This is a sixth review of our bitcoin ATM usage series.
The following review is provided to us by Andrew Scott from Chicago, IL. Bitcoin machine that was reviewed is located at BrySon Milan in Chicago.
Notice: I’m very new to bitcoin and this is actually how I purchased my first bitcoin, so please bare with me.
For a long while now I’ve known that bitcoin was something I would be interested in if only I would take the time to learn about it. I work with software for a living, cyber security specifically. I also enjoy keeping up with economic and financial news. And I typically like to be involved with whatever the new bleeding edge tech is. So all things considered, I really missed the boat when it comes to being an early bitcoin user.
A couple weeks ago I finally finished up some other projects I’d been working on and rewarded myself by buying a couple books on bitcoin and blockchain technology. At this point I already knew the basics and had followed some of the general news of the cryptocurrency market, but after actually learning some of the nitty-gritty details, I knew I would be hooked.
I immediately began researching the best wallet technologies and reputable exchanges. It turns out things move quickly with bitcoin and many of the resources mentioned with high regard in my reading have already gone under. I settled on a wallet provider to start with and created an account with one of the US-based exchanges. While somewhat of a hassle, it was nice to see how much verification the exchanges are required to do in order to purchase bitcoin using a bank account or credit card. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a utility bill handy, so until my next power bill came I was stuck playing the waiting game.
On a podcast I’d heard in the past I recalled that there were often bitcoin meetups, or even sole proprietors that would exchange bitcoin for cash. However, in the tech desert that is the rural Northeast, it looked like I was out of luck for that approach.
By chance I happened to have a weekend trip to Chicago planned to visit some friends. While riding the Blueline into the city from O’Hare airport, I decided to see if there were any bitcoin ATMs in Chicago. Score! The first result that came up was Red Leaf Chicago. Their website advertised 20+ locations in the greater Chicago area.
I ended up settling on the ATM location in Wicker Park near where I was staying. The location itself was interesting, it’s actually inside a clothing store called Bryson Milan. The shop itself was pretty empty when I got there, but it still felt a little strange seeing the ATM nestled in-between a clothing rack and a jewelry case, but I was there to buy bitcoins, not pass judgments.
I started the purchase process and opted for the $1-4000 option, which left me wondering if anyone casually wanders into a clothing store with over 40 hundred dollar bills to buy bitcoin. The first thing the ATM asked was that I enter my SMS number to begin the verification process. It promptly sent me an SMS and I entered the code and was then directed to setup a pin code for future use. After I had established my pin and linked my phone number, I was required to scan or swipe a photo ID in order to identify myself. The machine seemed to have trouble reading my drivers license barcode with the infrared scanner, so I opted to use the ATM’s camera to take a photo of my ID instead.
After taking a photo of my ID the machine seemed to process it for a little while before displaying a screen that said they would need to manually verify my identity and it could take some time. The message also indicated that they would send me an SMS once my account was enabled. After waiting a few minutes I was somewhat put off by this and left the store hopeful that I would get a text later in the afternoon and could make it back before I left town the next day.
Not even five minutes after leaving the store I received a phone call from Red Leaf. A polite man immediately apologized for any inconvenience and told me my account was ready and I was now verified to use any Red Leaf ATM in the city. Luckily I was only a block away at this point, so I headed back to the shop.
The woman working at the front counter appear surprised to see me back so soon. Again I started the purchase process and entered my new pin code. I was in. A screen displayed the ATM’s current exchange rate, roughly $500 US/BTC, which was about $40 over the going rate at most exchanges at the time of writing. But it was convenient and I was on vacation, so I scanned my wallet QR code and put five $20 dollar bills into the ATM and hit the purchase button.
The screen flashed a processing message for a few seconds before informing me the transaction was successful. Sure enough, a minute later after I’d awkwardly coerced the woman working in the store to take a picture of me with the ATM, my blockchain wallet indicated that I had received a payment that was currently in progress.
– It was convenient! There were over 20 bitcoin ATM locations within the greater Chicago area, though I didn’t see if any of there locations were 24 hours a day, and a few appeared to be closed on some days. It just depends on the business host’s hours.
– It was quick. Aside from me not having enough patience to wait on the verification process, the actual transaction was almost as quick as using a regular ATM.
– It was simple. I assume most bitcoin users are a least a bit tech savvy, but the process was very clearly defined and the UI was clean and self-explanatory.
– The rates were pretty high. I guess this is just the price of convenience.
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