NORTH TEXAS (CBS11) – Grab a drink, a snack, and maybe, an investment.
With Bitcoin’s soaring value turning it into a trendy tech investment, companies are quickly trying to make buying the cryptocurrency more convenient.
Far away from the world’s investment centers, in places like the A&A Food Mart in Fort Worth, and BuzzBrews in Dallas, somewhere close to the stand-alone ATM where people usually pull cash out, you will see a similar machine where people are putting cash in.
Bitcoin ATM’s are quickly spreading across North Texas and the rest of the country. Simply put in your cash, and it puts Bitcoin on a mobile wallet on your phone, or just records it on a piece of paper.
Website Coin ATM Radar shows there are nearly 50 machines locally. You’ll find them near city centers, but often just a bit off the beaten path, in privately owned convenience stores where owners are paid a monthly fee to host the machine.
“It was more of an underground thing, and now it’s getting mainstream,” said Jimmy Scott.
He should know. Scott installed the first Bitcoin ATM more than three years ago in Dallas.
The 28-year-old from Rockwall started buying and selling coins when he w as in college, meeting people in person to make it happen. He decided a machine would make things easier. Now he has ten, including machines in Austin and Houston.
“You get kids up here, you get grandparents up here,” he said. “Anybody’s up here now.”
It’s the ATM’s familiarity, convenience and speed that makes them attractive to cryptocurrency investors. While online exchanges can take several days to process a transaction, the machines do it in minutes. That can be essential for a currency with a value that regularly makes double-digit changes in value.
“You know I can just, I can scan and it hits your bit wallet real fast, maybe 15 minutes into the transaction,” said Forris Massey, who regularly buys from machines in Fort Worth.
He’s been buying a for year and also selling.
“That’s basically what we’re doing,” he said. “Flipping currency without the middle man.”
Fort Worth-based Coinsource has become one of the industry’s largest companies. With nearly 200 machines spread across 14 states, it has plans to double this year.
Co-founder Bobby Sharp said the company is looking to expand to international markets, and add more crypto currencies to its buying options.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life, and I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never been part of anything this special,” Sharp said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
When Coinsource put its first machine in Las Vegas, Bitcoin was priced just under $170. Wednesday it was valued at $11,315, and topped $20,000 in December.
Sharp and Scott both said the locations for machines are often chosen based on calls and demand from potential buyers. Small convenience stores are preferred in part because private owners are more willing to lease the space for the machines.
“A lot of the gas station owners were already comfortable with different kinds of people coming in, and doing cash transactions of any sort,” Sharp said.
Buyers pay fees, just like using a traditional out-of-network ATM. Some companies charge a flat fee. Coinsource fees are a percentage of the purchase, no more than 8%.
The purchase price for bitcoin on the machines changes constantly as well, adjusting with the market.
A $20 purchase at an Athena machine Wednesday in Fort Worth, resulted in a little more than $12 worth of Bitcoin after adjustments for pricing and fees.