Bitcoin: More Expensive but Simpler: Crypto Teller’s Silent Takeoff | Economie

Gaetano Domínguez, at a bitcoin ATM at the BitBase store on Calle de Princesa (Madrid).Alvaro Garcia

Gaetano Domínguez claims to have killed dead hours by reading about cryptocurrencies. He explains that you never know when a potential customer might arrive full of questions to answer, and you have to be prepared. If you look at the door of the BitBase store on Calle de Princesa in Madrid, you can see that you are not lying. Inside, the 25-year-old Venezuelan’s gaze was focused on a laptop screen surrounded by paintings script T-shirts with slogans encouraging you to buy bitcoins and books about it. Is it trade Completing the basic business is an ATM where anyone with a few bills or a credit card can purchase cryptocurrency in a matter of minutes. Dominguez, the manager, has plenty of time to expand his knowledge. In small organizations, the repetition of entries and exits is boring: usually ten clients appear per day, and practically one per hour. The same ratio is repeated in its space next to the Atocha station, this ratio is somewhat more technical, with screens full of charts where prices describe sharp curves: between 10.00 and 13.30 they received three customers.

As banks reduce the number of ATMs due to the change in the habits of their customers and are now more digital, in the initial bitcoin ecosystem, some believe there is still room for growth in this sector. According to Coin ATM Radar calculations, Spain has about 140 ATMs for acquiring cryptocurrency, more than double what it was a year ago, making it the third European country with the most machines of this type after the United Kingdom and Austria, in the ranking that it tops. The United States is clearly world-wide.

BitBase is, by far, the most widely held on Spanish soil. Around 60, although that number will soon become obsolete: the company plans to open a new store soon next to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium and will extend to Santander, San Sebastian, Cadiz and Vigo. A third of the ATMs are located inside buildings where consultants like Gaetano Domínguez who are interested in buying attend, the rest operate without anyone to supervise them, as if it were a bank, placed in areas such as shopping malls, where the crowds flow is assured and it is easier for someone to be tempted to take a little Bitcoin with Zara and Massimo Dutti bags.

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Buying a complete one at its current prices – it cost just over €48,000 at the time of writing, not far from all-time highs – is not possible. Operations are limited to 1,000 euros per day for those who do not want to identify themselves and give only their phone number, 2,500 euros for those who present their documents, a monthly limit of 5,000 euros for unverified customers and 10,000 euros for those who are unverified who have provided their identities. The process has five steps: Choose the cryptocurrency you want to buy – Bitcoin and Ethereum, the largest, are also the most in demand – Select the investment amount on the screen, scan in the ATM reader the virtual wallet they had previously downloaded, enter tickets and receive confirmation.

BitBase store in Cali Princesa.
BitBase store in Cali Princesa.Alvaro Garcia

Restrictions on quantities are one of its drawbacks, especially for more experienced investors, who are very short, but not the largest: while on Internet platforms – the so-called exchanges– Between 0.1% and 0.5% of the value of the transaction is paid in the form of commissions, here it is between 8% and 10%. Why then go to the physical cashier? Álex Fernández, CEO of BitBase, defends his other virtues over the phone. It’s faster. You can buy right now. It takes three or four days for your money to arrive exchange, at which time what you want to buy can go down or go down.”

Although some investors see the presence of ATMs as a hindrance in a field that specifically claims to have been born in the digital world, among the big companies in the sector, their presence is not frowned upon. First, because they feel part of a group that faces a common front to make its way in the midst of a hostile environment, with a complex regulatory sphere, skepticism of economists and central banks, and distrust of a large part of the population. . And secondly, because they consider that for some users it can be a gateway to the world of cryptocurrency before moving on to more complex methods, which can directly benefit them.

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“It’s a good way to leave a corporate footprint,” says Marcus Hughes, head of Europe at Coinbase, one of the world’s largest platforms for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, and the first to move to the New York Stock Exchange. The current system is connected to the new system. Every time a new technology appears, it is useful to provide a frame of reference that links it to the previous technology, and the ATM does that.” Raul Marcos, founder of carbon.comYou think it’s useful for people who want to buy a small amount or don’t want to open an account on the stock exchange.

Liv Ferreira, CEO of Bit2Me, agrees that they can play a role. It is a matter of convenience. There are people who don’t trust online platforms much despite their presence in 2021. Or who need someone by their side to advise them, especially in a complex product like cryptocurrency,” he advocates. His company invaded the teller business in the past, but it ended By ordering the withdrawal of the few who were working on a trial basis. “There is a danger hackThey require constant updates and can be physically stolen. There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong already.”

Up to €20,000 per ATM

According to BitBase, each ATM costs them between 15,000 and 20,000 euros. They are used by about 100 clients per month, mostly men between the ages of 30 and 50 who usually perform an operation on average from 750 euros. It can be bought but it can also be sold. Its CEO Alex Fernandez acknowledges that some make losses, but generally ensures they are profitable and reinvests what they earn for growth. He says bitterly that the journey from the first ATM they opened in Barcelona in 2017 to today was made without funding from banks, who were reluctant to lend him money. With the authorities, the relationship was also not easy: it claims to cooperate with the security forces to stop possible cases of money laundering. “We have tools that allow us to keep track of money,” Fernandez asserts.

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In a Calle Princesa store, which sees an average of one customer an hour, a young Madrid employee from the financial sector waits at the door to enter. Gaetano Dominguez identifies him as a regular, and agrees to speak on condition of anonymity. Comes to buy 500 euros of bitcoins. “I’ve been registering little by little for many years, and I also have an account on one of the platforms. Here I only bring spare cash at home, so I don’t have to make a transfer and wait for it to arrive. I come, I buy and I forget,” he said. For such a volatile asset, five minutes of conversation may be enough to make the purchase a little cheaper or more expensive. Nothing annoying. Neither the amount is large nor the horizon for short-term investment. He predicts “it will exceed $100,000 within a year.” What do you want to buy with what you earn? He says, “Peace of mind.” Enter BitBase in the direction of the ATM.

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