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Bitcoin puts Vancouver in the virtual money

Retailers like no fee transactions

The world’s first bitcoin ATM is helping Vancouver make financial history.

The machine, which went into operation Tuesday inside Waves Coffee House at Howe and Smithe streets, converts bitcoins into dollars and dollars into bitcoins, an anonymous digital currency that is distributed online, peer-to-peer without any central authority and can be used at a growing number of Vancouver retailers and online merchants around the globe.

“This is the first bitcoin ATM in the world and it’s just another step forward to making bitcoins accessible to as many people as possible,” said Mitchell Demeter, co-founder of Bitcoiniacs, a Vancouver-based bitcoin exchange store responsible for bringing the machine to the city.

The kiosk asks users to have their palms scanned to exchange their dollars into the virtual currency with a limit of up to $3,000 per day in accordance with Canadian federal anti-laundering laws. The bitcoins can either be transferred to a “bitcoin wallet” application used on smartphones or other online devices, or the user can opt for a paper receipt that represents the transaction.

Demeter, 27, runs Bitcoiniacs along with two high school friends Jackson Warren and Cheyne Mackie from the Sunshine Coast. The store operates as a bitcoin exchange by charging customers three per cent for each transaction. He said the trio has four more ATM machines coming in December, which they plan on spreading across to major Canadian cities.

“We’re thinking Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa, but nothing’s set in stone just yet,” he said.

But for Demeter it was a no brainer to launch the first ATM here in Vancouver.

“The bitcoin community has grown here in Vancouver exponentially,” he said. “Back in January there were only a few people talking about it and now there’s regular meet ups with 50 to70 people attending each one.”

Demeter said his email inbox has been flooded in the last few months as interest among Vancouver retailers is rising.

“There are more and more merchants contacting us every day asking us how they can sign up and where they can get their hands on the technology on a retail level.”

Vancouverites can make bitcoin purchases at the Waves coffee shop among other cafes and restaurants, as well as No Limit Landscaping, the Pacific Bliss Massage spa and Krystal Fit Studio.

For Gurmeet Gupta, owner of India Gate restaurant, the opportunities with using the virtual currency were to good too pass up.

“We’ve seen some big growth in our clientele base just because we accept bitcoins, which has been really good for business,” said Gupta who started accepting bitcoins in May and added clients come from all over B.C. just because they heard they can use their digital currency as cash.

Gupta said some other advantages include the next-to-zero transaction fees that run anywhere from two to eight per cent with credit card and debit card purchases.

The success of offering customers bitcoins as another way to pay even rubbed off onto fellow restaurateur Doug Taylor, owner of West End’s Central Bistro. He just started taking the virtual currency.

“For us it’s fairly easy,” Taylor said. “We have a young staff that are very tech-savvy and we have a tablet set up with the ability to make the transactions — it’s just like a credit card with an extra step.”

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