UPDATE (25th November 2013 16:25 GMT): Travelers Box is now no longer converting foreign currency into bitcoin. CEO Tomer Zussman sent CoinDesk the following statement:
“We never expected this kind of exposure at this early stage. The kiosks are working very well with all other products but we didn’t expect what happened with Bitcoin in few days. The volume and demand were very high and we had to reevaluate the process and the technical challenges.
We are working very hard in order to bring Bitcoin back to the kiosks and we will announce it as soon as possible.”
Weary travelers across the world will soon be able to convert their leftover change into bitcoin at the airport.
Vending machines from Travelers Box, a Gibraltar-registered startup, lets travelers add their unused foreign currency to their bitcoin wallets, or other online accounts like PayPal or Qiwi.
Travelers Box currently only has a presence at Ataturk airport in Turkey, but the company has plans for global expansion, with five other locations coming by the end of 2013.
“Our business helps travelers to utilize their leftover change and we think that having the possibility of converting the cash into bitcoin and use it later to purchase products or services overseas is right,” said Travelers Box CEO Tomer Zussman in an email.
The company was registered in Gibraltar in November 2012, with the first kiosk appearing in Turkey in April 2013.
Mt. Gox’s exchange rate is used for bitcoin deposits and the company takes a fee on all transactions based on the amount deposited, though Zussman said they hope to move to a no-fee approach in future.
Zussman declined to say what other locations are coming this year, but said they are in the process of expanding to other airports in Turkey and that the coming locations outside of Turkey include “one of the most well-known airports in the east and another one is in China”.
“We are working closely with the regulators in every country as the situation is different from country to country. We limit the amount a passenger can deposit based on local regulations,” he said.
Travelers Box is in discussion with 40 airports worldwide, he added.
He welcomed the US Senate’s recent hearing on bitcoin, but also pointed to the “progress in the Chinese market”, mirroring the comments of the head of the Bitcoin Foundation Jon Matonis (who is also a CoinDesk contributing editor), who warned that the US has already “ceded dominance” in bitcoin trading.
According to Redditor eyal0, who encountered the Travelers Box kiosk in Turkey earlier this month, the machine was after security in international departures, meaning that you would need to have booked a flight to use it.
Connecting bitcoin with international travel and currency exchange gets right to the heart of one of the oft-cited benefits of bitcoin: its utility as a means of money transfer.
Austin and Beccy Craig, this year spent 100 days living on bitcoin, during which time they travelled from the US to Singapore, Sweden and Germany, but not once did they need to turn their money into local currency.
A more serious example was the spike in the price of bitcoin associated with the implementation of currency controls in Cyprus in March 2013. Bitcoin was a means for Cypriots to move their money across borders and into other currencies when traditional channels were closed.
Travelers Box also allows users to add money to gift cards associated with their email address for stores like Amazon, eBay, iTunes and Google Play.
You can also donate your leftover coins and notes to charities including Greenpeace, PETA and WWF.