Walmart has started a pilot program in which shoppers can buy Bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks in some of its US stores.
The test with Coinstar, which is known for the machines that let customers exchange US coins for paper bills or gift cards, began earlier this month, Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said Thursday. The pilot includes 200 kiosks in Walmart stores. That’s part of a broader initiative by Coinstar, which has teamed up with a cryptocurrency cash exchange called Coinme to offer Bitcoin at more than 8 000 kiosks. The pilot includes 200 kiosks in Walmart stores.
“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. “Walmart expands Bitcoin access to more people, though, and gives it further legitimacy among skeptics, should they roll it out beyond an initial pilot.”
Walmart is testing the service weeks after a high-profile hoax in which a fake press release said the retailer would start letting customers pay with a cryptocurrency called Litecoin. While that announcement was false, Walmart is assessing the future of crypto in its operations. It advertised a job in August to develop “the digital currency strategy and product roadmap” while identifying “crypto-related investment and partnerships.”
The deal with Coinstar was reported earlier by Coindesk, which tested the service. Customers buying Bitcoin insert paper bills into the Coinstar machine and then get a voucher. They must also set up a Coinme account and pass a background check before the voucher can be redeemed. The machines charge a 4% fee for the Bitcoin option and a 7% cash exchange fee, Coindesk said.
“It is an expensive way to buy Bitcoin, but lowers the barriers to entry for first-time buyers of crypto,” Doctor said.