As interest in Bitcoin and the world of cryptocurrency increases, so does the availability of ATMs where a person can buy cryptocurrencies with cash without linking a bank account or going through an extensive sign-up process.
A quick Google search for Bitcoin ATMs (BTM) in St. Petersburg returned over 50 results, with dozens more throughout Pinellas County. The number of ATMs has increased in synch with the price of the apex cryptocurrency. Coin ATM Radar reports the number of BTM in use jumping from 9,119 in August 2020 to 24,572 in August 2021 – a 260% increase in the number of machines in operation.
The ATMs are operated by over 600 different companies and Bitcoin Depot is currently the industry leader with a 15.8% market share. According to Coindesk, the company has recently entered a long-term partnership with the Circle K convenience store chain and plans to install kiosks at thousands of Circle K locations, with 700 online in 30 states already. Bitcoin Depot operates 12 machines in St. Petersburg, including one in the Circle K on 54th Ave. N.
Joe Miller is an independent distributor for Bitcoin Depot in St. Petersburg and said the main benefit of the ATM is to provide a way for those without a bank account or reliable internet service to invest in cryptocurrency. Miller said some bank accounts have restrictions that can make linking to an online brokerage difficult, and the registration process can be tedious.
“It’s just an easy way to go to your favorite convenience store or gas station and spend some cash to get some Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin,” said Miller.
Users need to first create a digital wallet and then sign up through one of the ATMs. Other online options can take days to approve an account and often require a list of documents, but ATMs take less than a minute and only require a phone number for verification on amounts less than $250. Customers insert cash and can purchase Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin. Bitcoin and Ethereum are the largest cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, although some BTM companies may offer other coins as well.
Bitcoin is up 311% from last year and 8,074% over the last five years. A study in May by the New York Investment Group estimated that 46 million Americans now own at least a share of the cryptocurrency – or about 17% of the adult population.
According to Miller, what sets Bitcoin Depot apart from other BTM providers is “their efficiency, their compliance, and their management.” He added that hosting the machines provides an added source of revenue for many mom-and-pop businesses, and advertising the ATMs increases foot traffic to the store. He also lauds the customer service response time for both businesses and individual buyers.
“They’ve got a lot of things going for them,” said Miller.
BTM users should pay attention to transaction fees when using the machines. Rates can vary significantly from 5% to 30% of the transaction, depending on the operator. Users can also encounter fees when selling or moving their cryptocurrency. Customers can link to an online wallet or exchange and are also given paper receipts with QR codes that Miller said can be used to send and transfer Bitcoin. He likened it to “Cash App or Venmo for crypto.”
Bitcoin hit the $50,000 mark for the first time since May on Monday night and is trading around $48,115 at the time of publication. On April 14, Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $64,863 before pulling back.