Have you noticed anything strange at your local Walmart recently… maybe a funny-looking machine that looks a whole lot like an ATM, but that says “Bitcoin” on it? Well, you aren’t the only one. According to Walmart communications director Molly Blakeman, the retail and wholesale behemoth has partnered with coin-cashing machine company Coinstar and crypto-cash exchange Coinme in a pilot program to install 200 Bitcoin ATMs in its stores across the U.S. and has plans to eventually expand that to 8,000 machines in total. The program will allow customers to use cash to buy bitcoin.
You’re probably familiar with Coinstar (OUTR), if you’ve ever used one of the machines to exchange your loose change for paper bills or gift cards. The company has partnered with Coinme, a crypto wallet and payment firm, to bring Walmart customers BATMs (Bitcoin ATMs). Hoping to foster adoption, the machine makes the process of buying crypto pretty simple for people who may not have the ability, or know-how, to purchase from an exchange. You just stick a bill into the machine and a paper voucher is issued. Then, you set up a Coinme account, and exchange your voucher for a small fee. Easy peasy!
Bitcoin ATMs aren’t a completely new concept. About 25,000 Bitcoin ATMs are currently located at grocery stores and service stations around the U.S., with Coinstar operating 4,400 kiosks enabled for Bitcoin purchases across 33 states. This pilot program with Walmart is aiming to expand access to more people, and to add legitimacy to crypto (which is understandable… since plenty of people are skeptical or think that cryptocurrency is something that only shady players or techies participate in)
How Does It Work?
So, with Bitcoin ATMs on the rise, let’s explore a little bit more about them and how they work. A BATM is essentially a kiosk that allows a person to buy Bitcoin using an automatic teller machine, with some offering bi-directional functionality which enables both the purchase and the sale of Bitcoin for cash. They’re not exactly like traditional ATMs, but are pretty similar. They connect to the internet, look like traditional ATMs, but aren’t connected to a bank account. Instead, they connect customers directly to a Bitcoin exchange so users can purchase Bitcoin in person from the kiosk.
Why The Hype?
Partially fueled by the pandemic, the crypto ATM industry is experiencing rapid growth and will likely surpass 2.5 billion over the next four years, with America dominating the global market… a position it’s anticipated to maintain through the next six years. Bitcoin ATMs are emerging as a convenient transaction model for cryptocurrencies, with the kiosks associated with simplicity and a great way to accommodate the growing number of Bitcoin enthusiasts and participants.
The number of Bitcoin ATMs has grown astronomically, almost doubling in less than a year’s time, indicating a healthy market cap. As of now, over 80 nations have Bitcoin ATMs, and the number will only grow as fiat-based cryptocurrency exchange becomes more inclusive. All these factors together point toward a healthy growth roadmap for the global Bitcoin ATM market.
And for those worried about safety, that has been addressed. In the US, Bitcoin ATM operators are required to register with FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network) and adhere to the norms of the Bank Secrecy Act for Anti-Money Laundering. Look for more action in this space, and for crypto to become more mainstream pretty quickly.
As the US continues to foster the adoption of crypto, look for more crypto ATMs to roll out in high-traffic places like airports and gas stations, such as in cities like Williston in North Carolina, which has installed a state-hosted crypto kiosk in its international airport.
For the venture, the city partnered with the crypto service Coin Cloud, which has provided the city with its Digital Currency Machines (DCM). DCMs do a little more than typical BATMs, allowing users to buy and sell Bitcoin and 40 other digital assets with cash. As demand grows, Williston plans to place a crypto ATM in its City Hall building and will eventually cross the payment corridor over to licenses, permits, and other fees. The city has already taken a step in that direction, partnering with major crypto payment firm BitPay in May of 2021 to start accepting cryptocurrencies as payment for utility bills.
Circle K, a convenience store and gas station chain, has installed more than 700 crypto ATMs since partnering with Bitcoin Depot in 2020 and has found that customers are embracing the technology. The more than 700 locations in 30 states now offer crypto ATMs and the partnership has proved to be a winning move, even helping the store weather the pandemic. Overall, the pandemic pummeled retail sales, but inside sales for convenience stores increased a whopping $255.6 billion, that’s a lot of foot traffic and exposure for crypto ATMs.
Companies are looking to cash in and create a presence in the space… a move that should open them up to a wider customer base. And, for a lot of customers who don’t consider themselves tech savvy, this opens an avenue for them to jump into the crypto world in a nonthreatening way.