Walmart shoppers can now buy Bitcoin at 200 kiosks in its stores

Walmart is assessing the future of cryptocurrency in its operations.
Walmart is assessing the future of cryptocurrency in its operations.PHOTO: REUTERS

DALLAS (BLOOMBERG) - Walmart has started a pilot programme in which shoppers can buy Bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks in some of its stores in the United States.

The test with Coinstar, which is known for machines that let customers exchange US coins for paper bills or gift cards, began earlier this month, Walmart spokesman Molly Blakeman said on Thursday (Oct 21).

The pilot includes 200 kiosks in Walmart stores and is part of a broader initiative by Coinstar, which has teamed up with a cryptocurrency cash exchange called Coinme to offer Bitcoin at more than 8,000 kiosks.

"Bitcoin ATMs have been around for a while, including in many supermarkets," said Mr Sam Doctor, chief strategy officer and head of research at BitOoda, a regulated crypto brokerage. "Walmart expands Bitcoin access to more people, though, and gives it further legitimacy among sceptics, should they roll it out beyond an initial pilot."

Walmart is testing the service weeks after a high-profile hoax in which a fake press release said the retailer would start letting customers pay with a cryptocurrency called Litecoin.

While that announcement was false, Walmart is assessing the future of crypto in its operations. It advertised a job in August to develop "the digital currency strategy and product road map" while identifying "crypto-related investment and partnerships".

The deal with Coinstar was reported earlier by Coindesk, which tested the service. Customers buying Bitcoin insert paper bills into the Coinstar machine and then get a voucher. They must also set up a Coinme account and pass a background check before the voucher can be redeemed. The machines charge a 4 per cent fee for the Bitcoin option and a 7 per cent cash exchange fee, Coindesk said.

"It is an expensive way to buy Bitcoin, but lowers the barriers to entry for first-time buyers of crypto," Mr Doctor said.