A few days ago, Ivaja — a local start-up focused on making Malta a Bitcoin Island — released a press announcement about launching a crowdfunding campaign to bring the first Bitcoin ATM to Malta.
However, the competition quickly caught up and on July 23rd Malta introduced the first Bitcoin ATM thanks to Venture Trading sponsorship.
The ATM is located in a popular residential area of Sliema, close to the biggest shopping centre of Malta and one of the most popular tourists’ hotspots. You can find it on 1 Blanche Huber Street in Sliema (see below) and it looks similar to a traditional ATM.
You can exchange fiat currency for bitcoin and vice versa — sell your bitcoins and receive fiat currency. The ATM offers Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, Dash and Dogecoin.
Bitcoin doesn’t have a physical representation, so you cannot withdraw Bitcoins in the same way as traditional money. But you can exchange them for a fiat currency.
So what does it mean for Malta and the traditional financial industry?
What Is Bitcoin
Bitcoin is a form of virtual currency which is not controlled or issued by any bank or government — instead, it’s a public open network that can be managed by its users. Bitcoin was invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto and it’s still considered to be an emerging technology.
What makes Bitcoin so unique? You can send money to anyone around the world, within minutes, with no extra fees and without a third party being involved.
Bitcoin’s protocol and the entire transaction history can be viewed by everyone, hence it’s almost impossible to commit a fraud or theft. Any suspicious or malicious activities are flagged to all of the network’s members. Bitcoin’s online account is similar to traditional online banking — it requires a password and a wallet to store funds.
Due to its decentralised nature, the value of Bitcoin isn’t determined by the value of any other currency or a Central Bank. Just like stocks or property, the value rises with the markets’ demands. Determined by selling and buying in the open market, the price changes in real time depending on the number of people who want to buy or sell it.
Bitcoin is traded for fiat currency and it’s extremely volatile. Meaning, the price can drastically change on a daily basis. However, unlike bank cards or PayPal, Bitcoin isn’t owned by an individual. It’s the world’s first completely open network, available to anyone with an internet connection and willingness to participate.
What Is a Bitcoin ATM
There are a number of ways of how to buy Bitcoin, from online exchanges to purchasing it with cash from other Bitcoin investors.
However, one of the easiest ways of buying and selling bitcoins is through an ATM machine. While it doesn’t work like a traditional ATM — it doesn’t connect you to a bank account but to an online exchange — it’s one of the easiest and quickest ways of buying and selling bitcoins.
Bitcoin ATMs first appeared in 2013 in the US and Canada, but more countries are trying to introduce them to the market.
Even though it’s called a ‘Bitcoin ATM’ it doesn’t offer just one cryptocurrency — most ATMs also have Ether and Litecoin.
There are different types of Bitcoin ATMs, all of them with unique features, but the one in Malta is by General Bytes. The service is designed for both anonymous and registered users.
What Are the Bitcoin ATM Fees
Fees associated with Bitcoin ATMs are usually higher than when using an exchange or a wallet. Typically they sit within 5–7% range and the prices are taken from a live exchange on a daily basis.
The exchange fees are higher due to the maintenance and installation costs that have to be covered by the ATMs owner.
Malta’s Bitcoin ATM charges 5% of the exchange rate.
How To Use a Bitcoin ATM
The ATM has a few different options so the set of instructions can be different for all of them:
- Buy Bitcoins and send it to a wallet
- Buy Bitcoins and send it to an email address
- Sell Bitcoins and withdraw fiat currency
Buy bitcoins with an email address
The entire process is pretty simple, you have to be careful though not to forget the password. Without it, you won’t be able to access the file which has your private and public keys.
- Choose language
- Click ‘Buy Bitcoins”
- Specify the amount you want to buy (the verification process will vary depending on the amount you choose)
- Choose ‘Receive By Email’
- Take a picture or save the password, you will need it later to open the encrypted file
- Insert banknotes
- Click ‘Buy Bitcoins’
- Click ‘Done’
Buy bitcoins if you have a wallet
Buying bitcoins with an already existing wallet is quicker and safer than with an email. All you need is to scan the QR code, double check the address and bitcoins should be on your account within seconds.
The Future of Bitcoin in Malta
The first Bitcoin ATM is just a beginning of the Bitcoin revolution. While we are still miles away from Bitcoin being widely accepted within the community, at least it’s the start of something exciting.
There’s a growing community of both locals and expats in Malta which are trying to create a bridge between Bitcoin’s techy world and its use in an everyday life.
So far, they’re doing a great job with organising bi-monthly meetups where everyone is welcome. Regardless of the possessed amount of knowledge or experience with Bitcoin.
In July, Malta introduced the first Bitcoin ATM which created a lot of buzz and interest around Bitcoin. If you want to contribute to Malta becoming the #BitcoinIsland, you can visit Ivaja and back up the project.
Malta has an enormous advantage, with a booming iGaming and financial industry, to become a cryptocurrency-friendly island and showing the rest of the world Bitcoin’s real potential.
Disclaimer: On August 30, the first Bitcoin ATM in Malta was removed from its premises and it hasn’t been replaced yet.