Bitcoin ATMs and the Road to Adoption

Last week, I published a report looking at the resurgent growth of the crypto community in Puerto Rico. Bull markets can be a fertile ground for tax minimization strategies, and crypto’s most ambitious goals to remake the globe. While there are many wealthy crypto investors, builders, and founders on the island, which is well-known for its lenient tax code; crypto is just another white-collar, professional industry.

Jorge Fernandez, chief development and marketing officer for Powercoin and Bitstop, one of the largest bitcoin ATM networks, wrote in offering insight into what crypto is like on the ground. Bitstop machines can be found at over 1,000 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Fernandez stated that 25 machines were placed on the island by the company this year to test it. veteran of the traditional ATM and credit card business, he said people still associate crypto with crime or are otherwise intimidated. He said that although the machines have performed well, he believes they need to spend more time teaching than selling.

This is not unusual in the industry. The adoption of crypto is brimming with potential. However, it also depends on people being open to complex and obscure technologies (even if they are packaged as an ATM). The government has had a monopoly on money since almost all times. Crypto is breaking with this cornerstone of civilization. It can take some explaining and time to get used to.

He said that when we started in the BTM business, our mistake was to assume it was the same as the ATM business. It’s similar in some ways, but it’s different overall. It’s the same customers that install ATMs and BTMs, but the buyer mindset is different. The demographic is also different. Therefore, it’s hard to determine which locations will be profitable. A new location can take up to nine months to begin to produce. This is very different from an ATM, which is able to tell you in two to three months if it is good.

Fernandez stated that transaction volumes on his BTM network fluctuate strongly due to the fact that there are very few users.

“In the ATM business our customers have over 700 million pre-paid or debit cards in their wallets. So at some point during the week, we know that 80% of them will need cash. At least $20 for tipping and incidentals. The crypto side is not as easy. A small percentage of the population is aware of crypto, and a smaller number buys it. The volume of BTMs fluctuates from month to month because not everyone has the cash to buy crypto.
The business is also capital-intensive.

He said that BTMs are twice as costly as ATMs and that one must also invest significant amounts in liquidity or crypto inventory to make them sell. BTMs have higher customer service calls than ATMs, and compliance is increasing as more states regulate the business. This means that operating expenses are more expensive.

“Overall, our machines work well but I’ve noticed that the majority of volume at each location comes from a small number of customers. This tells me that there are a few loyal customers, but not like crypto has been adopted everywhere.

He said, “There are crypto-heads around, and some of them meet frequently to discuss nonsense. But as far as Puerto Ricans buying bitcoin, that hasn’t happened.” It is a cash-strap society. Our regular ATMs on the island process twice as many transactions as those in the U.S. On average, the crypto machines do as well as those on the mainland.

Fernandez stated that education is the key to growth but that adoption requires a long road.

“Crypto exists in the real world, and we should be discussing this topic at both the consumer and user levels. This is what will make or break the acceptance of crypto as a currency and payment medium. While I do see some of this in the industry, most people still live in the cloud (not the iCloud).

He said that Cryptoto was the future. However, there is still a lot of work to do before Cryptoto becomes commonplace. The industry faces many challenges in education.