The U.S. is the undisputed leader when it comes to the number of Bitcoin automated teller machines (ATMs), with 32,591 machines installed throughout the country, but a recent study conducted by Tradingbrowser indicates that cryptocurrency and Bitcoin ATM adoption is highest in countries that lack a developed financial infrastructure.
“Countries that have high rates of unbanked populations also have higher rates of cryptocurrency adoption due to high cash payments and Bitcoin ATMs,” Daniel Larsson, senior editor at Tradingbrowser, wrote. “If the projection of installed Bitcoin ATMs continues, these unbanked countries could see exponential growth in adoption.”
A total of 14 countries were included in the study, which gathered information related to the number of Bitcoin ATMs installed, cash payments, unbaked population, cryptocurrency ownership, cryptocurrency ownership percentage, and the total population in order to compare adoption rates.
“It all boils down to how the population is connected to cash payments and bank accounts,” Larsson said.
The countries that were found to have the highest rate of crypto adoption had the highest rates of unbanked populations and were also the most promising locations to install ATMs and promote adoption.
Countries with a high rate of cash payments and unbanked population. Source: Tradingbrowser
Out of the countries surveyed, Mexico had the largest percentage of its population unbanked at 60%, and it also ranks third in terms of the number of Bitcoin ATMs installed, with 46. Only Romania and Hong Kong currently host more ATMs than Mexico. A total of 3.4% of Mexican citizens currently own cryptocurrency, which is nearly triple the adoption rate of more advanced nations like Norway and Denmark.
In South Africa, 31% of the population is unbanked, the country has 21 Bitcoin ATMs, and 10% of its population owns some form of cryptocurrency.
When those numbers are compared to countries whose unbanked population is smaller, the differences become clear.
Countries with a low rate of cash payments and unbanked population. Source: Tradingbrowser
The differences are especially stark in nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, which have the lowest percentage of cash payments (1-2%) while nearly 100% of their populations are connected to the traditional banking system.
Countries where cash payments range from 1-2% and unbanked populations from 0% to 1% – including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and New Zealand – have no Bitcoin ATMs installed. “These countries also have a much lower adoption rate,” Larsson observed.
“We can draw many conclusions based on these findings but the most significant driver for the high adoption rates in highly unbanked nations is the number of Bitcoin ATMs that have been installed,” Larsson said. “In many cases, cryptocurrency is proving to be a viable option where Bitcoin ATMs have been installed.”
In areas with no established banking infrastructure, the ability to use ATMs to trade cryptocurrency for cash, or from cash to cryptocurrency, is a feature that is impossible without access to traditional banking or credit cards.
Based on these findings, Larsson speculates that the reason crypto ownership is lower in countries with an established financial infrastructure has to do with the fact that there is no need for the population in these countries to use cryptocurrencies.
The one exception in the study was Hong Kong, which has a highly developed financial system and is considered to be a financial hub and testing ground for Chinese policymakers. Hong Kong ranked second overall in the number of Bitcoin ATMs installed, with 147, while Romania came in first with 156.
“The high rate of cash payments and Bitcoin ATMs in developing countries shows a growth of alternative financing solutions such as Bitcoin which provides a fast, secure, and efficient way to transact outside the traditional banking system,” Larsson said. “It’s safe to say that more Bitcoin ATMs are likely going to be installed in highly unbanked countries as the positive trend toward cryptocurrencies continues.”
While Bitcoin ATMs are not solely responsible for driving adoption in unbanked regions of the world, there is clearly a correlation, Larsson said. “The study shows that cash and Bitcoin ATMs are the two main factors driving the adoption of cryptocurrencies right now and it’s obvious which parts of the world are in the driver’s seat.”
It remains to be seen how the trend will progress moving forward, especially amid the spreading banking contagion that is now hitting banks in Europe, including Credit Suisse.
“Only time will tell whether the trend of these ATMs and the adoption of cryptocurrency will continue in countries where cash is currently king,” Larsson said. “Until then, we can not look past the obvious which is that right now, unbanked countries are beating cashless countries in the race to full cryptocurrency adoption.”