There is a new BTM (Bitcoin Teller Machine) in town and it is in a nice area, is easily accessible and is a real treat to the user who just wants to swing by and get some bitcoin quickly and simply.
The machine can be found at the southernmost tip of Manhattan inside a small deli on the second floor of the Whitehall Terminal (4 Whitehall Street New York NY 10004), it is very well situated for the commuter coming to or going from Staten Island to Manhattan as well as being a very short walk to the Financial District. For subway riders, it is also convenient to nearby stops on the MTA’s 1, 4, 5, N, and R lines. The machine itself is from CoinSource from Dallas, Texas and their device offers one of the best BTM user experiences that Spelunkin has seen thus far.
The machine itself is a stand-up cabinet model with a very large and bright touchscreen in portrait orientation. A big Bitcoin logo is displayed on the front by default which is particularly conspicuous to the passerby familiar with the cryptocurrency. On touching it, one is immediately taken to the first step of purchasing.
There are 3 tiers available for purchase. As the amount to purchase goes up, an increasing amount of identifying information will be required from the user. Under various regulations, these KYC (Know Your Customer) requirements are designed to discourage and detect attempts at illegal money laundering.
Choosing the lowest tier – a buy within a range of $1 to $1000 – means you have to provide the least amount of information, which in this case is just a phone number in order to receive an SMS code. It is not clear if there are any other parts to the KYC requirements (was my photo surreptitiously taken?) but the phone number is the extent of the information that the user must supply about themselves. This is in sharp contrast to other machines which require account creation, ID scans, and even biometric readings.
The number showed up in the phone quickly. Once that was entered in, the transaction process continued.
There are 3 options to pick from to determine how the user will receive their bitcoins. They can scan a QR code on a device or piece of paper, they can create a wallet on the spot, or they can enter a pubic wallet address.
When the user elects to have a QR code scanned in, a scanner that is located down towards the bottom of the device and above the keypad activates with red laser lines. It took a little towards and back motion to get a read off of a code displayed on a phone, but in short order, it was picked up and accurately read.
At this point, the user is asked to insert U.S. bills up to the limit of their selection tier.
For this demonstration, $20 was used to make the buy. Once the user has finished inserting bills, they can hit the “Finish” button and the transaction will conclude.
Right away, the receipt popped out of the machine and just a few seconds later, an unconfirmed transaction showed up in the phone’s wallet app.
Also, this is a good receipt. It lists out nearly every aspect of the purchase except the actual dollar amount of bitcoin that the user received which in this case was $18.74, as calculated by Coinbase. Coinbase is a reasonable reference exchange rate, but it is certainly not the only one available. However compared to their reference, the fee paid was approximately 5.3% (6.3% – 1% Coinbase fee) over what one could pick up at the well-known exchange. It should be noted that Coinbase has a little more friction and even multi-day lag for their purchases which users will not experience here.
Finally, the true highlight of the day was not the purchase process itself, but when I returned an hour after one (delayed) Staten Island Ferry round trip later to take a wider photo of the machine and its location. It was then that I discovered someone else using the machine! While it is common to attract some nearby attention and curiosity when either using a BTM or just using bitcoin to pay for something at a retail outlet, it is much rarer to see someone using the machine on their own accord. Is this a confirmed sign that a new era of bitcoin adoption is growing? Stay tuned and find out!