Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

The problem with Bitcoin ATMs is the logistics of cash.

A Bitcoin ATM network that operates at a scale large enough to displace or even compete with the remittance networks in Mexico (and other beneficiary countries) would by necessity draw on the banking system to supply it with cash. This is because all of the cash being withdrawn would have as its ultimate (albeit intermediated) source Bitcoin purchases in the US (or other sending countries).

Think of it like this: the Bitcoins being sold in Mexico in exchange for pesos at these ATMs are being purchased by the ATM owner, who will then need to sell them in order to resupply the ATMs with pesos. Who does she sell them to? Without a massive (i.e. hundreds of millions of pesos per day) local demand for Bitcoins in Mexico, her buyers are going to have to be foreign--most likely the the immigrants in the US who are sending money home.

So, she sells those Bitcoins to Mexican immigrants in the US, for dollars. And now she needs to buy pesos, in the form of bills/notes, in exchange for dollars--at which point she is in the exact same situation as any standard remittance provider today!

Everywhere in the world, one of the primary roles of banks is to manage cash logistics, and to act as the retail face of the central bank, which acts as the ultimate sink for excess cash, and as the ultimate source of cash in the event of a shortage. As a result, the banks, and then ultimately the central banks, regulators, and governments generally, act as gatekeepers for any large-scale financial enterprise requiring the disposal and generation of physical cash.

What's more, when you are talking about billions of dollars exiting the US in favor of Mexico, there is only one way that money can move, which is through the central bank, via the banking system.

The only way that Bitcoin can displace the current remittance providers is if a large local demand for Bitcoins already exists in beneficiary countries, such that the inflow of Bitcoin could be absorbed locally, or used by recipients without being cashed in. Either that, or central banks and regulators will have to embrace it--or at minimum tolerate it.

That's not to say it can't happen. It just can't happen without official sanction first, before a local bitcoin market has established itself.




Potential demand for Bitcoin in these countries could be companies that buy from the US and receive a discount for paying with Bitcoin. An intermediary buys Bitcoin for the receiver of remittances and sells to those companies.

Edit: please leave a comment when downvoting


That could work. Some guy with a shop in Mexico selling say used iphones could provide a cash sevice giving people pesos in exchange for payment in bitcoin and then use the bitcoins to purchase iphones from the US. Assuming there are sellers in the US who will ship goods to Mexico for bitcoin.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: