Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Using a Bitcoin ATM

Today I was one of the first people in the whole world to use an in-service ATM built specifically to purchase and sell Bitcoins as one was put into service today here in Vancouver. I've never really been too big into Bitcoin (or "BTC") in the past although I did at one point have 4 BTC (which at its peak would have been worth something like $1,000 CAD), but I had lost the wallet file associated with it. I did also briefly mine Litecoins, an alternative to Bitcoin, but I lost interest in the idea very quickly.

The number of people who were at the coffee shop was minimal, maybe a dozen or so even though it was lunchtime. Admittedly the coffee shop is a bit away from the central business district of downtown Vancouver, but there were plenty of offices and businesses around, so I found it surprising that there was not many people about. Nonetheless, there were people who did not appear to be tech-centric who did in fact take a sip of the BTC Kool-Aid and throw some money at it. Surprisingly, the one individual who qualified in this category threw $100 CAD into the machine. She appeared to be visiting from rural British Columbia too as she was wearing a badge for a conference, representing a real estate agency from outside of the Lower Mainland.

The machine itself is more kiosk-like than ATM and I do have some criticisms about how you are to use it. For example, if you wish to purchase Bitcoins, you have to enter bills at the bottom of the machine, requiring you to bend down to do so. This isn't the end of the world of course, but people would complain if those horrid self-checkouts required you to do so or if an actual bank-issued ATM required you to put the card on the side.

To comply with Canadian money laundering laws, you are required to use a palm scanner to verify your identity. This makes sense except for one problem: the people behind the ATM's operations must approve your palm.

For this visit, the approval of my palm was instantaneous as they had staff on hand to monitor the machine and verify that it wasn't mixed up with anyone else. However, in conversations with one of the ATM's owners, I was informed that approval would otherwise take upwards of an hour (possibly more I guess) as they must do the approvals manually. This seems awfully silly as why would I use a machine that requires me to spend an hour to wait for approval? It is things like this that will limit acceptance of BTC if acceptance is at all possible.

I did decide to take the plunge and purchase some BTC. I only had a $20 note on me so I decided to just use that for the purposes of the experiment. As evident in the above image, you can only purchase Bitcoins in $20 or $100 incrementals, up to $1,000 CAD. The $20 note ended up equating to 0.092 BTC at the time, but I didn't get the opportunity to ask if it was a fixed rate for the day or if it was a live conversion. The going rate for 1 BTC was $218.26 CAD.

I did not have a wallet at the time either so the machine provided me with one and also gave me a private key in the form of a QR code printed on a receipt. I later went and enabled the wallet on my laptop at the office and do now see my BTC inside. I also got a receipt for the purchase of the coins I had made too.

Processing of the transaction took about an hour before it showed up on Blockchain. I have to admit, even with all of its quirks and delays, it actually is rather painless to use once you've gotten to used to the awkward palm scanner.

Now one thing I will be honest about: I am still not convinced about Bitcoin. It's neat, I can see people making a lot of money from it, but overall I am just not a "Bitcoiniac" so to speak. If people want to send me BTC, I am cool with that, but I just don't have as much excitement over it.

And yes, please send me some Bitcoin if you desire!

Also if you're reading this, do give Canary a look see as that is my main project.


  1. gibe me moni plis. i report u HUEHUEHUE

  2. About the hand scan authorization: is that someone at Bitcoiniacs remotely authorizing it, or someone actually in the coffee shop?

  3. Someone approved me at the coffee shop but otherwise it would be remotely authorised.