For the first time in Montreal, Bitcoin enthusiasts can walk up to an ATM machine and trade in their dollars for the digital currency.
The service was launched in Montreal Wednesday morning at Bitcoin Embassy on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, where the first machine in the province was unveiled.
Customers who download the app on their smartphone can put in their cash, and get virtual money in exchange.
Bitcoins can then be spent at some retailers and online stores.
Consumers can also trade in their virtual money for cash anytime.
“One of the main advantages of Bitcoin is the very, very low transaction fees as compared to credit cards or debit cards,” said Guillaume Babin-Tremblay, the executive director of Bitcoin Embassy.
“For users, it means you don't have to open an account — you don't have to give personal information. You can just send the Bitcoins directly from a person to another person.”
Bitcoin was created five years ago, and opened in Canada last fall.
Vancouver was the first Canadian city to get the service last October, and the company says that within the first 30 days, it saw more than $1 million in transactions.
Montreal’s Bitcoin ATM machine on Saint-Laurent Boulevard is the fourth of its kind in the world.
Babin-Tremblay says he plans to spread the service to at least 10 other cities worldwide.
Bitcoin user Alexandre Bourget, who is one of about a thousand Bitcoin enthusiasts in the Montreal area, has been buying Bitcoins online.
He says he thinks the AMT service will catch on.
“I thought it was pretty good. I’ve tried some other machines, and this one had verification included. It checked my phone, so I'm confident it's not going to disappear because of regulatory issues,” Bourget said.
Virtual currency not regulated
In the United States, the FBI has warned that Bitcoin and other digital currencies exist in a legal no-man's land.
Authorities in Quebec agree that criminals could easily use them to launder cash or commit fraud.
“At this stage, we have no specific regulation regarding Bitcoin, so it means that at this stage if you are losing your money — if you are part of a Ponzi scheme or a fraud situation — you won't be compensated by any fund in place,” said Sylvain Théberge, a spokesman for Quebec’s financial watchdog L'Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF).
The AMF says it’s looking at the possibility of regulating the online currency.