A Bitcoin ATM is an electronic telecommunications device (an ATM) that allows a person to exchange bitcoins and cash without the need for a human to facilitate the transaction. There are two primary types of Bitcoin ATMs. The basic units allow the customer to only buy Bitcoins. The more complex machines will let a person buy as well as sell bitcoins via the machine. To access the advanced features of the complex units, it is usually necessary to be a member of the ATM manufacturer that operates the machine.
There are 285 Bitcoin ATMs installed worldwide. Bitcoin ATMs are much more prevalent in the US and Canada.
Bitcoin ATMs may prove most useful in enabling cross-border e-commerce for underbanked parts of the world, allowing, for example:
- Online purchases by those without bank accounts or credit cards, or the inability to use these internationally
- Travelers' withdrawal of cash in local currency at competitive rates, again, without needing a bank account or ATM card. A traveler could also convert excess local currency back into Bitcoin at the end of a trip, something many conventional ATMs do not allow today.