A bitcoin ATM is an electronic communications device that allows a person to exchange bitcoins and cash without the need for a human to facilitate the transaction. There are two primary types of Bitcoin ATMs. The basic units allow the customer to only buy Bitcoins. The more complex machines will let a person buy as well as sell bitcoins via the machine. To access the advanced features of the complex units, you will usually need to be a member of the ATM manufacturer that operates the machine.
On October 29, 2013, a Robocoin ATM opened in the Waves coffee shop in downtown Vancouver, Canada. This machine is understood to be the world's first publicly available bitcoin ATM.
Bitcoin ATM's have continued to pop up around the world since then, often in coffee shops or major commuter areas. Local operators usually manage the ATM after purchasing it from a Manufacturer.
There are very few laws in the world that specifically reference Bitcoin or cryptocurrency, but in many countries, BTC transmission via bitcoin ATMs are regulated under existing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) laws. Consult a local attorney to find out if bitcoin ATM operation is subject to any new or existing local laws.
In the US, a Bitcoin ATM business is defined as a Money Transmitter by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). As a Money Transmitter (a type of Money Services Business (MSB)), the business must comply with the rules set out by the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). Responsibilities include establishing an AML program, appointing an AML compliance officer, and reporting suspicious activity to FinCEN. An AML program is a set of business rules that define how a business will comply with the BSA.
While the federal regulation targets money laundering, state laws aim to protect consumers. As of August 2014, many states have yet to issue guidance on whether or not Bitcoin exchange qualifies as money transmission. Texas for example was one of the first to issue guidance in 2014. In July 2014 the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) released their proposal for state Bitcoin regulation called "Bitlicense". The proposal was met with much resistance due to the scope of the regulation, widely regarded as overreaching. As of August 2014, the NYDFS has been asked to extend the review period beyond the initial 45 days as well as provide the reasoning behind much of the policies proposed.
Bitcoin ATM's are not yet regulated in Canada, however regulations have been officially proposed for all Bitcoin exchangers.
Bitcoin ATM Locations
There are 285 Bitcoin ATM Machines installed worldwide. Bitcoin ATMs are much more prevalent in the US and Canada. See the graph for more info on how many devices per country as of 12/24/2014.
An up to date map of bitcoin ATM's can be found at following websites:
Bitcoin ATM Manufacturers
Criticism and Controversy
- As of Dec 2014, there are 285 Bitcoin ATMs installed in the world. With the rise of these establishments, there has been a rise in Bitcoin hacking concerns.
- A New Zealand bitcoin ATM operator has announced they’re shutting down operations due to interference with banks.
- A former Robocoin operator in the UK has 'hacked' its bitcoin ATM machines to run on software from rival manufacturer Lamassu.
External Resource Links
Bitcoin ATMs may prove most useful in enabling cross-border e-commerce for underbanked parts of the world, allowing, for example:
- Online purchases by those without bank accounts or credit cards, or the inability to use these internationally
- Travelers' withdrawal of cash in local currency at competitive rates, again, without needing a bank account or ATM card. A traveler could also convert excess local currency back into Bitcoin at the end of a trip, something many conventional ATMs do not allow today.
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