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Written by Erik Weijers a month ago

What is a Bitcoin ATM?

A Bitcoin ATM or Bitcoin vending machine is a place where you can buy and sometimes sell Bitcoin. Think of these machines as crypto brokers with a physical location. Bitcoin ATMs are not as common as regular ATMs. There are over 1000 in the European Union.

All Bitcoin vending machines allow you to enter cash / bank transfers to buy Bitcoin. You send it to a Bitcoin wallet of your choice. So the wallet address can be yours or someone else's. Many ATMs also allow you to sell Bitcoin and receive ‘normal’ money.

How does buying Bitcoin at an ATM work?

A Bitcoin vending machine is like a Bitcoin broker or crypto exchange where you may or may not have to enter information about yourself first. To buy BTC, follow these steps:

  1. Find a Bitcoin vending machine near you, for example via coinatmradar.com. But also Google in your own language for local websites with overviews. It is possible that a website is not up-to-date with regards to your local situation.
  2. Go to the Bitcoin ATM and link the address of your wallet to the machine. This can be done by scanning a QR code. An alternative is to have the address generated by the machine. Note: not all machines have that option.
  3. Enter banknotes or provide your bank account details
  4. Confirm and receive BTC worth the amount entered – minus transaction fees, of course.

As mentioned, you can also send the BTC to someone else's BTC address.

Differences between ATMs

An important difference between Bitcoin ATMs is whether and which KYC-data they ask from you. Sometimes the process is anonymous but it is more common that you have to go through a verification process. For example, you have to enter a phone number and receive an text message as a verification step. Another possibility is that you first have to install an app, after which you go through a registration process with possibly uploading personal data and/or a photo. Check all this before you go to the machine. Yet another option is that you enter your e-mail address, to which the machine sends an encrypted private key.

Another difference is whether or not an ATM also pays out fiat money (euros or dollars, etc) in exchange for your Bitcoin. You can often find that in the overview of coinatmradar.com. The 'sell' checkmark would in that case be selected behind the machine. It is estimated that about 40% of the machines also have the option to sell. But that varies between manufacturers and local regulations.

Number of machines per country

There are around 48 Bitcoin vending machines in the Netherlands by 2022, mainly in North Holland. In Europe, Spain is a country with a lot of ATMs.

Advantages of buying Bitcoin at an ATM

If you don't have an account with a crypto exchange or broker, it can be useful to quickly get Bitcoin or send it. It's a quick-and-dirty solution if you want to get rid of your cash. Let’s say you’re at the airport, on your way to catch your flight to Thailand. You suddenly realize: I will not be using that 100 euro note for the foreseeable future, let’s exchange it for something useful.

An important advantage is that buying via an ATM is much faster than with a crypto broker. You don't have to wait for your account to be verified.

Many people who value their privacy find it an advantage that you can buy Bitcoin at many vending machines without having to scan your passport.

Disadvantages of buying Bitcoin at an ATM

The high transaction costs are definitely a disadvantage of Bitcoin ATMs. Please check online before purchasing. 8% is very common and that is much much higher than with online brokers.

FAQ Bitcoin ATMS

Can I also use a credit card instead of cash?

No that is in most cases not possible.

How long does it take to confirm a transaction?

Just as long as a normal Bitcoin transaction. It can take a few blocks, so half an hour or an hour for the transaction to go through.

Can I also remain anonymous?

That depends on the machine.

Can I also buy other coins?

That depends on the machine. Some machines also offer Ether, USDT or other commonly used coins.

What is the limit?

A common limit per transaction is 2500 euros, but this differs per manufacturer and/or how the machine is set up.

Can I also make regular debit card payments?

No. Bitcoin vending machines are purely focused on the transactions between fiat money (euros, dollars, etc) and crypto. You can therefore not make regular debit card payments.

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