By ARDEN BASTIA Coinme, a leading cryptocurrency exchange company, and Coinstar, LLC announced last week that the digital currency Bitcoin is now available at more than 45 Rhode Island currency kiosks. These Bitcoin-enabled Coinstar kiosks are in
Coinme, a leading cryptocurrency exchange company, and Coinstar, LLC announced last week that the digital currency Bitcoin is now available at more than 45 Rhode Island currency kiosks.
These Bitcoin-enabled Coinstar kiosks are in grocery stores like Shaw’s, Stop and Shop, Eastside Market, and Price Rite. Operating like traditional Coinstar machines, where users can deposit loose change in exchange for paper bills, users of the Coinme Bitcoin kiosks can deposit money in exchange for Bitcoin. In a process that takes only minutes, users can exchange up to $2,500 per day for Bitcoin.
Neil Bergquist, CEO at Coinme, said in a press release, “The fast-moving expansion of Bitcoin-enable Coinstar kiosks means that more Americans than ever now have the power to invest in digital currencies and stake their claim in the future of money – even on a quick trip to the grocery store.”
But what is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic cash system that eliminates the need for any central authority, like banks, while ensuring safe, verifiable transactions, explained Bergquist. Because Bitcoin doesn’t rely on a centralized system of banking, when one person sends bitcoin to another person, it is broadcasted to the entire Bitcoin network.
Bitcoins aren’t printed, like dollars, but instead produced by computers all over the world. These computers – also called miners – track the bitcoin transactions. For every transaction successfully produced and tracked, the miners receive surplus bitcoin. Bitcoin can be used to pay for things electronically, but unlike using payment services like PayPal or a credit card, once the transaction is complete, it can’t be reversed. This unique feature to Bitcoin acts as a security between the owner and potential hackers. Fraud, while still occurring, is minimal, says Bergquist. Any transaction on the Bitcoin network can’t be tampered with, since data is stored on many servers across many computers.
New bitcoins trickle out every hour, and will continue to do so at a diminishing rate until a maximum of 21 million bitcoins have been mined. As of right now, there are 18.6 million bitcoins in circulation. Bergquist predicts that the final Bitcoin will be mined in 2140.
According to Bergquist, Bitcoin is accepted at about 30,000 merchants globally. “I mean I’m sure you could go on the street and ask someone, ‘Hey, would you take my Bitcoin?’ And most people would say yes,” he said. Some of these merchants include Microsoft, Overstock, Etsy, PlayStation, Xbox, and Expedia.
During the interview on Dec. 10, Bergquist said the USD value of Bitcoin is about $18,000 per bitcoin. As of publication, the USD value of Bitcoin has risen to $23,659 per bitcoin.
While other industries may be struggling during the pandemic, the cryptocurrency industry is thriving, says Bergquist. “Our sales have grown tremendously, year over year about 650 percent in terms of total Bitcoin sales. But we’ve seen people buying it as a store of value, and then people also buying it as a medium of exchange or for payments. And since Bitcoin has a fixed supply, it’s a great store of value. So that’s why a lot of people are buying that in this pandemic era, because as part of the pandemic, the Federal Reserve is printing more money in order to stimulate the economy.”
The Bitcoin-enabled kiosks operate very much like a standard ATM or a Coinstar machine. The user must first provide their phone number before inserting dollar bills or change. Instead of that money going into a bank account, the machine will automatically exchange that money for the equivalent amount of bitcoin. At the end of the transaction, the user will receive a redemption code in order to deposit the Bitcoin directly into a digital wallet. The digital wallet can be accessed from anywhere, and verified via phone number and government ID.
“In my opinion, and in the organization’s opinion, we think that Bitcoin is a promising store of value, and that people should own some of it in regards to their overall portfolio and asset allocation. And that’s simply because Bitcoin has a fixed supply, it’s growing in popularity,” said Bergquist in an interview.
In honor of the launch of 5,000 kiosk locations nationwide, Coinme is running a sweepstakes promo and giving away $5,000 in bitcoin. To enter, make a bitcoin purchase at any Coinme location before Dec. 31, 2020. To find specific locations of Coinme kiosks or to set up a digital wallet, visit www.coinme.com.
‘BEYOND THE COIN’: An example of one of the Coinstar kiosks in grocery stores, where users can exchange USD for Bitcoin. (Photo courtesy of Coinme.)