Bitcoin is great for online purchases from a number of suppliers. It’s also fairly easy and convenient to exchange it online for other currencies. However, as few brick-and-mortar retailers accept it, it’s not of much use around town. If only there were crypto ATMs.

There are actually around a dozen major companies that make the just over 4500 Bitcoin ATMs in the world. Right now the vast majority of Bitcoin ATMs are in the Eastern US. There are also around twenty in Australia, mostly in the South East. Sitting in the middle is the UK with just over 200, also mostly in the South East.

Bitcoin ATMs around the world

One may be coming to a location near you.

Lamassu Bitcoin ATMs

Lamassu is one of the biggest crypto ATM companies. They were in Portugal but recently moved to Switzerland. The move was apparently due to a more crypto-friendly atmosphere. The Swiss are actually still very fond of paper money. They’re also very fond of privacy and not very fond of financial regulation. So, while Switzerland isn’t a big market for Bitcoin ATMs, it’s a good legal atmosphere for a crypto company.

Lamassu makes a variety of ATMs beginning at around AU$5600. That’s around twice the price of a conventional ATM. In their defense, performing blockchain transactions is more than your standard ATM has to do.

The machines allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies with local currencies. The machines can currently work with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, and Zcash.

On the backend, the machines allow owners quite a lot of flexibility. Owners can make the machines pay for themselves by collecting a flat-rate or percentage of transactions. The crypto-savvy owner can also decide what kind of wallet that fee would pay into. Owners can also decide whether their Bitcoin ATM shows up on registries.

This article isn’t a Lamassu ad, so we won’t get into all of the different models that they carry. For the sake of background, however, we’ll say that they come in all shapes and sizes. Some store hard cash like conventional ATMs and others don’t.

General Bytes – Cheap, Versatile, and Common

Another popular crypto ATM around the world is made by General Bytes, based in Prague. The company, founded in 2013, claims to be the leading Bitcoin ATM manufacturer with over 2,300 machines reportedly sold.

Their popularity may be partially in that they are much cheaper than Lamassu. Machines start at around AU$2,100 – less than half the price of a Lamassu. That’s also around the price of some conventional ATMs.

Like Lamassu, General Bytes also makes a number of different crypto ATM models. They also make point-of-sale hardware starting at less than AU$1,000. Point-of-sale, or POS, is hardware that buyers can use to pay retailers, by the way.

Being cheaper than Lamassu isn’t their only advantage. They also handle many more varieties of crypto.

Genesiscoin – You Pay for Security

Genesiscoin is another leading crypto ATM manufacturer. The company makes two ATM models, both over AU$10,000. That’s a pretty big price tag but the machines come with heavy security including bill validators and optional thumbprint scanners.

Unfortunately, Genesiscoin is also careful with their own information. We don’t really know very much else about them.

Why We Need Crypto ATMs

Buying Bitcoin from an ATM instead of from your home computer has unclear benefits, at least in most areas. The greatest potential benefit in this area is for people who don’t have regular internet access in their homes. Crypto experts have spoken about the potential for Bitcoin as a global currency, particularly in places like Africa. In many regions in Africa it is dangerous to carry physical money and people operate in several currencies. Having access to a coin ATM could allow these people to travel without carrying money. It could also make it easier, safer, and cheaper to transfer currencies. Unfortunately, there are no Bitcoin ATMs currently in the region.For most of us, being able to sell Bitcoin from an ATM makes a lot more sense. Ever been crypto rich but penny poor and needed gas? Until more places start carrying crypto POS hardware, more crypto ATMs could really come in handy.

The technology isn’t only becoming more available, it’s becoming more advanced. The first Lightning Crypto ATM transaction took place at a recent hackathon.