South America Gets Its First Bitcoin ATM

Mercado Bitcoin's ATM will make its debut in São Paulo, Brazil later this month.

AccessTimeIconJan 10, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 10:15 a.m. UTC

South America will get its first bitcoin ATM in two weeks, according to Brazilian bitcoin exchange Mercado Bitcoin.

The ATM, a Lamassu unit, will make its debut at the Campus Party technology event in São Paulo, Brazil.

CEO Rodrigo Batista said the ATM would be installed at one of the 300 booths at the massive annual technology gathering, which is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors. The machine will be available to the public for the duration of the event, which runs from 27th January to 2nd February. He added:

"The ATM is a way to bring people to bitcoin. Most of the people at the event, even though it's a technology audience, will have never heard of [bitcoin]."

Mercado's Bitcoin ATM is a Lamassu unit, so it only converts fiat currency to bitcoin, and not the other way around. The machine will charge a 2.5% fee for each transaction, which is the same amount Mercado Bitcoin customers pay.

Batista said the machine would be installed permanently somewhere in São Paulo's financial district after the event.

"It will be one of the districts that's the equivalent of Wall St; we are already talking to some bars and restaurants."

The ATM will not require identification documents from its users for a transaction. It will also be limited to relatively small transactions of 100 Brazilian real (or about 50 US dollars).

Brazilian bitcoin scene

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Despite Mercado Bitcoin's early start in bitcoin, the Brazilian economy in the cryptocurrency is still nascent, according to Batista. Uruguayan company Moneero has announced plans to install its own ATMs in that country, but it's unclear if the machines have been installed yet.

Moneero hasn't responded to an e-mail seeking clarification yet. A check on CoinMap, the open source map of merchants who accept bitcoin, shows only four listings for São Paulo, for example.

"Brazil is like one year behind the US and Europe [in terms of bitcoin adoption] and [the rest of Latin America] are one year behind Brazil," he said.

One merchant who accepts bitcoin payments at his nutritional supplements store in Duque De Caxias, a city in the Rio De Janeiro Metropolitan Area, says he's noticed an uptake in interest in bitcoin among Brazilians on bitcoin forums and among listings for mining equipment on marketplaces since September.

The merchant, Sergio Murilo Da Silva Rocha, has completed 18 bitcoin sales since he started accepting the digital currency two months ago:

"The biggest change I noticed is from September. It is spreading fast."

About Mercado Bitcoin

Batista's company, Mercado Bitcoin, is an early bitcoin exchange that was established in 2011. According to Batista, the exchange trades about $4m worth of bitcoin and $3m worth of litecoin each month.

Mercado Bitcoin was also in the news when it helped set up a paywall for Brazilian technology magazine Superinteressante that allowed readers to pay in bitcoin. Rodrigo said his company is also working on a payment gateway for merchants, to encourage adoption of bitcoin payments.

Rodrigo worked as a software developer for enterprise software at Morgan Stanley in Brazil before he acquired a stake in Mercado Bitcoin. He said he first bought the cryptocurrency in 2012 after reading an article about it in Superinteressante.

São Paulo Image via Shutterstock


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