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World’s first bitcoin ATM opens in Vancouver today

10/29/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
An ATM that converts bitcoins to Canadian dollars and vice versa was scheduled to open at 9 a.m. PT today in Vancouver. It will be the first cash machine in the world to dispense the emerging digital currency.

The kiosk, located inside Waves Coffee House at Howe and Smithe streets in downtown Vancouver, will be operated by Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs and Nevada-based Robocoin. They plan to open .

Customers will have to have their palm scanned in order to exchange up to $3,000 worth of bitcoin per day. Canadian cash can be fed in or taken out from the machine and exchanged for bitcoins on Canada’s VirtEx exchange. The bitcoins will then be transferred to and from the customer’s online bitcoin wallet. The user will also have the option to receive a paper voucher representing the transaction.

As of Tuesday morning, Bitcoiniacs reported that it was buying bitcoins for $183.21 each and selling them for $207.37 to $211.32. The virtual currency's value has swung wildly in the past year, starting at $13 in January and hitting a high of $266 in April.

Bitcoin, which came into existence in 2009, isn’t controlled by any authority such as a central bank. In the recent past, the currency has gained notoriety for its use to buy illicit goods such as drugs on websites such as Silk Road, which was recently shut down by U.S. authorities. However, it is increasingly being accepted by legitimate businesses around the world.

Michael Bliss, owner of Pacific Bliss Yoga, said his was the first business in Western Canada to start accepting bitcoins two years ago.

“Now, we’ve got at least 20 businesses this year,” said Bliss, co-founder of the BitCoin Co-op, on CBC’s Early Edition Tuesday. The organization helps businesses and customers exchange bitcoins and connects people to businesses that accept bitcoins.

In an interview, Bliss acknowledged that up until now, exchanging bitcoins for other types of currency has been “a pain.”

The arrival of bitcoin kiosks like the one that opens today may start to change that.

Amanda Krystalovich, who runs the personal training business Krystal Fit Studio, said bitcoin has its advantages over other types of payment.

“It's a lot cheaper than accepting, say, Visa or MasterCard. It’s very secure as well,” she told CBC’s The National.

Mitchell Demeter, co-founder of Bitcoiniacs, said the digital currency is good for more than just buying coffee.

"It is the best performing currency in the world,” he said. “It has grown over a thousand per cent year after year, for the last four years. So people are using it also as an investment.”

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