What is a Bitcoin ATM?

bitcoin atm

Bitcoin (BTC) has taken the financial world by storm. Its decentralized nature and potential for high returns have attracted a growing number of investors. But how do you actually buy Bitcoin, especially if you’re new to cryptocurrency and prefer using cash? Here is where Bitcoin ATMs (BTMs) enter the arena – convenient kiosks that bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds of finance.

Think of a BTM as a close cousin of the regular ATM you use at your bank. Instead of dispensing cash from your bank account, though, a BTM allows you to exchange your physical cash for Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency. While Bitcoin takes center stage in most BTMs, some cater to a wider audience by supporting other popular cryptocurrencies like Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and others. 

A Brief History of Bitcoin ATMs

The year was 2013. The first Bitcoin ATM opened its doors in Vancouver, Canada. This marked a significant step towards making Bitcoin more accessible. Soon after, Europe and the United States followed suit with their own BTM installations.

Over the years, BTMs have seen steady growth, particularly in North America. Today, with over 37,116 machines scattered worldwide, buying and selling Bitcoin has become easier than ever. This widespread adoption signifies a rising demand for user-friendly ways to interact with the cryptocurrency world.

Source: Coinatmradar

Buying Bitcoin with a Bitcoin ATM

Bitcoin ATMs offer a convenient way to buy Bitcoin using cash. Here’s a breakdown of the process, step-by-step:

Step I: Identification Check (KYC): Most BTMs comply with Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. This might involve scanning a government-issued ID (driver’s license or passport) and providing a phone number for verification.

Step II: Select “Buy Bitcoin” Option: The BTM interface will typically have separate options for buying and selling Bitcoin. Choose the “Buy Bitcoin” option to proceed.

Step III: Enter Bitcoin Wallet Address: You’ll need a digital Bitcoin wallet to store your purchased Bitcoin. Before using the BTM, ensure you have a wallet set up and readily accessible. The BTM will ask you to enter your wallet address. This can be done in two ways:

  • Scan QR Code: Most wallets allow you to display a QR code representing your wallet address. Simply scan this code using the BTM’s scanner.
  • Manual Entry: If scanning isn’t available, some BTMs might allow you to manually enter your wallet address. Double-check the address for accuracy before proceeding, as any typos could result in lost Bitcoin.

Step IV: Insert Cash: Feed the amount of cash you want to convert into Bitcoin. The machine will display the corresponding amount of Bitcoin you’ll receive based on the current exchange rate. Be sure to review the exchange rate to ensure it aligns with your expectations.

Step V:Review and Confirm Transaction: The BTM will provide a summary of your transaction, including the amount of cash you’re depositing, the Bitcoin amount you’ll receive, and the current exchange rate. Double-check all the details to avoid any errors and then confirm the transaction.

Step VI: Wait for Bitcoin Transfer: The BTM will process your transaction. The transfer of Bitcoin to your digital wallet can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on network traffic.

Step VII: Collect Transaction Receipt (Optional): Some BTMs offer the option to print a receipt for your transaction. This receipt might include your Bitcoin wallet address, the amount of Bitcoin purchased, and the exchange rate. While not mandatory, it can serve as a record of your transaction.

Selling Bitcoin with a BTM

Selling Bitcoin through a BTM is similar to buying, with a few key differences:

Step I: Select “Sell Bitcoin” Option: Select the “Sell Bitcoin” option on the BTM’s interface.

Step II: Verify Identity: Similar to buying, you’ll likely need to verify your identity through ID scan and phone number verification.

Step III: Enter Bitcoin Wallet Address (Optional): In some cases, you might be prompted to enter the address of the wallet you want the cash proceeds deposited. If not, you’ll proceed to the next step.

Step IV: Insert Bitcoin: The BTM will provide a digital wallet address for you to transfer your Bitcoin to. You’ll need to initiate this transfer from your digital wallet app.

Step V: Review and Confirm Transaction: The BTM will display the amount of Bitcoin you’re selling and the corresponding cash amount you’ll receive based on the current exchange rate. Double-check everything before confirming.

Step VI: Collect Cash: Once the BTM receives your Bitcoin, it will dispense the cash amount you agreed upon.

Pros and Cons of Using Bitcoin ATMs

Bitcoin ATMs offer a convenient way to buy and sell Bitcoin, but they come with both advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown to help you decide if a BTM is right for you:


  • Convenience: BTMs provide a fast and easy way to buy or sell Bitcoin without needing a bank account. You simply insert cash or receive cash directly.
  • Accessibility: With a growing number of BTMs worldwide, they offer a familiar option for those who prefer cash transactions.
  • Limited Anonymity: While regulations require some verification, some BTMs may offer a degree of anonymity for smaller transactions compared to online exchanges.


  • High Fees: BTM transaction fees are generally the biggest drawback. They can range from 7% to 15% or even higher, significantly impacting your returns.
  • Transaction Limits: Most BTMs have limitations on the amount of cash you can deposit or Bitcoin you can purchase in a single transaction. These limits can be restrictive for larger investments.
  • Security Concerns: As with any cash transaction, be cautious of using BTMs in poorly lit areas and be vigilant against scams.
  • Limited Crypto Selection: Many BTMs only support Bitcoin, with some offering a few other popular cryptos. For a wider variety, you’ll need an online exchange.
  • Potentially Slower Transactions: Compared to online exchanges, Bitcoin ATM transactions can take longer to process, sometimes up to an hour.

Where to Find a Bitcoin ATM

Websites like Coin ATM Radar act as your compass in the world of BTMs. You can easily search for BTMs near your location and filter your search by the type of cryptocurrency and transaction type (buy or sell) you want to perform.

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Bitcoin ATMs provide a user-friendly entry point for those wanting to explore the exciting world of cryptocurrency. However, the higher fees associated with BTMs compared to online cryptocurrency exchanges make them a less suitable option for frequent trading or large-volume transactions. If you’re comfortable with online platforms, cryptocurrency exchanges generally offer lower fees and a wider variety of cryptocurrencies to buy and sell. These exchanges function similarly to stock exchanges, allowing you to place buy and sell orders based on live market prices.  However, keep in mind that using an exchange often requires linking your bank account or debit card.

Regardless of whether you choose a BTM or an online exchange, security is paramount. Here are some essential tips to keep your cryptocurrency safe:

  • Choose a Reputable Platform: When using an exchange, do your research and select a reputable platform with a strong security track record. Look for features like two-factor authentication and address whitelisting to add extra layers of protection.
  • Strong Passwords: This one goes without saying. Create a strong, unique password for your digital wallet or exchange account, and avoid using the same password for multiple platforms.
  • Beware of Scams: The cryptocurrency world can be a breeding ground for scams. Be wary of unsolicited calls, emails, or messages promising unrealistic returns. Never share your private wallet key with anyone.

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