A Bitcoin ATM, as the name implies, is similar to a regular ATM — except that it transacts in Bitcoin.
In short, it is an electronic machine, installed in a physical location, that facilitates the exchange of cash for cryptocurrency.
Usually set up as a small kiosk with a screen interface, a Bitcoin ATM offers a convenient way to transact Bitcoin (BTC). Using one is similar to using a traditional ATM machine to access a bank account.
Not all Bitcoin ATMs are alike: some models allow you to convert your Bitcoin into fiat currency in order to withdraw cash, while others allow you to insert cash to buy Bitcoin.
In all cases, Bitcoin-fiat exchange rates rely on the current market rate for Bitcoin (BTC), but with an added commission (ATM fees) charged by the ATM operator — on average, 8.4%.
Some Bitcoin ATMs provide a two-way service, allowing you to both buy and to sell Bitcoin or other major cryptocurrencies — such as Ethereum (ETH), Bitcoin Cash (BCH) or Litecoin (LTC).
In rarer cases, Bitcoin ATMs (with or without ATM fees) may also support Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency debit cards for cash withdrawals. However, Bitcoin ATMs generally only accept cash as a means of payment to purchase Bitcoin — not credit cards or other plastic.
Repackaging a time-tested device for the 21st century has inspired several branded nicknames, like Lamassu’s “cryptomats” or the “BTM” (Bitcoin Teller Machine) from Bitaccess.
But a catchy name alone doesn’t appear to be enough to take the lion’s share of the market: Genesis Coin is currently the world’s leading Bitcoin ATM producer, capturing almost 35% of the global market share.
The next most successful manufacturer is General Bytes, with a close to 30% share, while Bitaccess, Coinsource and Lamassu trail follow with a 5-10% share each.
Coinatmradar is a useful resource specializing in Bitcoin ATMS, which also provides a handy Bitcoin ATM Map detailing ATM locations worldwide. The United States currently has the highest number globally, accounting for almost 75% of all installed machines.