How Does a Bitcoin ATM Machine Work?

Have you had your eye on a new ride lately? If you have the funds in your digital wallet, you can buy it with bitcoin and drive off the lot. 

The problem is not every dealership accepts bitcoin. That doesn’t mean you can’t use your cryptocurrency. It only means that you’ll need to get a little more creative. 

Drive to your closest bitcoin ATM machine and exchange your cryptocurrency for the cash you need for the car. The process is straightforward, and you’ll have your money within ten minutes. 

Does that sound good to you? Check out this guide to learn how bitcoin ATMs work before you try to withdraw cash. 

What Is a Bitcoin ATM?

Bitcoin ATMs work similarly to bank ATMs. The difference is that bitcoin machines are connected to the cryptocurrency exchange instead of being connected to a bank. This allows users to buy and sell bitcoin with the press of a few buttons. 

As stated above, the process is quick and pretty straightforward. All you have to do is follow the machine through the steps. 

It’s important to note that while most ATMs support more than bitcoin, your crypto options will still be limited. You’ll be able to choose from some of the more popular coins on the market, like Litecoin and Ethereum. 

Benefits of Using a Bitcoin ATM 

So, now you may be wondering, “why should I buy bitcoin from an ATM when I can buy and sell from the comfort of my own home?” The answer is that it’s less complicated. 

When you buy crypto from a machine, you can expect it to reflect in your wallet within ten minutes. The same can’t be said when you go online. Bitcoin ATMs are also secure, and they’re great for travelers! 

They’re Perfect for Beginners 

If you can use the ATM at your bank, you can use a bitcoin machine. The process is similar. It’s all a matter of telling the machine how much bitcoin you want to purchase, scanning your wallet, and handing over your cash. 

Many cryptocurrency exchanges come with a lengthy onboarding process. Bitcoin ATMs do not. You only need your name, a copy of your ID, a phone number, and a digital wallet to get started. 

If you do happen to get stuck somewhere during the process, most machines have a 24-hour support line that you can reach out to. The operator will walk you through, step by step. 

They’re Secure

When you open a bank account, you have to hand over a lot of your private information. This information could end up in a leak. 

Again, the only info that bitcoin ATMs require is your name and phone number. Bitcoin ATMs are non-custodial, which means the only person who will ever have control over your coins is you. 

They’re Fast 

When you finish a transaction at a bitcoin ATM machine, you can expect to see your funds within a few minutes. Sometimes it takes a bit longer when you’re selling cryptocurrency. 

The good news is that in the case of selling, you’ll receive a text message when your cash is ready to pick up. You can leave and go about your business while you wait. 

When the market is hot, some crypto websites experience downtimes due to overcapacity. Bitcoin ATMs never shut down during a rush. 

They Don’t Require a Bank Account 

Keeping your cash stashed under your mattress isn’t secure. If you don’t have a bank account, you may not have a choice. 

That is unless you have an account with a bitcoin ATM. Your cash is safer in your crypto wallet than it is under your bed. Unlike setting up a bank account, there’s no entry barrier.  

They’re Perfect for Travelers

If you enjoy traveling, you know how frustrating it is to convert your cash once you land in another country. The last thing you want to do is wait in line after getting off a long flight. 

Save time by selling your cryptocurrency for cash at a bitcoin ATM. The machine will give you money that matches the currency of the country you’re in by default.

Set Up Your Digital Wallet 

Now that you know more about bitcoin ATMs and their many benefits, it’s time to learn how to use one. The first step is setting up your crypto wallet. 

This is where your cryptocurrency will be stored. There are two different categories of wallets. These are hot and cold. 

Hot wallets can only work via an internet connection, whereas you can use cold wallets completely offline. 

Desktop Wallets 

Desktop wallets fall into the hot wallet category. They use encryption to keep a user’s private keys away from prying eyes. They’re free and simple to use. 

Some desktop wallets can be used offline if you don’t have access to an internet connection. 

If your computer is infected with malware, your wallet will be vulnerable to hackers. Computers aren’t exactly portable, so it’s not easy to use them at a bitcoin ATM. 

Web Wallets

If you trust a third party with your private keys, you can use a web wallet. They’re easy enough for crypto beginners to use, but they’re about as vulnerable to viruses as desktop wallets. 

Since you can access websites on your phone, web wallets are a little more portable than desktop ones. 

Mobile Wallets

You can gain access to your mobile wallet through an app on your phone. They’re quick and convenient to use. All you have to do is bring your phone to the ATM, open the app, and scan the QR code at the machine. 

It’s important to note that your mobile wallet is only as secure as your phone. If you lose your device, you’ll no longer have access to your funds. Mobile wallets are also vulnerable to malware and viruses. 

Paper Wallets

As you may have noticed, all hot wallets have one thing in common. Malware is a problem. 

If you want to keep your wallet 100% safe from hackers, you may want to choose a cold wallet instead. The most common type is paper wallets. 

Your private keys will be printed out or written down on a piece of paper. There are no third-party companies involved, so you’ll have complete control over your keys. 

You will need to keep your wallet close to you, however. If it’s torn or incinerated, you won’t be able to recover your keys. You’ll also need a little more technical know-how to set up your wallet. 

Hardware Wallets 

Hardware wallets are just as secure as paper ones and a little more high-tech. You can find them at most electronic stores, but they can cost up to $200. 

Since hardware wallets often take the form of a flash drive, they can be easy to lose. If you misplace it, you’ll lose your private keys. 

Find a Nearby ATM 

Once you get your wallet set up, you can begin your search for nearby ATMs. This is most likely the trickiest part of the process. 

If you live in a big city, you’ll be able to find machines in most airports and convenience stores. The same can’t be said if you live in a rural area. You may have to drive a few miles to find the nearest ATM. 

The best place to start your search for a machine is online. If you go here, you can pull up a map that will show you where you can find ATMs.  

You can also ask questions on social media and online forums. Someone should be able to point you in the right direction. 

Buying Crypto 

Standing in front of the ATM can be a bit daunting at first, but rest assured, it’s simple. As stated above, it works like a regular bank ATM. To get started, you’ll need to type in your phone number and follow these steps. 

Type in Your Phone Number

You can’t buy crypto from a bitcoin machine without verifying your identity first. That’s why most ATMs ask you to type in your phone number at the beginning. 

Once you hit the enter key, you’ll receive a text message with a verification code. Put that code into the machine and press enter again. You should now see a prompt to scan your wallet. 

If you don’t have a cell phone, that’s okay. Many machines will also allow you to verify your identity using your driver’s license. All you have to do is scan it to proceed with your transaction. 

Scan Your Wallet

No matter if you have a cold wallet or a hot one, most of them have one thing in common. They have a QR code attached to them. 

You’ll need to scan this code at the ATM to tell the machine where to send your funds. If you didn’t set up a wallet before going to the ATM, you can get a temporary paper one and transfer your funds to your permanent wallet later. 

Insert Your Cash 

Sadly, most bitcoin machines won’t let you use a debit or credit card to buy cryptocurrency. You’ve got to use cash. 

Enter the amount of money you want to exchange for cryptocurrency and place the requested cash into the machine (much like if you were doing a bank deposit). 

Complete Your Transaction 

If you’re satisfied with your transaction, hit the confirm button to send your bitcoin to your address. 

Please note that while bitcoin transactions are quick, you may not see the funds in your wallet right away. Sometimes it can take ten minutes or more for the crypto to arrive. If you don’t see it after an hour, you’ll need to contact customer service. 


Most machines that allow you to buy bitcoin will also let you sell it. The process works pretty much the same. 

Instead of selecting buy, you’ll hit the sell button. Verify your identity by typing in your phone number or scanning your driver’s license. 

Scan your wallet to tell the machine where it’s going to pull the bitcoin from. Check to make sure everything is correct on the screen and press the confirm button. 

Be sure to hold on to the receipt that the machine prints out. You’ll need it when it comes time to pick up your cash. 

Speaking of picking up your cash, the transaction could take anywhere between ten minutes and an hour to process. You’ll receive a text message that will let you know when you can get your money.   

Transferring Funds to Another Person 

Let’s say that you have a friend that needs quick cash. You can transfer bitcoin to them that they can sell to get the funds they need. 

As before, confirm your identity. Type in the recipient’s wallet info instead of using your own, and tell the machine how much cryptocurrency you want to send over. 

Before hitting the confirm button, make sure all the information is correct on the screen. If even a single number or letter is off, your friend won’t receive their funds, and you won’t be able to refund the transaction. 

Once you insert your cash into the machine and confirm the transaction, your friend should receive the funds within a matter of minutes. 

Get Your Crypto From a Bitcoin ATM Machine

There is a long list of things that you can buy with cryptocurrency. If you can’t use your digital funds directly, you can always exchange your coins for cash at a bitcoin ATM machine. 

They’re simple to use and you’ll receive the funds you need in less than 10 minutes. What’s not to love? 

For more information on cryptocurrency and bitcoin ATMs, check out the rest of our blog.