Let me tell you a story about bitcoin, the most popular and stable cryptocurrency. Back around 2015, I was behind in following the news and could not, for the life of me, figure out what in the fresh hell was bitcoin. My poor, beleaguered best friend was an econ major, so he had the great honor of having this conversation with me.
“So, it’s a form of currency…” I ventured.
“But… it’s not tangible.”
“How do you know how much you have?”
“How do you buy things with it?”
And so on. I finally figured out the deal about bitcoin, thanks to a lot of reading, but the fact is that a lot of people still misunderstand or distrust cryptocurrency. You’d be surprised to know that buying and selling bitcoin in Philadelphia is quite easy, thanks to hidden-in-plain-site ATMs. These machines are everywhere: Rittenhouse Square, Queen Village, and South Philly, just to name a few. While these are all big parts of the city, there are lots of bitcoin ATMs in “banking deserts” where few traditional financial institutions currently exist. This is a form of social good, says Sean Keefe, managing partner of Straight Up Capital, based in Philadelphia, since the machines bring financial services to underbanked communities.
So, how do these machines work? They are set up to take cash, just like a standard ATM. They convert this into bitcoin, and put the funds in your virtual wallet. If you don’t already have one, the machine can help you to set one up. If you need to withdraw cash, you sell off a percentage of your bitcoin through the machine.
Keefe believes that the explosive nature of bitcoin ATM growth is a good thing since, by his estimate, a lot more stores and businesses are going to start accepting bitcoin in the near future. I’ll just point out that adopters of bitcoin have been saying the same thing for what feels like years and years now. For me, being no economics major, I’ll stick with dollars and cents.