IRVINE, Calif. -- Even though some convenience-store operators don’t even know what Bitcoin is, several stores on the West Coast and reportedly one in Virginia have placed ATM-style devices that will allow customers to purchase the digital currency.
Begun in the late 2000s as a digital version of cash, Bitcoin is a decentralized currency valued, traded and circulated through networked computers, according to its website, Bitcoin.com.
At a Shell location in Norfolk, Va., customers can walk in and purchase Bitcoin currency from a kiosk, called an ATM, said a report by TheMerkle.com. Users can buy or sell up to $1,500 with short message service (SMS) text messaging verification. The maximum limit is $2,999 per day, which requires an additional government ID scan.
One technology start-up, National Bitcoin ATM, Irvine, Calif., has placed eight kiosks or ATMs at cafes, vape shops and markets in the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas as a way to provide greater access to the currency.
“Essentially, we’ve taken complicated technology and made it accessible to everyone,” said Jessica Dunham, public relations coordinator for National Bitcoin. “You put cash in the machine and get Bitcoin.”
The customer doesn’t get back anything physical, but his or her cellphone can log the Bitcoin value, Dunham told CSP Daily News. Typically, the customer is interested in buying Bitcoin as an investment vs. spending it like cash, she said. As a matter of fact, only two of the stores where National Bitcoin has kiosks can accept the digital cash, because it requires a separate point-of-sale (POS) terminal.
So what’s the point if people can’t spend it? Dunham said Bitcoin means different things to different people. As a decentralized currency, it can be used to make electronic purchases and save money anonymously, without concern that “big brother” is watching. For some banks, it’s a way of avoiding expensive upgrades to new digital technologies. Whatever the reason, its value goes up and down like stock, so people invest, hoping the currency’s value rises.
In its business model, National Bitcoin places its kiosks in retail outlets at no charge. In a standard partnership, the company will give the retailer 55 cents per transaction. Dunham says many sites have 10 to 15 people using the kiosks a day, with some sites seeing as many as 30.
“It’s not out of the question to see 400 to 500 transactions a month,” she said.
Even though c-stores may not want to invest in the POS technology to accept Bitcoin, Dunham said they are good locations for the kiosks as a traffic driver and a way for the owners to differentiate their stores.
“If we put the machine in a fine-jewelry store where the cheapest thing is $1,000, people would use the machine and leave,” she said. “If we can send 10 to 30 people to a convenience store and they buy a Diet Coke, it’s a benefit to the c-store owner.”
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