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.

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