ATM Industry Aims to Bring Bitcoin Into Financial Services Fold

Last week, the trade association that represents the ATM industry recognized Bitcoin as an increasingly important global currency, encouraging cooperation among traditional and Bitcoin ATM operators to ensure security and consumer trust in transactions involving the digital currency.

It has been a roller-coaster year, to say the least, for the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.

The digital payment form, which rolled out in 2009, appeared in jeopardy earlier this year when its most prominent exchange was shut down following the theft of millions of Bitcoins. Since then, the Bitcoin Foundation has amped up its efforts to defend the currency, and other associations are popping up to offer assistance.

The ATM Industry Association is encouraging a “peer relationship between Bitcoin ATM operators and the membership of ATMIA.”

Now the ATM Industry Association can be added to that list.

In a position paper [PDF] released last week, ATMIA, which represents businesses in the automated teller machine space, said it believes Bitcoin is not a threat to established paper and electronic payment methods and recognizes it is on track to “becoming an important global currency.”

“Bitcoin … is being increasingly accepted at retail outlets around the world as [a] payment method,” Mike Lee, CEO of ATMIA, recently told Credit Union Times. “There may be a growing expectation for Bitcoin services, which financial services providers need to think about.”

There are about 220 working Bitcoin ATMs around the world, 28 of which are located in the United States in cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas, according to Coin ATM Radar, a website that tracks the machines. Bitcoin ATMs currently only allow users to change cash into Bitcoins—withdrawals are not yet possible. The companies that produce the machines are said to be working on improvements that will allow withdrawals.

With its position paper, ATMIA hopes to jumpstart a conversation about ensuring that Bitcoin ATMs follow the standards and security best practices of the ATM industry. The group is encouraging a “peer relationship between Bitcoin ATM operators and the membership of ATMIA and similar associations in payments.”

“We reach out our hand of friendship to Bitcoin ATM operators and encourage them to come within the fold of our industry and its governance framework and best practices,” Lee said in a statement. “The time is right to integrate them upfront into an industry with a proven four-decade-long track record of secure, convenient services to cardholders and consumers.”

Among ATMIA’s recommendations are the development of international security best practices for digital currencies to reduce the risk of cybercrime and money-laundering and an international accreditation program for Bitcoin ATM operators.

A Bitcoin ATM located in Venice, California. (photo by BTC Keychain/Flickr)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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