Bitcoin ATMs Give Financial Tools to America’s Unbanked

It's been said the best opportunities for bitcoin are likely in the developing world. This is where banking infrastructure is not as prevalent. Yet there are emerging opportunities in the United States for bitcoin as well, as one Las Vegas-based company is proving.

Coin Cloud is the largest bitcoin ATM (BTM) operator on the west coast, with over 15 Bitaccess BTM kiosks and plans to expand nationwide. Every day, Coin Cloud sees demand for bitcoin in the U.S. among the unbanked and underbanked. Interestingly, they also have customers who are seeking financial alternatives.

Within the Las Vegas and Los Angeles areas in particular, Coin Cloud has many customers without the right credentials to get a bank account. These customers may have a passport and valid ID but may not be interested in setting up a local bank account. Others may not a speak English or are uncomfortable walking into a bank.

In these cases, people are essentially “using a smartphone instead of a bank account”, said Chris McAlary, CEO of Coin Cloud.

Helping the underbanked is Coin Cloud’s goal, said McAlary. BTMs enable customers to use just smartphones as their personal financial tool. Coin Cloud's kiosks allow transfer from bitcoin to cash, or vice-versa, without requiring a third-party like banks to transfer funds. Unlike most bitcoin ATMs, Coin Cloud’s fleet is 100% bi-directional. Coinatmradar reports only ⅓ of all BTMs allow the sale of bitcoin for cash.

Many are using BTMs to send money out of the country. These are customers who want to send savings to family and friends in developing countries. “LA is a great market for bitcoin due to the cultural diversity,” McAlary said.

Much of the world’s population lives outside the reach of traditional financial infrastructure. With the rise of the cellular networks and smartphones, these places have “leapfrogged” this infrastructure. Remitters in the U.S. can turn cash into bitcoin at BTMs. Then, they can transfer BTC to anyone anywhere in the world over the internet.

Another advantage Coin Cloud capitalizes on, especially in Las Vegas, is bitcoin’s frictionless cross-border capabilities. Coin Cloud has travelers who come to Las Vegas and use bitcoin to bring their bankrolls.

This eliminates the constraints of daily ATM limits, bank fraud alerts or hazards of carrying large amounts of cash. These customers convert stakes from BTC into cash at BTMs such as the one operating at the D Casino.

Coin Cloud continues to look for prime locations to host BTMs nationwide. McAlary said the best places for BTMs are those with accessibility. Places like 24 hour convenience stores, vape shops and public locations in urban areas are ideal hosts.

Much like conventional ATMs, these are locations where people will use BTMs. “The kiosks draw a wide range of new customers, on average 200-300 a month, that would have otherwise not entered a store,” said McAlary.

There is enormous value in our society to empower those underserved by the existing U.S. financial system. Coin Cloud's vision is to leverage bitcoin for the inclusion of all.