Before you learn how to start a Bitcoin ATM business, there are some important questions you might have. In this article, we’ll cover the basics.
Although intimidating to most, cryptocurrency is steadily increasing in popularity. A major draw of Bitcoin ATMs, therefore, is their ability to lessen users’ apprehension. They are quick and easy to use, and they are very similar to regular ATMs consumers already use on a daily basis.
If cryptocurrency interests you, then it might be time to learn how to start a Bitcoin ATM business.
What is a Bitcoin ATM Machine?
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, or digital money, created in 2009. Bitcoin can be used to make purchases both locally and internationally. It can be bought, sold, transferred, and traded. This is where Bitcoin ATMs (BTMs) come in.
One-way BTMs only allow users to purchase bitcoin. Bitcoin can be purchased with cash or debit card. BTMs with two-way functionality allow users to buy and sell bitcoin for cash.
Bitcoin ATM machines look like traditional ATM machines. BTMs, however, do not connect to bank accounts. Instead, users connect to a digital bitcoin wallet or exchange, a digital marketplace for buying and selling bitcoin.
The world’s first Bitcoin ATM was made available to the public at a coffee shop in downtown Vancouver, Canada in 2013. Although that particular machine is no longer in operation, many other machines have been placed around the world since.
How Popular are Bitcoin ATM Machines?
Bitcoin ATM machines are gaining popularity across the world. MoveBuddha.com studied Twitter user data and the prevalence of Bitcoin ATM machines to determine the world’s most crypto-friendly cities.
The 5 American cities with the largest number of BTMs are Los Angeles (with 1,065), Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and Dallas (with 486). However, to really determine the popularity of cryptocurrency in each state, it’s important to consider the number of residents per BTM.
In that case, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania takes the win with 80 BTMs, about 1 BTM per 16 residents. Runners up are Orlando, Florida; Newark, New Jersey; Trenton, New Jersey; and Atlanta, Georgia.
The United States is the leading country in the number of BTMs per 10,000 residents.
The allure of bitcoin for consumers comes from its anonymity and the potential to become rich through trading and investing. BTMs encourage trading and are popular among the “bit-curious” because the process is familiar—just like a traditional ATM machine—which helps remove some of the skepticism of online currency and trading.
Furthermore, purchasing and trading through a BTM machine are quicker than using an exchange website. It takes seconds to buy a fraction of a bitcoin with a BTM whereas online exchanges sometimes impose minimum purchase limits and trading can take days. Since bitcoin is so volatile, quickness is crucial.
From a small business perspective, Bitcoin ATMs are easily adopted for the same reasons traditional ATMs are: they draw more traffic and customers and, for those that accept cryptocurrency payments, reduce credit card fees.
How to Start a Bitcoin ATM Business
Starting a Bitcoin ATM business is very similar to starting a traditional ATM business. The 5 steps for starting an ATM business are to get compliant with paperwork, select and purchase an ATM machine, find a location and place the machine, set your surcharge, and start making money by getting people to use your machine.
A Bitcoin ATM business can also be started in just 5 steps:
- Get compliant by registering AML/KYC requirements
- Purchase a Bitcoin ATM machine
- Find a location and place your BTM
- Supply bitcoins
- Start making money
To run a Bitcoin ATM, you must register yourself as a money services business (MSB) with the U. S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). MSBs are regulated by FinCEN and require an Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program.
AML programs are designed to prevent money laundering activities through the use of a Bitcoin ATM. There are certain elements that an AML program must contain, but you can purchase custom-built programs based on your business needs.
Know Your Customer (KYC) verification is another regulation feature that is integrated into the BTM interface. The purpose of KYC is to decrease fraudulent activities anticipated in a Bitcoin business by identifying customers and flagging suspicious activity.
Depending on where your BTM is located, you may need to adjust the limits on deposits and withdrawals. This could require a money transmitter license. You can always check with a professional, such as your provider, to ensure you are fully compliant.
Purchase BTM Machine
BTM machines start at around $3,500 for one-way and $6,500 for two-way. Just like purchasing ATM equipment, you will want to purchase a machine that has the features you prefer.
Consider security features like cameras and locks that prevent both physical and network attacks. See if you can manage the machine remotely, if that’s important to you. You might also want a machine with cash recycling abilities to save yourself time in the long run.
What bill capacity do you need for your location? Do you want your machine to have battery backup in case of a power outage? Does the machine come with a warranty?
Think about the user experience as well. Is the interface easy to use? Do customers sign in with a QR code, thumbprint, or hand print scan? Are transactions fast?
Finally, make sure you purchase from a provider that offers ample support. Check reviews, methods of contact, and hours of operation. You can’t make money if your machine isn’t working properly, so these are important factors when it comes to purchasing equipment.
You might already be an independent ATM deployer (IAD). In that case, you should consider upgrading your current ATM machine to one with bitcoin capabilities. Check with your ATM provider to see if this is an option for you.
If you’re looking for the best location to place your BTM, you’ll want to consider where there are large populations of bitcoin and cryptocurrency enthusiasts. MoveBuddha.com identified the world’s top cities listed in the profiles of Twitter crypto users.
Three U.S. cities made the top 5: New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Chicago, Miami, Austin, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Seattle, San Diego, Houston, Boston, and Washington D.C. also made the list (in that order).
Who Uses Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency exchange company Gemini conducted a study that analyzed the crypto habits of 3,000 U.S. adults aged 18-65. The report released in April indicates that the average age of cryptocurrency owners is 38. Men make up 74% of crypto owners. So if you want to draw these customers, look for locations that service this demographic: bars, cigar shops—the first BTM in the U.S. opened in a cigar shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico—gentlemen’s clubs, etc.
Millennials are increasingly becoming the majority of crypto investors. This is due in part to their comfort making technology-based investments like bitcoin and using trading apps.
According to Lisa Kramer, expert in investor behavior, younger generations are also more confident traders of cryptocurrency because they likely didn’t experience the 2007-2008 financial crisis or the 2000 internet crash. These events make older generations wary of technology-based investing. This makes universities and surrounding businesses good locations because of their proximity to bold, young traders.
Although only a small percent (14) of Gemini’s study sample are crypto owners, 63% reported being “crypto-curious.” This could mean a potential shift in crypto’s audience. For example, 53% of crypto-curious participants were women and a quarter of those were 55+ years old.
This could expand successful BTM locations to restaurants, shops, shopping centers, and salons. Keep in mind the benefits for small businesses as well. You could approach small businesses with the promise of a diverse group of patrons to their stores as well as minimized credit card fees if they are willing to accept crypto payments.
And of course, just like traditional ATM machines, traffic is key. So look into busy convenience stores, coffee shops, retail stores, restaurants, and bars. You want your machine where the people are.
There are three ways to supply bitcoins for your BTM and customers.
First, you can purchase bitcoin from trusted, secure cryptocurrency exchange sites like Coinbase.com. Make your purchase online with your checking account or card number, and the bitcoin adds to your bitcoin wallet.
Second, you can conduct “over-the-counter” transactions. This is where someone sells his or her coin to you directly rather than use the BTM machine. The bitcoin gets transferred to your wallet, and you pay the seller the cash equivalent.
The third way is to recycle coin. You won’t be able to do this until you’ve been operating your machine for a while, but recycling is when coin that one user sells is then purchased by a subsequent user. So you build a repository of coin from users who sell on your machine to then pay to purchasing users.
Start Making Money
Just like a traditional ATM business, your profit from operating your Bitcoin ATM machine comes from transaction fees. While ATM surcharge fees are a set amount regardless of the transaction amount, BTM transaction fees are a percent of the transaction. So if you charge 12% and someone purchases $1,000 worth of bitcoin, that’s $120 in your pocket.
Transaction fees are between 10 and 20% on average. However, they range anywhere from 7% to 25%. You’ll have to find a balance between a fee that provides you with your desired income and that’s also fair enough for your customers to encourage business.
Operational Costs and Profit
When it comes to operational costs and profit, the numbers will vary, so it’s hard to provide you with guaranteed figures. However, let’s consider this example:
Say your machine collects $30,000 in transactions in a given month ($50-60,000 possible for high transaction months). Your transaction fee (like an ATM surcharge) could be 10-12% (This number is much higher than what you might set for a traditional ATM machine due solely to the lack of competition.). You make a gross total of $3,600.
Now, what costs do you need to deduct from that? First is your rent fee for your BTM location. This could be as little as $150 to rent space in a small business or as much as $500 to rent space at a large shopping center.
Second, you need a budget for maintenance and supplies. Account for things like receipt paper, cleaning supplies, and maintenance costs should anything go wrong with the machine. You might allot $30-$40 for this.
Third, you will more than likely want to purchase an insurance policy for your machine, too. This will vary based on a number of factors (company, policy, location, etc.), but you can estimate $40-$50 for general liability.
Last is compliance. You will probably spend about $100 for an AML program.
After you deduct these costs, you are still looking at about $3,000 net. Not too bad for passive income!
Should I Start a Bitcoin ATM Business?
Just like a traditional ATM business, a Bitcoin ATM business can be a good source of passive income. It will require an initial investment and some hard work finding the right location and experimenting with the transaction fee. But once you get started, in most cases BTM management can be conducted remotely.
Most importantly, cryptocurrency is here to stay. Adoption rates have been rapidly increasing and its audience is becoming more and more diverse. During its advent, cryptocurrency was really only an investment option for those with a large amount of assets. Now, it’s becoming more mainstream and available to the average person—your target audience.
Traditional ATM or Bitcoin ATM Business?
Traditional ATM and Bitcoin ATM businesses are very similar in structure. The differences lie in the details: machine features, compliance regulations, banks, start-up costs, profit potential, and of course currencies. If you’re interested in earning passive income, you can start an ATM business and work your way up. Or, you can jump right into a BTM business. Maybe you are already an IAD and are ready to venture into the world of crypto. Whatever your case may be, contact your service provider to get started!