Pics: 'Bitcoin ATMs' spring up in the US
Kiosks to fill digital wallets ... no cash withdrawals yet
America is getting its first IRL dealing with Bitcoin as a pair of digital currency "ATMs" went online this week.
The machines, which allow cash deposits and Bitcoin withdrawals – but not cash withdrawals – were launched just hours apart by separate companies in Boston and Albuquerque, are the first of their kind to appear in the States and will allow the public a simple way to convert paper money into Bitcoins.
The kiosks currently function more like vending machines than ATMs, allowing users to deposit cash which is then converted into Bitcoin funds on a wallet, either pre-configured by the user or established through the kiosk.
As noted by Lamassu, the manufacturer which built the hardware behind the kiosks, the machines operate within manned booths and kiosks. The independent firms that operate the machines provide the Bitcoin backing for the devices through a commercial exchange and are required to meet federal financial and legal requirements designed to help thwart money-laundering and other potential nefarious activity which could arise when one has the ability to change currencies.
The machines do not, as of yet, offer withdrawals from Bitcoin to cash. Liberty Teller, which operates the Boston machine out of the South Station transit hub, said that it is planning to eventually offer an automated buying system for users looking to cash out.
Still, for non-technical members of the public interested in Bitcoin, or for privacy-conscious users wary of transferring account information online, the Bitcoin ATM machines could offer an easier way to deal with the cryptocurrency.
For those looking to buy low on Bitcoin, this week has seen prices drop as the currency remains embroiled in controversy. The embattled MtGox exchange, only now getting back on its feet after an extended outage as it addressed a lingering technical issue known as a "account malleability" which would allow an attacker to potentially trigger fraudulent "ghost" transactions on the exchange.
The same issue was later blamed for a hacking incident on the Silk Road 2.0 dark market which cost users an estimated $2.7m in lost Bitcoin.
At the time of publication, the MtGox exchange displayed a high of $160 and a low price of just $91.50 per Bitcoin, down from significantly higher prices just weeks before. Just last month it had rated the virtual currency's value as close to the $1,000 mark. But the Coindesk Index, which tracks the Bitstamp and BTC-e exchanges, rates the currency downwards, but gives a much heftier appraisal than MtGox – with a high of $579.40 and a low of $525.07. ®