With bitcoin and other cryptocurrency platforms on the rise, retailers are incorporating specialized ATM machines in their stores to stay ahead of the curve.
“There’s been a large growth in the bitcoin terminal deployment in c-stores around the country,” said Bruce Renard, executive director at The National ATM Council.
Both standalone bitcoin kiosks and terminals, as well as traditional ATMs with the ability to purchase cryptocurrency and take up less floorspace, are gaining traction, Renard said.
“I think the marketplace is still learning about what’s the best way to make this new, cutting-edge type service available,” he continued.
ARCO ampm is looking to start a national program with digital currency ATM machines. Ken Dharni, an ARCO ampm operator in Sacramento, Calif., and the surrounding area, who operates seven stores, has already begun rolling out machines through a partnership with National Bitcoin ATM.
“I have (National Bitcoin ATM) in five locations,” said Dharni. He also has one cryptocurrency machine with another company.
Dharni was attracted to the idea of installing the new machines after National Bitcoin ATM and others reached out to him. Not only did he have the space available, but he was attracted to the commissions the companies offered him as an incentive for installing the bitcoin ATMs in his stores, and he likes that the ATMs help draw customers.
Having installed the new machines one year ago at his locations, Dharni said he receives a $295 per month commission from National Bitcoin ATM for installing the bitcoin ATMs.
At the bitcoin ATM, customers use cash to purchase $20 to $12,500 worth of bitcoin per day and send it to their digital wallet or create a new paper wallet, receiving a printout with the codes for accessing their transaction.
So far, the bitcoin ATMs are bringing in a good amount of business. Dharni is finding that location can play a key role in the success of ATMs in general.
“One site does really good. There’s no bank nearby. So, that one does almost three-, four-times as much as my other locations,” Dharni said.
Pops Mart Fuels, which operates 24 c-stores in Columbia, S.C., has also decided to expand its ATM capabilities with Coin Cloud’s digital currency machines, allowing its customers to access bitcoin, ethereum and other digital currencies with cash.
Lou Perrine’s Gas and Grocery, which operates two locations in Kenosha, Wis., on the other hand, opted out of installing bitcoin ATMs due to large consumer fees.
“When these bitcoin ATMs charge large fees, it makes the concept of crypto or specifically bitcoin less likely to have mass adoption,” said Anthony Perrine, owner of Lou Perrine’s Gas and Grocery. “So long story short, I will put a bitcoin ATM in once they work through those kinks where some of the fees are massively lowered.”
According to Renard, a brand-new innovation that would be interesting to see in stores is a bitcoin gift card that one of The National ATM Council’s members created. “So just like you can purchase a Visa gift card for ‘X’ dollars, this enables you to purchase a gift card for ‘X’ amount in bitcoin,” he said.
Renard believes bitcoin ATMs, or at least some form of the concept, is here to stay. The question for retailers to ask, he said, is the type of regulations that will surface from federal, state and local authorities.
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“(ATMs) continue to contribute to the bottom line both directly in terms of profits from the ATMs, as well as in terms of putting cash in people’s hands to be able to spend on-site,” said Renard. “The ATMs in today’s marketplace continue to be a very important component of the c-store scene.”
Traditional ATMs aren’t falling by the wayside with the rise of bitcoin. Lou Perrine’s Gas and Grocery’s ATMs are still highly used and profitable. According to Perrine, the machines pay two employee wages a year.
ATMs are advancing technologically across the board. More ATMs today offer customers the ability to pay bills or cash checks. Some retailers are using cash discounting programs — offering a lower price when customers pay with cash vs. a handling fee for credit card payments to recoup card merchant fees — which encourages ATM use.
GPM Investments, a wholly owned subsidiary of ARKO Corp., based in Richmond, Va., is currently looking into such advancements.
“We are currently working with a few partners who have new models that offer a variety of services such as bill pay, direct deposit, no more armored car service required and of course the integration of bitcoin,” said Mike Bloom, executive vice president, marketing and merchandising for GPM Investments, which operates approximately 3,100 locations (1,415 company-operated stores and 1,675 dealer sites) in 33 states and Washington, D.C.
Look for ATMs to play a larger role in cash management. Emerging methods of cash management include cash recyclers and smart safes. Depositing cash in the smart safe or cash recycler keeps money safe, while automatically crediting the retailer’s account at the bank, and cash recyclers can also dispense small bills for making change.
“And if you put (the smart safe) with a cash recycler and ATM, you can have it where it’s facilitating the ability to place cash into the ATM, but have it all accounted for properly,” said Renard.