Buy Bitcoins at Bitcoin ATMs

Using a bitcoin ATM: Lamassu machine at CEX in Glasgow

This is a third published story from participants in our “Use bitcoin ATM, write review and get hardware wallet for free” campaign. At the time of this posting – there are still 2 Ledger wallets available. So hurry up and don’t miss the chance.

The following bitcoin machine usage experience description is provided to us by Derwin McGeary, who used a machine in Glasgow, Scotland.

One thing about Bitcoin is that when you tell people about it, the reaction is frequently, “You must be crazy!” or “That’s all very interesting, but how would you actually do it in practice?”. Often, it’s not that easy, and almost never all that anonymous: “You just give this website your credit card details and show them your government-issued ID”. So I was intrigued to find out that there was a Bitcoin ATM in the centre of my home city of Glasgow, Scotland. A bit of research revealed that it was in a chain of electronics shops, CEX which started to accept Bitcoin for purchases and even staged a Bitcoin-only weekend to launch it!

CEX bitcoin ATM

I’m not particularly experienced with Bitcoin, although I did manage to buy a beer with it in Russia, back when it was legal there. This is the only bitcoin ATM I’ve ever seen in the digital flesh, and I was eager to try it out.

So, fiat money in hand, I set out to buy some bitcoins. First impressions of the shop were good: well-lit, on the main street, clean. The ATM is located at the back of the shop, with “How do I buy bitcoin?” instructions pinned up behind it. They recommend the Coinbase or Blockchain app. Then it’s on to the Lamassu bitcoin machine. There’s a touchscreen, a slot for inserting notes, a nameplate with “The bitcoin machine” on it, and a small plastic window.

CEX bitcoin ATM

The greeting screen is pleasantly simple and the current exchange rate (in the local currency) is displayed at the bottom (Coinbase price was £303.84/BTC at the time, and the ATM was offering £319.90/BTC so a reasonably large percentage fee). There’s a “Change Language” button but I didn’t try it. I push Start (the only button apart from change language), and I’m prompted to scan the barcode on my phone. After an inept attempt to put the phone through the plastic window, I hold the screen up to it. Next is a screen showing the scanned address and a prompt to insert money. I usually only check the first and last few characters of the address, and it’s always been correct so far, so I insert a few notes, which are counted correctly, and hit send. Done! The instructions prudently warn that it can take up to an hour to receive the bitcoins, but I’ve never seen it take more than a minute. There is a final “Thank you!” screen displaying the amount, the destination address, and a QR code, which you can photograph as confirmation.

CEX bitcoin ATM

For Science, I tried a few different local notes, including Scottish £5 notes as well as Clydesdale Bank tens and twenties. All accepted without problem.

So, in terms of usability: excellent. This is actually easier to use than a normal cash machine. I would say that this is more than anonymous enough for most people’s comfort. It’s in a safe well-lit public location, and you can even spend your bitcoins there.

A few small minuses: this is a fiat-to-Bitcoin only setup. If you are getting paid in bitcoin, you can’t get pounds for it here (although you can get a fine array of secondhand electronics for it). Also, it’s in a shop, so it’s not 24-hour. Finally the exchange rate is a bit worse than Coinbase.

If you’re in the Sauchiehall Street area and you want to dip your toe into Bitcoin, get a wallet installed on your phone and all you need is £5 and 5 minutes.


Check our blog for more bitcoin ATM usage experience stories to come. If you’d like to participate in this contest – read conditions here and send your story to us.

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14 thoughts on “Using a bitcoin ATM: Lamassu machine at CEX in Glasgow

  1. The 1 April at 1. Pm i paid 10000 HKD , and now it’s 10 pm , and I still did not reduce my bitcoin

    So I guess that bitcoin ATM is a very huge scam

  2. Found this thread on 13 June 2017, after another one of these machines (at London E12) took £25 from me, and did not send my bitcoin.

    24 hours later, the transaction has not appeared in the blockchain. I contacted so-called customer support, whose automated reply assured me somebody would get back to me ‘within 2 hours’, or to call an 0800 number. Neither did anybody contact me, nor is anybody answering their 0800 number.

    The company is registered in Old Street, London, and the sole director is masking his real address by registering his address at the company holding address, which is symptomatic of somebody with something to hide.

    I believe this is indeed a scam, and I’ve given the company 24 hours to return my stolen money, or I’m going to liberate my funds with a club hammer.

    I shall easily do more damage, in two seconds flat, to their scam machine, than £25, which they will then have to have repaired. I’m not bluffing.

    Whoever they are, they should have known better than to try ripping off a crew in East London, even for a pony. It’s not the money, it’s the principle.

    If they don’t sort this, we’ll put photos of their fucked ATM on social media, to prove we’re not mucking about.

    1. Hi Max, sorry to hear about your experience, but there is unfortunately not much I can do, as you already contacted them via support. Maybe makes sense to wait and try to reach them again.

  3. I opened a wallet with Blockchain info,but I can’t see any sign of the barcode,when I opened the wallet on my i-phone 6 it asked me did I want to by any bitcoin,this is my first time trying to buy some bitcoin,could someone help me out,Thanks

    1. Just installed wallet.

      You click on “Receive” at the bottom and it will show receiving address with small QR code – try to scan this one.
      I was not able to make it larger QR code. Seems this wallet lacks this functionality.

      Alternatively you can try Breadwallet for iOS.

  4. 1. The machine I tried could not read the printed QR code from paper…as it has no light. So it’s primarily designed for phones with backlighting.

    2. Since it got stuck with the paper the first time, I tried to start from the beginning, and the machine promptly got stuck on the ‘Start’ button stage. I can’t even believe there’s only 2 steps to buy on this machine and it got stuck at ‘start’ on the second attempt. I was in a rush and had to leave as the store was closing and the guy wouldn’t even help me at all, no reset or anything.

    For an anonymous currency they require ID *everywhere* to purchase. Huge exchange rates and fluctuating value along with shoddy ATMs make this currency kind of suck.

    1. 1. Normally scanning from printed QR should not be a problem. Maybe this machine was located in dark place.

      2. I see your frustration, sometimes machines get broken. You need to contact operator in this case, so they can resolve it for you.

    1. Hello, we don’t operate machines. You need to contact operator of the machine you used for further details. But in general the $15 difference might very well be the commission operator charged.

  5. 15$ difference ??? WTF is this ? is is a fixed fee or is it a fixed percentage? otherwise this represents 37.5% of 40$ !!!
    in the article above it says: “Coinbase price was £303.84/BTC at the time, and the ATM was offering £319.90/BTC” this has nothing to do with 37.5%, some people need to learn the basic of math and how to make a cross-multiplication…

    1. Each operator defines own structure of fees, there is no standard way. Also some operators have tiered pricing, means fees vary depending on the amount one purchase (e.g. <=$100: 30%, $100-500: 15%, $500-3000: 10%, >$3000: 7%).
      In this case I believe they charged a combination of fixed fee to cover miner fee and % fee from amount. As total purchase amount is relatively small it resulted in large commission.

      Bitcoin network was congested in December 2017 and many operators introduced large fixed costs to cover miner fee, e.g. $10 per each transaction on top of %% commission. Although the fees on BTC network have reduced drastically since then, some operators still charge large fixed fee.

      In each particular case it is recommended to contact operator to get details how fees amount was calculated.

  6. It took an hour to get to CEX store to use Bitcoins ATM but the story changed when I got to the store.figured out the machine is currently shut down.this is totally unacceptable.
    How can I buy bitcoins now?

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