Who Needs Bitcoin ATMs? Eastern European Crypto Companies Come Up with Alternatives
As the push for Bitcoin ATMs moves forward, it seems that markets in Eastern Europe have already solved the cash-for-Bitcoin problem using some creative methods.
While some countries see Bitcoin ATMs appearing like dandelions in the spring, there are others that don’t have the same fortune due to a variety of reasons not the least of which is the piles of regulation that some companies have to sift through just to make such a thing happen.
Even in the case that a country like the Czech Republic manages to have over 40 crypto ATMs at its disposal—some of them, like the one near Metro Skalka in Prague, even supporting Monero—for many citizens living outside the capital, such machines are a nuisance reach at the best of times.
But who said that we really need ATMs to make cash-for-crypto a reality? Setting up a dedicated device, after all, can be a maintenance nightmare.
A couple of countries in Eastern Europe have begun setting the standard to an alternative to the whole full-scale ATM solution, offering the ability to purchase Bitcoin and a variety of other cryptocurrencies by piggybacking on other existing systems. We will be exploring something that Ukraine and Romania have done to make the purchase of a number of cryptocurrencies far more convenient.
Why not just use payment portals?
Payment portals that allow people to pay for their utility or phone bills are already ubiquitous in many countries, offering a convenient vehicle for the purchase of other goods.
Bitcoin Romania, a provider of BTC exchange services in the country that makes up its namesake, saw this as a more viable solution than installing full-fledged ATMs all over the country.
Currently, there are only three ATMs in Bucharest and one in Cluj-Napoca, two of Romania’s largest cities. To overcome the burden of having to install multiple ATMs that require regular maintenance all over the country, BR partnered up with the top payment portal provider in the country, ZebraPay.
Now, anyone in the country can walk into a supermarket and buy BTC and ETH in one of Zebrapay’s over 3,000 locations. To provide an example of how significant this is, one of the 6,000 residents of the Carpathian town of Bicaz can now walk up to the singular supermarket there and buy as much Bitcoin as they please.
A similar concept was thought up by BTCU in Ukraine, using TYME and EasyPay portals that are peppered all over the country. Users of this service can not only buy BTC but also ETH and DASH.
Why is this important?
In most countries, the only option for buying a cryptocurrency discretely is via face-to-face sales in LocalBitcoins.com. Aside from the concern about discretion, there’s also the issue of helping unbanked individuals join the pool of cryptocurrency holders.
If you are lucky enough to live in a country with a large number of Bitcoin ATMs (like the Czech Republic, Austria, and Slovenia), then this could be another alternative.
The problem with implementing dedicated machines is that the companies that run them are wagering that the demand for the service would bring sufficient ROI to offset the cost of maintenance. In places like Bicaz, Romania or the 574-person village of Orikhovets, Ukraine, this is not a viable solution.
This problem may also be one of the reasons why Bitcoin ATM adoption has been slowing down recently.
The third option, which is clearly the one that offers the greatest level of convenience, is to engage in commerce using the aforementioned payment portals like ZebraPay and EasyPay.
They may not allow people to sell their coins for cash, but at the very least, they have a way to get a foothold into the market and eventually pay for services with these coins. ZebraPay, for example, already allows for service payments using Bitcoin.
With regards to discretion, many coin owners share that using a bank card to purchase Bitcoin in some countries can lead to a sudden suspension of their bank account. In addition to this, some governments also scrutinize a person’s finances more harshly than necessary when cryptocurrency purchases show up in their records.
This situation often makes cash purchases a better option, despite the availability of using a bank card on a foreign exchange. Now that we’ve got several ways to buy coins digitally, it is time to start thinking about getting cash-only individuals in on the action.
Partnerships with payment portal machines may help fill this vacuum far better than placing ATMs, especially in countries with a low, but regionally widespread, interest in cryptocurrencies and many unbanked people.