The same bulky coin-counting machines that turn spare change into bills can now turn bills into bitcoin, at a price. Coinme, a Seattle-based Bitcoin ATM company, has partnered with Coinstar to enable Bitcoin purchases at grocery stores in California, Texas, and Washington.
Example of a kiosk. Image courtesy of Coinstar
Coinstar machines are large coin-cashing kiosks located at grocery stores, drug stores, and other retail locations in the UK, US, Canada, and Ireland. Shoppers frequently use the machines to convert loose change into bills or gift cards. Today, Coinstar operates over 20,000 of these machines across the world.
On Jan. 17th, Coinme, the first state-licensed Bitcoin ATM company in the U.S., announced a partnership with Coinstar to offer bitcoin on the coin-counting kiosks. Users are now able to purchase up to $2,500 worth of bitcoin at these machines at select Safeway and Albertson stores in California, Texas, and Washington. Those who purchase bitcoin at one of these kiosks would receive a voucher that is redeemable for bitcoin on the Coinme website.
The company advertises the plan as the “easiest and most convenient way to buy cryptocurrency with cash,” but opinions may differ.
Steeps Fees and Glaring Exceptions
Unfortunately, these Bitcoin ATMs are notorious for their high fees. Each Coinme transaction comes with a 4 percent service fee, not including the trading spread (the difference between the buy and sell price of bitcoin on an exchange), which could make the real cost of buying even higher.
For comparison, Coinbase charges a fee of 1.49 percent. When dealing with several thousand dollar purchases, these fees add up.
Meanwhile, Coinstar has even steeper fees. Customers that want to count their coins are charged a hefty 11.9 percent fee,