It is already contradictory: it was only in mid-June that the world experienced the last major cryptocrash of the time; Bitcoin, Ether and other digital currencies lost massively in value. The American crypto exchange Coinbase is now deep in the red, and Berlin’s digital bank Nuri is bankrupt. Earlier this year, the financial regulator Bafin warned, not for the first time, about the risk associated with buying cryptocurrencies. Regardless of this, the number of machines in Germany where you can buy bitcoins with cash is growing relatively quickly. And these machines are now also available from dealers such as Saturn and Rewe.
Electronics retailer Saturn kicked things off in June, setting up vending machines in three of Germany’s busiest pedestrian streets in Dortmund, Cologne and Frankfurt. The “new service” is being welcomed, says a spokeswoman. There is also a Bitcoin machine in the supermarket at the independent Offenbach Rewe grocer Can Güler. Güler writes on social media that you can not only buy groceries from him, but “even invest locally”. A Rewe spokesman said the independent Rewe dealers were “obviously free to make their decisions”.
It is not clear how many Bitcoin ATMs there are in Germany. According to its own statement, Bafin does not approve each individual machine, but instead gives permission to the operators. The operator at Saturn and Rewe is the Austrian start-up Kurant, which calls itself the European market leader and claims to have more than 40 Bitcoin machines in Germany alone.
The entry barriers are very low
Bernd Richter, payments expert at financial services provider FIS, estimates the total number of crypto ATMs in Germany at nearly 100, worldwide there are 39,000, of which 32,000 are in the US alone. “Most of the machines in Germany are currently pawnshops and arcades.” says judge. “Operators now want to get out of the dirty corner and win brands that they trust.” The fees are between five and 20 percent and “are very attractive to the providers”. According to CEO Stefan Grill, Kurant charges a fee of eight percent in Germany.
To buy bitcoin in a vending machine in this country, you simply have to register on the Kurant website before using it for the first time. According to Grill, in addition to the registration address and mobile phone number, dates of birth, nationality and country of residence are required. At the machine itself, you only need your mobile phone number. “Operators are interested in keeping barriers to entry as low as possible,” explains Richter.
The obstacles vary from country to country, in Germany they are relatively low. This is not due to Bafin, which however points out that the operators are also “obliged by the Money Laundering Act”. The machines already contain some danger. “However, as a supervisory authority, regulation is not within our competence,” says a Bafin spokeswoman. “Bills and corresponding decisions are made by parliament or the government.”
The financial sector also expects an ATM boom in Germany. The operators currently sell between 40 and 50 million euros worldwide through buying and selling. It was to increase tenfold in five years – with similar shares in Germany.
“The accident doesn’t matter,” says Richter. “Many people think they can protect themselves against inflation with cryptocurrencies”. Currently, a large part of the turnover goes back to people who have fled or work abroad as guest workers and want to send money back to their home country via cryptocurrencies. Just as many would have done it via Western Union in the past. “It’s a bit of a bet,” says Richter. “Cryptocurrencies are considered digital gold without operators pointing out the risks.”
Regardless of this, Mediamarkt-Saturn is currently investigating whether it should not also be possible to pay with cryptocurrencies in electronics stores. In light of the high fees, customers will probably be discouraged from doing so.