Shoppers can buy Bitcoin at kiosks in Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue, in a pilot program that kicked off earlier this month in 200 U.S. stores.
Walmart made a deal with Coinstar, which operates kiosks that accept U.S. coins in exchange for dollar bills and gift cards, to start offering Bitcoin, Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman told CoinDesk via email.
The Walmart pilot is part of Coinstar’s partnership with crypto wallet and payment firm Coinme, which allows customers to buy Bitcoin at ATMs (automated teller machines) known as BTMs.
Coindesk said it tested Walmart’s Bitcoin service after a fake press release in September claimed that Walmart would be accepting Litecoin (LTC) as payment at Walmart stores. The hoax press release temporarily sent the price of Litecoin soaring as much as 20 percent, along with other cryptocurrencies, before prices fell back down to earth.
“A source with knowledge of the pilot said the Litecoin debacle had put Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Ark., off from issuing a press release,” Ian Allison reported for Coindesk.
“Bitcoin ATMs have been around for a while, including in many supermarkets,” said Sam Doctor, chief strategy officer and head of research at BitOoda, a regulated crypto brokerage, Bloomberg reported. “Walmart expands Bitcoin access to more people, though, and gives it further legitimacy among skeptics, should they roll it out beyond an initial pilot.”
Customers who want to buy Bitcoin at Walmart insert paper bills into the machine and are issued a paper voucher, Coindesk reported. Then they must set up a Coinme account and pass a know-your-customer (KYC) background check before the voucher can be redeemed. The machine has a $2,500 limit per day and charges a 7 percent cash exchange fee and a 4 percent fee for the Bitcoin option, according to the Coinstar website.
“It is an expensive way to buy Bitcoin, but lowers the barriers to entry for first-time buyers of crypto,” Doctor said.
Founded in 2014, Coinme is the first licensed Bitcoin ATM company in the U.S. Coinstar and Coinme both plan to offer bitcoin in more than 8,000 kiosks across the country.
The bitcoin kiosk initiative is not spearheaded by Walmart, Blakeman said, but she added that Walmart has been exploring how to enter the digital asset space. The company advertised a job opening in August for a senior director to lead its digital currency strategy.
If Walmart does decide to accept crypto as payment, it will be joining other corporate giants including Tesla and PayPal.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 74: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin returns for a new season of the GHOGH podcast to discuss Bitcoin, bubbles, and Biden. He talks about the risk factors for Bitcoin as an investment asset including origin risk, speculative market structure, regulatory, and environment. Are broader financial markets in a massive speculative bubble?
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