Bitcoin ATMs have become one of the symbols of cryptocurrency, with multiple competing manufacturers and hundreds of units deployed around the world. Despite their growing popularity, however, Bitcoin ATMs are still vastly outnumbered by traditional financial terminals. While more Bitcoin ATMs are undoubtedly on their way, one of the best ways to reduce this disparity is not by building new units, but by converting existing terminals to handle bitcoins.
This is the route being taken by Bitcoin Romania, the operators of one of the world’s busiest Robocoin machines located in Bucharest. “It is our dream to see Bitcoin become a viable payment option in Romania, and to show the rest of the world that it can be done,” said George Rotariu. “We believe that in order to realize this goal we need to leverage existing infrastructure and make bitcoin available to as many users as possible.”
Their company has been partnered since May with CoinTrader, the Vancouver-based international Bitcoin exchange that supplies their bitcoins for sale. It’s operated by the Bitcoiniacs, known for having launched the world’s first Bitcoin ATM at a downtown coffee shop. They enable the exchange of Bitcoin for Romania lei, with an additional fee added when using a terminal or Bitcoin ATM. They conduct similar operations in Singapore, London and Tokyo.
The terminals they’ve chosen to integrate with are run by ZebraPay. They have over 1,000 units operating in Central and Eastern Europe, capable of paying insurance, phone and utility bills, and for gift cards, flight tickets, the lottery or video games. They’re convenient for those lacking home computers, and this latest move allows users to buy bitcoins, as well.
The process is fairly simple once you set it up. “To buy on the terminal you simply select BitCoin Romania, and then either enter your full bitcoin address, or a shortened btcaddr.es address, then put in your money and hit buy. The coins are sent instantly to your wallet. The fee is 4, and you can buy up to 5,000 RON (approximately $1,400 USD),” explains Jackson Warren, one of the cofounders of the CoinTrader exchange as well as the Bitcoiniacs.
ZebraPay has ambitious plays for the future. “We believe the new Bitcoin feature will be very helpful to our current expansion plan in Latin America, Africa and Asia,” said Adrian Badea, the company’s CEO. His statement seems to suggest they have further Bitcoin integration plans, although no such thing has been confirmed. It would, however, be far more cost effective than building hundreds of entirely new machines just for exchanging bitcoins, and could lead to even more useful features.
The exchange is currently only one way (bitcoins are sold to customers in return for fiat), but Adrian was able to confirm that they plan to add the ability to fund your ZebraPay account with Bitcoin. This would effectively allow Romanians to use Bitcoin to pay for a wide variety of ZebraPay-connected services, bills being one of the more exciting options. If enough Bitcoiners used such intermediary payment services, it would send a clear message to the phone, utility, and billing industries about the value of cryptocurrency adoption.
Until that catches on, CoinTrader and Bitcoin Romania will be happy to supply ZebraPay with exchange services. There’s profit to be had in spreading Bitcoin adoption.