Would you walk up to an ATM not to get cash, but to give money away in return for virtual currency? Singapore’s Bitcoin Exchange is betting you will.
Earlier this month Singapore bought a machine from British Virgin Islands-based manufacturer Lamassu that converts cash into Bitcoins. Users need only scan a QR code from a downloadable Bitcoin wallet onto their smartphones and then feed cash into the machine, which would then credit the digital equivalent into their Bitcoin wallets.
Bitcoin Exchange director Zann Kwan noted it was quicker, safer and cheaper to buy Bitcoins through the ATMs rather than online. The 15-second ATM conversion of Bitcoins would eliminate the risk of default by the seller and minimise fees, as no wire-transfers were required.
At least eight merchants in Singapore currently accept the digital currency as payment. Kwan is optimistic about the growth of Bitcoins both as a mode of investment and medium of exchange, adding her firm is looking into buying more such machines by year end. Each machine produced by Lamassu costs US$5,000 and Singapore’s Bitcoin Exchange is currently seeking a suitable location to debut its new purchase.
Kwan’s optimism flies in the face of cautionary statements from several central banks across the world against the use of Bitcoins, including Bank Negara Malaysia. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also warned users that they may be “unable to obtain a refund of their monies should such a scheme cease to operate, and may have no legal recourse as Bitcoin is not issued by any identifiable organisation”. MyPaper however reported that no regulatory licences or permits were required to operate the Bitcoin ATMs in Singapore.
The world saw its first Bitcoin ATM in Vancouver in October 2013. That machine was produced by Nevada-based Robocoin. The South China Morning Post has reported that Hong Kong could also see the introduction of Bitcoin ATMs. No such machine exists in Malaysia at present and it is unclear whether the ATM in Singapore would accept Malaysian ringgit.
As of 16 February 2014 one Bitcoin is tradable for RM966.40 – a steep fall from a high of RM3970.82 on 4 December 2013.
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