Walmart Inc. has launched a pilot program in which shoppers can purchase Bitcoin at Coinstar kiosks in some of its U.S. stores.
The collaboration between the two companies started earlier this month. The pilot program includes 200 kiosks in Walmart stores. Meanwhile, Coinstar has also teamed up with Coinme, a cryptocurrency cash exchange. Known for the machines that allow customers to exchange U.S coins for paper bills or gift cards, Coinstart aims to offer Bitcoin at over 8,000 kiosks through these strategic partnerships.
The development by Walmart comes weeks after a high-profile hoax in which a fake press release mentioned that the retailer would start letting customers pay with Litecoin, a cryptocurrency. The incident may have triggered Walmart to start assessing the future of crypto in its operations.
In August, the company also advertised a job for developing the digital currency strategy and product roadmap while identifying investment and partnership opportunities pertaining to cryptocurrencies.
Walmart’s collaboration with Coinstar was reported by Coindesk, which tested the service of the pilot program. Customers buying bitcoin can insert paper bills into the coinstar machine to get a voucher. However, they have to set up a Coinme account and clear a background verification before the voucher can be redeemed. Coindesk said that the machine charges a 4 per cent fee for the Bitcoin option and around a 7 per cent cash exchange fee.
Sam Doctor, Chief Strategy Officer and Head of research at BitOoda, a regulated crypto brokerage, opined that while the price may be on the higher side, it definitely lessens the barrier to entry for those buying Bitcoin for the first time.
“Bitcoin ATMs have been around for a while, including in many supermarkets. Walmart expands Bitcoin access to more people, though, and gives it further legitimacy among skeptics, should they roll it out beyond an initial plot,” Doctor said.