Kitimat had a Bitcoin ATM installed on the lower level of the City Centre Mall in late June, which the ATM company’s general manager said is one of the most northerly Bitcoin ATM machines on the planet.
Mike Kitt, General Manager at HoneyBadger, Canada’s largest Bitcoin ATM provider, said that they have been working to educate people about Bitcoin and its uses since the company started in 2016.
“We’ve always been really focused on trying to provide Bitcoin services to everybody,” Kitt said. “Bitcoin’s kind of a specific thing. It’s getting more and more used, and more and more popular, but a lot of people kind of need to wrap their heads around it and kind of understand how to use it before they come and use the machine.”
The company is based in Vancouver and Kitt said they have just over 100 machines from Vancouver Island to Halifax. They were looking to try to get into smaller towns as they continued to expand, and Kitimat came close to the top of that list due to the town growth and its role as one of the “gateways to the North.”
“Usually we do notice it takes a little while for the machines to pick up and get some regular users and get, kind of, the awareness, especially in a smaller town like Kitimat,” Kitt said. “Hopefully soon, we’ll be in a number of other places in Northern British Columbia.”
A Bitcoin ATM was installed in a coffee shop in Prince Rupert in 2017, but other than that, there don’t appear to be other Bitcoin machines in northern B.C.
Bitcoin is a currency that’s designed to be completely internet-based. It’s used by both individuals and businesses as a form of international ‘value’ that can be transferred to anyone around the world, without the need of a third-party or financial institution.
“The really unique part about it is that no one controls it, specifically, so Bitcoin kind of just works on it’s own,” Kitt said.
Everything about the coding of Bitcoin is published, so people can have access to information such as how many Bitcoin are actually out there. As well, because it’s not owned by anyone specific, Kitt described it as a “giant volunteer project,” with lots of people working on it and monitoring it around the world.
The ATMs are cash-based and work by exchanging Canadian dollars for Bitcoin. Users download an app onto their phone, called a “Bitcoin wallet.” At the machine, the user scans a QR code on their phone, which is called a “Bitcoin address” and is similar to a bank account number. Once scanned, the user has access to the ATM, where they can put Canadian currency in and have Bitcoin sent directly to their wallet.
From there, the Bitcoin can be sent to any other wallet anywhere in the world. This is one of the reasons Kitt said many people get into Bitcoin, as it’s not bound to any place and can be sent whenever and wherever the user wants.
As well as being easy to move around, Bitcoin also has a planned amount of inflation, given that there’s only a set amount that exists, meaning it can be a pretty good store value.
“The theory goes that it’s better to hold your money in Bitcoin rather than Canadian or U.S. dollars, because there’s a set amount that exists, so it’ll hold its value over a long term, similar to holding gold,” Kitt said.
Kitt added that Bitcoin has been going up in value quite significantly this year, and currently one Bitcoin is worth $16,347 CAD. However, unlike physical currency, Bitcoin goes down eight decimal places, not just two.
“That helps it because even if Bitcoin’s very expensive, you can still buy a very, very small amount,” Kitt said. “So anyone can buy, you know, five, ten, twenty dollars worth of Bitcoin at our machine, you just get a fractional amount.”
Kitt said that they monitor the ATMs and already have multiple customers every week in Kitimat since its installation in late June.
“We have had a couple customers that have already come and used it,” Kitt said. “It picked up really quickly, more quickly than some of our other locations do, which is really promising.”
One of the main deterrents of using Bitcoin, Kitt said, is the horror stories that have come from people buying Bitcoin online and then being scammed out of large sums of money. He said the ATM changes that by sending the money directly to the user’s wallet, with no wait time or online third party to go through to get the cryptocurrency.
“In Canada, we’ve had a couple of bad exchanges, that basically went bankrupt or, you know, people ran away with the money…There’s just a lot of options to buy Bitcoin online, just the way the system was set up and there was a lack of regulation for such a long time. So there’s been kind of a break in trust from a lot of consumers who buy Bitcoin online,” Kitt said. “But when people buy at our machine, they can have the confidence that when they come to the machine, they put cash in and we send them Bitcoin instantly. There’s no real trust required there, they get service right away.”
Due to the past issues that have occurred, there’s new regulation in Canada now for anyone that deals in virtual currency. Dealers must be registered in the money services business (MSB) and have an MSB licence. This way, they have to register the business, report on transactions, and take customers’ IDs and phone numbers so they can contact them in case of suspected fraudulent activity.
“We’ve been around for a long time and we really take our customers’ safety and security as a top priority,” Kitt said. “We’re just trying to make Bitcoin a legitimate industry in Canada and make it more trustworthy.”
Kitt said they have representatives of the company who are available if a user has any issues, or if anyone is interested in more information about Bitcoin or the ATMs. Visit badgercoin.com, or contact 604-787-1220 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.