What Are Bitcoin ATMs?

Bitcoin ATMs, or BTMs, are kiosks connected to the Internet where you can buy or sell the cryptocurrency without having any extensive expertise. You can find those kiosks in shopping malls, at the gas stations and even at your office. Although there are many different ATM types out there, in order to use them, in most cases you will need a Bitcoin wallet preinstalled on your phone. Note that BTMs are not the same as traditional ATMs you’re so used to. Be prepared to pull out your ID if you transfer a huge amount of money. However, if the amount is small enough, your anonymity is guaranteed.

How do Bitcoin ATMs Work?

The functionality of different Bitcoin ATMs or rather BTMs (Bitcoin Teller Machines) is pretty much the same. Just like ordinary ATMs, they have got a touch screen, a plate to scan a QR-code (oops, not quite ordinary), an output device for printing out receipts and a cash dispenser to insert and receive bills.

So, is there the best Bitcoin ATM? There are many BTM manufacturers out there, such as GenesisCoin (3420 locations), General Bytes (2882 locations), BitAccess (920 locations) etc. Just google to find the provider nearest to your home.

But let’s say, you’ve found one. How can you buy Bitcoin?

  1. Tap the screen, and you’ll have the option to buy
  2. Hit the buy button
  3. Choose how much you want to buy
  4. Hit the lowest option if you don’t want to go through the KYC procedure
  5. Enter the destination address, which basically means bringing your phone to a QR-code scanner – yes, you’re right, you should have installed a Bitcoin wallet to your phone in advance, and this app should better have a QR-code scanner built in
  6. Now, the ATM allows you to insert a certain amount of money
  7. Insert your money into a lit-up dispenser
  8. Let the machine show the sum on the screen
  9. Finish up by tapping the button “Buy Bitcoin”
  10. Print the receipt
  11. Pull out your phone and see if the balance in your Bitcoin wallet was topped up

The advantage of buying Bitcoin via an ATM is that you’ve stayed anonymous and didn’t have to sign up with a crypto exchange – a great option for less tech-savvy people!

Can I sell my Bitcoin at an ATM?

The majority of ATMs offer you only a buy option, however, 30% of all the ATMs out there offer bi-directional functionality allowing you to buy and sell Bitcoin. So, yes, sometimes you can sell your Bitcoin at an ATM, and the machine will pop out cash for you.

The procedure is almost the same compared to buying Bitcoin, except, you’ll need to generate a paper ticket to send Bitcoin from your app right to the ATM and, then, redeem this ticket at the ATM.

Are Bitcoin ATMs safe?

Not all the ATMs are safe to use, however, some machines are very well maintained, always well-funded and situated in secure locations, such as shopping malls. But on the other hand, there are poorly-maintained machines out there that are frequently out of Bitcoin or cash.

The safety of a teller might depend on your location. For example, Canada was the first country to host a Bitcoin ATM. Canada regulates crypto and has 861 machines. In Russia, by contrast, there are only 53 machines, and the law prohibits the use of crypto as a means of payment, thus, they can simply arrest you for using a Bitcoin ATM, and that is not safe.

The best way to know if a Bitcoin ATM is safe is to read other users’ comments on the web and learn all about the ATM provider in advance. How many machines does the company behind the ATM have? Is their website trust-worthy? What is their physical address? You can even drop them an email to see how fast their tech team responds. These are all good litmus tests for determining whether or not the ATM you are considering using is safe.

Do Bitcoin ATMs Have High Fees?

Yes. In general Bitcoin ATMs have much higher fees than cryptocurrency exchanges or P2P exchanges because the ATM provider has to pay for the physical space. It’s generally not a great idea to buy huge amounts of cryptocurrency from Bitcoin ATMs but they can be a good workaround for people who need to get crypto quick (or don’t have access to a computer).

Do I need an ID to use a Bitcoin ATM?

It depends on a machine and an amount of Bitcoin you’re about to buy or sell. Actually, it’s a good thing if the machine requires your driver’s license or ID to proceed because it means that the ATM provider complies with the local regulations. It’s highly likely that if anything goes wrong with your transaction, you’ll be able to demand your funds in conformity with the law.

Are Bitcoin ATMs expensive to use?

Bitcoin ATMs sell at a mark-up of 5-10% owing to additional payments such as regulatory requirements, rent, machine maintenance etc. But the most expensive piece of this jigsaw puzzle is your privacy.

Are Online Crypto Exchanges Better Than Bitcoin ARMs?

The answer to this question depends on who you are and the amount of money you’re about to transfer. What is your goal? If you want to transfer a significant amount of money abroad just once, you’ll need to undergo KYC anyways, so a crypto exchange with its much lower fees might do. Because there, you’ll also need to verify yourself.

If you’re about to become a trader, you’ll need an account with an exchange, too. However, some exchanges still allow you to preserve your anonymity, and ATMs are a good way to not touch debit and credit cards while transferring Bitcoin to a trading platform for the first time.

What Cryptocurrencies are Available at Bitcoin ATMs?

With different providers, different coins are available, but mostly these are Bitcoin, Ether, DASH, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, Zcash, Dogecoin, Tether and Ripple.

Where can I find a Bitcoin ATM?

In order to find the nearest ATM, you can use different websites, such as Coin ATM Radar, Buy Bitcoin Worldwide or some local platforms you might want to google in your native language.

Can a Bitcoin ATM be hacked?

Sure, it can be hacked. In 2018, a hacker published an ad that purported to sell malware for hacking Bitcoin ATMs. According to the ad, the malware disconnects the machine from the network, turns off the alarm systems and dispenses much of the money across different addresses. There is still no record of this malware in use.

Summary

Bitcoin ATMs help the unbanked and those who want to stay anonymous have access to the financial markets of a new generation. Less tech-savvy people can buy and sell Bitcoin quite easily at ATMs if they research their nearest machines in advance. Some of these ATM services are quite costly, and you might rather want to register with an exchange to trade regularly and comply with the regulations of your country.

About the Author

Julia Gerstein

Julia Gerstein

Julia Gerstein graduated from The Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia as a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She had been working as a reporter at a major news agency RIA Novosti and for The Rolling Stone Magazine before she got interested in Blockchain & Crypto. For the past three years, she has been covering news, creating analytical & educational blog posts and writing about fellow cryptonians. Julia's mission is to help readers find what they need, understand what they find and use what they understand appropriately.