Blue Ridge Bank is letting customers buy bitcoin where they retrieve cash.
Customers at the Charlottesville, Va.-based bank will soon be able to buy and redeem bitcoin at 19 of its ATMs, with an 8% fee on transactions. To make this happen, the bank has partnered with BluePoint ATM solutions, a national ATM operator, and LibertyX, a Boston-based bitcoin ATM software provider.
The number of bitcoin ATMs surged last year as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for contactless payments. The bank joins a small list of community banks interested in serving the bitcoin community, including New York-based Quontic Bank, which launched a bitcoin rewards debit card this year.
Blue Ridge has $2.8 billion in assets after completing a merger with Richmond-based Bay Banks early last year, and adopted the service to further evolve for serving the next generation of customers, said CEO Brian Plum.
The bank didn’t act in response to requests from its current customer base, Plum told CoinDesk in an interview.
“You do have growing interest in cryptocurrencies,” Plum said. “It doesn’t diminish what we can do with our current ATMs, so it’s not like this was a matter of substitution.”
Anti-money laundering watchdogs have warned of the potential for illicit activity posed by bitcoin ATMs. In June 2020, a CipherTrace report said bitcoin ATMs were used to send money to “high-risk exchanges” known for facilitating criminal activity.
The ATMs limits for bitcoin purchases are capped at $5,000 per day, said Justin Pence, BluePoint’s chief operating officer. Customers are also buying the bitcoin with a bank-issued debit card, he added.
In April of last year, Blue Ridge extended a Paycheck Protection Program loan to MobileCoin, but the bank does not yet have a core crypto banking team, Plum said.
“We are open and pursuing what makes the most sense for us based on economics and the regulatory environment,” Plum said about potential additional crypto services in the future. “It is a volatile space. If you think about commercial banking it is anything but a volatile business. … A lot of what’s happening in crypto right now is exciting, but you need to have the infrastructure in place.”
Update (Feb. 10, 17:53 UTC): Additional comments added from Blue Ridge and BluePoint executives.