This is already contradictory: it was not until mid-June that the world experienced the last major cryptocurrency crash; Bitcoin, Ether, and other digital currencies have depreciated significantly. The US crypto exchange Coinbase is deep red now and Berlin’s Nuri digital bank is bankrupt. Earlier this year, financial regulator Bafin warned, not for the first time, about the risks involved in buying cryptocurrencies. Regardless of this, the number of machines in Germany where you can easily buy bitcoins for cash is growing relatively quickly. These machines are now also available at stores such as Saturn and Rewe.
The Saturn electronics retailer began operations in June, setting up vending machines in Germany’s three busiest pedestrian zones, Dortmund, Cologne and Frankfurt. The “new service” was well received, says a spokeswoman. There is also a bitcoin machine in the independent merchant’s supermarket Offenbach Rewe 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 retailers had “of course freedom to make decisions.”
It is unclear how many Bitcoin ATMs there are in Germany. According to its own statements, Bafin does not approve each machine separately, but rather grants approval to operators. The operator at Saturn and Rewe is the Austrian start-up Kurant, which calls itself the European market leader and claims to have over 40 Bitcoin machines in Germany alone.
Entry barriers are very low
Bernd Richter, a payment expert at the financial services provider FIS, estimates the total number of cryptocurrency ATMs in Germany at nearly 100, worldwide there are 39,000, of which 32,000 in the US alone. pawnshops and arcades, ”says the judge. “Operators now want to get out of the dirty corner and get the brands they trust.” The fees range from 5 to 20 percent and are “very attractive to suppliers.” According to Managing Director Stefan Grilla, Kurant charges a fee of eight percent in Germany.
To buy bitcoin from a vending machine in this country, all you need to do is 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 also required. In the machine itself, a mobile number is sufficient. “Operators are interested in keeping entry barriers as low as possible,” explains Richter.
Obstacles differ from country to country, in Germany they are relatively low. This is not clear from Bafin, who points out, however, that operators are also “bound by the Money Laundering Act.” Machines already carry some danger with them. “As a supervisory authority, however, regulation is not our mandate,” says spokeswoman Bafin. “The bills and the relevant decisions are made by the parliament or the government.”
The financial sector also expects an ATM boom in Germany. Operators now sell between 40 and 50 million euros worldwide through buying and selling. This should increase tenfold in five years – with corresponding shares in Germany.
“The accident doesn’t matter,” says Richter. “A lot of people believe that by using cryptocurrencies they can protect themselves from inflation.” At the moment, 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 country via cryptocurrencies. Many would have done so through Western Union in the past. “It’s a bet,” says Richter. “Cryptocurrencies are considered digital gold with no operator indications of risk.”
Regardless of this, Mediamarkt-Saturn is currently investigating whether it should not be possible to pay with cryptocurrencies also in electronics stores. Due to high fees, customers would probably be advised not to do so.