March 14, 2019 – UnionBank of the Philippines finally unveiled its cryptocurrency ATM to the public last Friday. Members of the financial industry, blockchain industry, and journalists got the chance to learn more about the crypto ATM as well as UnionBank’s future plans with blockchain technology.
I was not fortunate to have a successful transaction during the launching event. Yesterday, we successfully bought bitcoins (correction, a fraction of a bitcoin) while we spent the entire week researching about the history of cryptocurrency ATMs in the Philippines.
Crypto ATM Details:
UnionBank’s crypto ATM is manufactured by Lamassu Industries and is integrated with Coins.ph. During the launch event, we inquired more about the ATM and we found out that:
- I have to be a UnionBank account holder before I can use the ATM. It’s a limit imposed to make sure the machine is servicing the bank’s own clients. As mentioned in an earlier statement, and interview, the crypto ATM is meant to offer UnionBank clients with alternative ways to purchase cryptocurrency.
- UnionBank offered GetGo Visa Debit Card to attendees with fees and minimum balance waived. With that, I tried the machine but it did not recognize my account. That’s why we tried it again yesterday.
- When purchasing bitcoins, any bitcoin wallet can be used. This feature is similar to BloomX and Palawan Pawnshop’s crypto over-the-counter service, where the customer can use any wallet where they would like to receive their bitcoins. Ms. Toni Reyes, business development officer at BloomX confirmed it to me in one of our chats.
- For this activity, I intended to receive the bitcoins on my Enjin Wallet.
- Cryptocurrency prices are based on the rates that can be found on Coins.ph.
I was not able to confirm the transaction limits, however, as I have received different transaction limits explanation from the people I interviewed.
A Very Short History of Crypto ATMs in the Philippines:
During the launch event, UnionBank said the reason why they are moving fast in adopting crypto and blockchain is because they thought they are lagging behind from other banks around the world that are already offering such ATMs. A slip happened when the bank told attendees that they are the first to offer a bank-backed two-way crypto ATM in the world, which they announced upon confirmation of their blockchain journalist friend of the fact. (“Two-way” means the machine can let you buy bitcoin and sell bitcoin for cash. In other words, it allows deposit and withdraw.)
Multiple discussions on social media, however, confirmed that Bitcoin Philippines Corporation set up a crypto ATM in partnership with Tiaong Rural Bank and Bitcoiniacs. The ATM itself is distributed by Genesis. This ATM, which is located at Sunette Towers in Makati allows purchasing of bitcoin but not selling of bitcoins to cash. It was “officially” installed in 2015, two full years before the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) released non-endorsing but also non-prohibitive guidelines on crypto to fiat transactions through Circular No. 944 – “Guidelines for Virtual Currency Exchanges”. This ATM is still active although Tiaong Rural Bank is now closed.
The first bank to offer a crypto ATM is Falcon Private Bank in Switzerland, which is operated in partnership with brokerage firm Bitcoin Suisse. The ATM is still active. Note that in all instances, all of the crypto ATMS mentioned above – by UnionBank, by Tiaong, and Falcon are operated in partnership with a crypto or blockchain firm. I also cannot find mention of Tiaong Bank in any articles or public posts written at the time of the ATM launch in Sunette apart from this post in 2015 tagging Tiaong Rural Bank chairman Gerardo Castillo.
Also, note as well that there are many bitcoin and crypto ATMs currently in the country in addition to over-the-counter bitcoin exchange services, like the ones operated by First Tree’s Moneybees. I first encountered bitcoin ATMs in an article in Tech in Asia, where SCI Ventures talked about bringing the Skyhook Crypto ATM in local meetups and bazaars. The Skyhook is one early bitcoin ATM which is not operational anymore.
How To Buy Bitcoin at UnionBank Crypto ATM:
The steps in buying bitcoin through UnionBank’s crypto atm is as follows:
- On the machine, confirm that you are a UnionBank client by inputting your account number.
- Confirm that you are buying or selling bitcoin.
- Input the amount.
- Let the ATM scan the QR Code of your bitcoin wallet address. There is no option to write or type the receiver’s bitcoin wallet address, which is understandable considering that method can be prone to misspellings.
- The user will receive two one-time-passwords (OTP) on their mobile phone to confirm the transaction.
The entire process of depositing money to the machine up to the bitcoin reflecting in my Enjin Wallet took around 5-10 minutes. I deposited Php 500. I received Php 496 worth of BTC. The process is smooth. I just don’t know if the waiting time will continue as is once the network gets clogged again. Fortunately, solutions like the Lightning Network is being worked on to solve that.
During the press event, UnionBank said it plans to have more coins listed and for more crypto ATMs installed in their other branches nationwide.
Last year, in a show of commitment to fintech, blockchain, and cryptocurrency, UnionBank exhibited its own mining rig at a blockchain convention.
This article originally appeared on BitPinas: We Tried UnionBank Crypto ATM and This is How It Works