Physical Visibility as Key to Crypto Adoption: Exploring the Role of Crypto ATMs and Debit Cards

Crypto needs to become visible and ubiquitous to reach the next billion users – which makes crypto ATM machines, debit cards, and crypto-friendly physical stores essential, believes CapitalRock CEO. 

The power of seeing people use crypto in their daily life

Innovators and early adopters constitute only 16% of all consumers, according to the innovation diffusion theory – the rest need to be shown the way. In many countries, crypto adoption is already past that early stage, with over 25% of people owning and using cryptocurrencies in places like the UAE, Turkey, and Indonesia. What can the Web3 industry do to get through to the rest – those people who don’t read tech media and are still wary of digital currencies?

Physical visibility is key. One of the major drivers of adoption is the idea that “everyone is using it” – for instance, seeing lots of people drive electric cars on the streets or wearing a new fashionable item. But how do you make crypto usage visible in this everyday sense? 

The answer is infrastructure – especially infrastructure that exists at the meeting point between crypto and fiat. This is the opinion of Dr. Bernd Merle, the CFO of CapitalRock, an asset management and crypto infrastructure provider:

“For a non-crypto user, when you enter a mall and see a crypto ATM with a Bitcoin logo on it, or when you see the person in front of you at a supermarket pay with a crypto debit card, or perhaps seeing a “Bitcoin accepted” sticker at a brick-and-mortar store – that will make you realize that crypto is not just for geeks anymore and not just a vehicle for speculation. It’s a form of money that up to 40% of people are using in their daily life to pay for things. Seeing crypto being used with your own eyes is far more powerful than reading about it online.”

Crypto ATMs and debit cards: the connecting link between cash and crypto

There are already over 36,000 crypto ATMs across 71 countries, as per Coin ATM Radar. They provide an alternative to users who find it hard to buy cryptocurrency with a credit card. However, most such machines have an issue: they require that a user already have a blockchain wallet with a non-zero balance into which to deposit the coins bought through the ATM. 

Enter the new generation of crypto ATMs – those aimed at people who don’t own any crypto. Dr. Merle continues:

“You have to address the future early majority. They aren’t ready to jump through hoops to acquire crypto – not yet. You have to give them a simple and seamless entry point – a machine that lets them open an account and deposit crypto at the same time.”

CapitalRock itself is in the process of installing several hundred such machines in the UAE and selected European countries. These ATMs allow users to deposit funds in a CapitalRock Coin account, even if they don’t own any coins to begin with. 

Another tool that will play an ever-increasing role as crypto adoption grows is crypto debit cards. For consumers who already own cryptocurrency, they are the easiest way to use it in everyday life, making purchases at point-of-sale terminals or withdrawing money from ATMs wherever Visa and Mastercard are accepted.

Providers of such cards - including CapitalRock - have agreements with licensed financial institutions that act as issuers. At the moment of a transaction, an equivalent amount of cryptocurrency in the user’s account is converted into fiat, which is used to pay the merchant. Thus, merchants don’t have to handle digital currencies, while cardholders can use cryptocurrency for all their daily purchases. 

The geography of crypto-fiat infrastructure

Top crypto hubs include Dubai (where CapitalRock is headquartered), London, New York, Singapore, and Hong Kong. In Europe, the level of crypto adoption is particularly high in Switzerland (especially Zug), as well as in Central and Eastern Europe. Dr. Bernd Merle comments:

“In the Balkans and Eastern Europe, it’s common to see brick-and-mortar crypto exchangers – shops where you can go in and buy cryptocurrency just like you would foreign currency. In these regions, people are used to converting their savings into US dollars or euros on a regular basis – so the switch to converting fiat cash into crypto comes easy. That’s why we opened branch offices in Tirana and Skopje: there is a huge market for crypto ATMs and debit cards in the region.”

Crypto-fiat and fiat-crypto infrastructure providers like CapitalRock empower users to seamlessly incorporate digital currencies into their daily lives. It's an important step towards a future where cryptocurrencies are a widely accepted form of currency across diverse regions of the globe.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.