Yesterday, I saw this article telling me that Coinstar has paired up with Coinme to allow people to buy bitcoin at certain Coinstar locations, and I thought (actually, I said out loud to no one), "Siiiiiiiick."
One thing that baffles me about crypto's promise to "bank the unbanked" is that a bank account is often required to buy crypto. I've even been denied from certain exchanges – cough: Gemini – because my credit union didn't count. Bitcoin ATMs allow a way around this absurdity: Most allow you to insert cash, upload proof of a government-issued ID, and voila! You've got some bitcoin. Cool. No need to bury your cash in the backyard, or whatever.
It's still not the anonymous peer-to-peer cash promised by the Bitcoin white paper, but at least there is no bank account required. While loads of crypto fans might dislike the banks, there are plenty of others who probably wouldn't have a problem with banks if they could just, you know, access affordable banking services.
But bitcoin ATMs are hard to come by. I live and work in a smallish, fairly libertarian, crypto-friendly Western city of roughly 400,000 people, and there are only three bitcoin ATMs. Coinstars, on the other hand, are everywhere. So, the news seemed dope, and to some extent it is.
(Note: These are only available in limited Safeway and Albertsons Coinstar locations in California, Texas, and Washington. Not in my state. But assuming this whole thing goes well, that will probably change with time.)
There are a lot of caveats, though. For one – and this is the most irritating for me – you can't buy bitcoin with coins at a Coinstar machine. Instead, you have to dump your coins, Coinstar takes a cut and prints you out a receipt, whereupon you go to the register, get your money, and then have to come back to the Coinstar machine to trade your cash for bitcoin using Coinme. (Because, for some reason, some Coinstar machines – despite being unable to give you bills for your change – apparently allow you to insert them?)
*ETHNews reached out to Coinme for clarification on this issue, but has not received a response.
A second annoyance is that the Coinstar machines don't actually give you bitcoin. They give you a redemption code to get bitcoin on Coinme's website. However inconvenient, this – like the ID issue – is due to compliance reasons.
But still, it's cool.
It is cool, right?