REUTERS: A new feature has appeared at smoke shops in Montana, gas stations in the Carolinas and delis in far-flung corners of New York City: a brightly-lit bitcoin ATM, where customers can buy or sell digital currency, and sometimes extract hard cash.
The machines have multiplied quickly through the United States over the past year, fueled by a frenzy in crypto trading that sent bitcoin prices over US$58,000.
Kiosk operators such as CoinFlip and Coin Cloud have installed thousands of ATMs, scouring areas competitors have not yet reached, executives told Reuters.
“I just assumed there was demand and people wanted bitcoin everywhere,” said Quad Coin founder Mark Shoiket, who flew to Montana after scanning a US map for bitcoin ATM deserts.
During a week-long road trip, he found seven places to install machines, including 406 Glass, a store in Billings, Montana, that sells tobacco, vape juice and colorful glass pipes.
As of January, there were 28,185 bitcoin ATMs in the United States, according to howmanybitcoinatms.com, an independent research site. Roughly 10,000 came within the prior five months.
Bitcoin’s growing popularity has been the primary driver for new installations.
The reasons people use ATMs rather than transacting online vary. Some get paid in cash, some lack bank accounts, some want to send remittances abroad or want anonymity, while others feel more comfortable interacting with a physical machine.
Rebecca White, a 51-year-old bitcoin investor who lives in the Pittsburgh area, makes larger investments online and uses bitcoin ATMs when her family has extra money.
“When we do our grocery shopping and we have US$60 left, I will stop at the bitcoin ATM,” said White, who works in the nuclear power industry.