How to use a Bitcoin ATM
Although Bitcoin is part of a new digital revolution for money, you don’t always need to be at your computer to take advantage of it. The Bitcoin ATM machine is now one of the most practical and convenient ways to trade Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The world’s first Bitcoin ATM was installed in 2014, in a coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada, and the kiosks have surged in popularity since then. As of March 2021, there are over 16,000 Bitcoin ATM machines operational across the world.
In this article, we’ll address all the most important questions and issues relating to one of the fastest-growing crypto technologies of recent years, including: “what is a Bitcoin ATM?”, “why should I use one?”, “where can I find them?”, and “how to use a Bitcoin ATM”.
What is a Bitcoin ATM?
A Bitcoin ATM machine lets you buy or sell Bitcoin, and around 69% of them also offer trading of altcoins. Litecoin is the most popular altcoin (67% of all ATMs), and Ethereum isn’t far behind (59% of all ATMs). There’s also a significant amount of support for Bitcoin Cash (28.4%) and Dash (19.3%).
The majority of terminals are unidirectional, which means that they only offer either buying or selling of crypto. Around 22% of the world’s Bitcoin ATMs are bi-directional, meaning they offer both. On rare occasions, the kiosk will also accept crypto debit cards.
As we’ll see in the next section, Bitcoin ATMs are connected to the internet, and they make use of QR (quick response) codes in order to locate your mobile or physical wallet address. Buying and selling Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies from a Bitcoin ATM is a bit more complicated than using a regular ATM, but once you've been through the process once or twice, it should become a lot easier.
How to use a Bitcoin ATM
How to buy crypto at a Bitcoin ATM
Buying Bitcoin or altcoins at one of these terminals involves using your credit/debit card, or cash, to pay for the crypto you want. You’ll also need to have a digital wallet (usually an app like Exodus on your mobile device), or a paper wallet (QR codes printed on a piece of paper), so the Bitcoin ATM machine knows where to send the crypto after you’ve paid for it.
If you’re learning how to use a Bitcoin ATM, Crytospace offers some of the easiest kiosks to get to grips with. With a Cryptospace terminal, the steps are as follows:
- After selecting the cryptocurrency option on the home screen, enter your phone number to receive a code that will allow you to verify your identity.
2. Select either Yes or No, when asked if you’d like to buy/sell more than $250 of crypto (this limit may vary depending on your region). If the answer is yes, you’ll need to go through extra identity verification, to comply with KYC (know your customer) regulations. This usually requires you to scan your passport or ID card.
3. Select Buy, choose whether you’d like to use a paper or digital wallet, and then click on the coin you’d like to buy.
4. Scan the QR code for your wallet, by placing your phone or paper wallet inside the scanner.
5. Insert cash up to the amount of crypto you want to buy, or insert your credit/debit card and use the keypad to enter the amount.
6. Check that the total displayed on screen is correct, and then hit Buy. The crypto that you’ve bought will now be sent to your wallet. You’ll also have the option to print a receipt, which we would highly recommend for security purposes.
How to sell crypto at a Bitcoin ATM
When you sell your BTC or other cryptos, you’ll usually receive the fiat equivalent in cash. The process of selling crypto varies from terminal to terminal.
For a Cryptospace ATM, it goes like this:
- Select cryptocurrency at the home screen, and follow the necessary identity verification steps.
2. Choose Sell Crypto, and select which asset you’d like to sell.
3. Use the on-screen buttons to enter the amount of fiat currency that you’d like to receive for your crypto. You can increase or decrease the amount in increments of $20 or $100 (this may vary depending on your region).
4. Verify the fiat amount, and check how much it will cost you in your chosen crypto asset. If you’re happy with the transaction, click Next.
5. Scan the QR code of the wallet with the crypto that you’re selling. You’ll have one minute to correctly scan the QR code.
6. If prompted on your mobile device, hit Send. Once the minute has elapsed, you can select Confirm on the Bitcoin ATM machine.
7. You may now need to wait for the transaction to receive a confirmation on the network, if it’s worth more than $250. You’ll receive a SMS when the confirmation has been received, and you can return to the terminal to complete the transaction. Follow step 1 again, and then enter the code from the confirmation SMS that you received. Then hit Withdraw when you’re prompted to do so.
8. Take your cash once it’s been dispensed, and you’re all done.
Why should I use a Bitcoin ATM?
So, we’ve answered “what is a Bitcoin ATM?”, and we’ve explained how to use a Bitcoin ATM. But you might still be wondering, why would I need one in the first place? The main benefit of the terminals is that they allow you to trade crypto wherever you are, without needing a laptop or even internet access. Maybe you need to withdraw some cash urgently but you’ve lost your debit card, or perhaps you’ve heard some news about Ethereum that could trigger a huge price rally. Figure out how to use a Bitcoin ATM, and you can easily access the blockchain, allowing you to buy or sell a wide variety of cryptos at any time.
Because of this extra convenience, transaction fees can be a little higher with a Bitcoin ATM machine than with an online exchange or trading platform. If you’re buying or selling crypto at a physical kiosk, you usually have to pay a commission of around 8-10%.
There are always offers available for savvy crypto traders, though. For example, users of the Exodus Bitcoin wallet are eligible for 0% commission on USD sales and withdrawals if they use a Cryptospace kiosk. Sign up for a Cryptospace account, and connect your Exodus wallet to it. If you notify Cryptospace customer support, they will then authorize your 0% crypto-to-USD ATM fee.
Is it safe to use a Bitcoin ATM?
Like with all aspects of cryptocurrencies, and money in general, many people have concerns about the safety and security of Bitcoin ATMs. However, while it may seem like a daunting prospect to be trading crypto in public, the Bitcoin ATM machine is just as safe as a regular cash machine.
Any Bitcoin ATM in a public location is run by an official, licensed company such as Cryptospace. The hardware is extremely difficult to hack, and any security issues with the machine can be immediately reported. It’s in the interests of the ATM operator, and the business where the ATM is hosted, to ensure the machine is secure. Basically, if you see an operational Bitcoin ATM in public, it’s likely safe to use.
When using the ATM, you’re also required to go through extra security steps in order to keep your cryptocurrencies safe. Identity verification prevents fraudsters from accessing your funds. The confirmations required for higher trades will also prevent any double-spend scams from taking place. And, don’t forget, unlike regular fiat currency ATMs, all Bitcoin ATM transactions are permanently registered on the blockchain.
If it’s your first time using a Bitcoin ATM, and you are concerned about security, it might be a good idea to trade smaller amounts at first. It’s also advisable to keep a separate wallet specifically for your crypto kiosk transactions. In the unlikely event that hackers were able to clone your QR codes and get access to your private key, they would only be able to take the amount that you had stored in your backup wallet. In general, hardware wallets like the Trezor wallet are also recommended over paper or software wallets, as they offer a much higher level of security.
Where can I find a Bitcoin ATM machine?
Less than five years ago, if you asked somebody “where’s my nearest Bitcoin ATM?”, then “what is a Bitcoin ATM?” would have been the most likely response. But today, cryptocurrencies are becoming just as accessible as regular fiat currencies, and you can find a Bitcoin ATM machine in many of the same places that you would find regular cash machines, such as convenience stores, cafes, or gyms. And the increasing use of these machines will hopefully encourage crypto adoption in other areas. Let’s say your local supermarket installs a new crypto kiosk, and it’s used regularly. Maybe one day soon they’ll also start accepting Bitcoin as a direct payment option.
Of the 16,000+ Bitcoin ATMs worldwide, 90.9 percent are in North America. The whole of Europe has roughly 1260 machines, making up around 7.4 percent of the global total. The United States leads the field by a significant margin in terms of national Bitcoin ATM adoption, with over 83 percent of all the kiosks in the world. Canada also has a large per capita amount, with around 7 percent of the world’s crypto ATMs being located there. The top 20 list is as follows:
- United States (14447 locations)
- Canada (1320 locations)
- United Kingdom (199 locations)
- Austria (156 locations)
- Spain (127 locations)
- Switzerland (108 locations)
- Poland (107 locations)
- Hong Kong (88 locations)
- Romania (76 locations)
- Czech Republic (66 locations)
- Italy (62 locations)
- Germany (56 locations)
- Russian Federation (53 locations)
- Hungary (52 locations)
- Greece (52 locations)
- Slovakia (50 locations)
- Colombia (46 locations)
- Belgium (42 locations)
- Ukraine (36 locations)
- Ireland (32 locations)
If you’re looking for your nearest kiosk, just check this page on Bitcoin.com, which offers a near-comprehensive world map of Bitcoin ATM locations. And if you’re based in California or Nevada, you can also take a look at this detailed list of all the Cryptospace Bitcoin ATM machines.
In summary, what is a Bitcoin ATM? It’s more than just a useful solution for trading crypto when you don’t have access to your computer. It’s also a step towards widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies in everyday life, and a key part of the continued flourishing of the international crypto market.
This content is for informational purposes only and is not investment advice. You should consult a qualified licensed advisor before engaging in any transaction.