatms.com (cute name) there were 28,185 bitcoin ATMs in the United States as of January. Amazingly roughly 10,000 came within the prior five months. The growth of the ATM market is not even a gentle increase. It is almost a 45% and growing.

With fees ranging from 6% to 20% of a total transaction, it is no wonder that the ATM operators are rushing to place more of these kiosks (and you probably thought bank fees were…..uh, aggressive). Many are scouring the country for new locations which tend to target specific demographics that are, quite frankly, sadly used to having to pay high fees for transactions.

In one extreme example cited on a recent article on Reuters, one operator flew to Montana after scanning a U.S. map for possible Bitcoin ATM locations. During his week-long road trip, he identified seven places to install machines, including a store in Billings, Montana that sells tobacco, vape juice and colorful glass pipes. And, he saw some amazing scenery as well.

So with the rapid rise in Bitcoin ATM’s you might think that banks might be a bit concerned about the trend, and watching it warily. But not so. With fees running 6%-20%, it makes traditional bank fees look downright cheap. And with regulators so concerned about illicit activity in Bitcoin transactions the banks don’t have to worry about the Feds watching billions of money laundering going on in their basement.

Look for those digital currency ATM’s to find a location near you soon.