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Chances are you don’t know much about Cyprus except that the country went through a financial crisis in early 2013. What you probably don’t know, however, is that a large number of people survived that crisis by buying bitcoins. It proved to be a great move, since the cost of a single bitcoin was just $33 back then – a great price compared to the current $600.

Perhaps even more surprisingly? Cyprus state banks also invested in bitcoins, encouraged by the seemingly stable condition of bitcoins compared to real-world currency. In just a question of hours, the big bank buyout pushed the price of bitcoins from $33 to $88. But that was just the beginning of the story.

The next move proved even more interesting, as Bitcoin entrepreneurs actually designed and planned to install a Bitcoin ATM in Cyprus. The world’s first Bitcoin ATM would have allowed people to actually access their money and get it out of the country before financial and tax issues in Cyprus stripped most people out of their savings. Unfortunately, last minute issues with installation and development meant the Cyprus launched never happened, and the world kept waiting.


The Wait is Over

It wasn’t until October 2013 that the first Bitcoin ATM actually went live. It happened in the most unassuming of places: a coffee shop in Vancouver, Canada. In the first day alone, 81 transactions were completed – people depositing money to convert into bitcoins or converting digital currency into real-world money – adding up to over $10,000 in deals. The second day proved even better, closing up with over $30,000 worth of transactions.

Bitcoin machines operate without an ATM. Instead, they use palm-scanning technology to access your account – which can be created right on the spot, the first time you use the ATM, if you don’t already have an account.

Since then, bitcoin ATMs have appeared all across Canada, allowing people to quickly access their money without having to worry about bank transaction fees or government tracking. Bitcoin ATMs debuted in the US in June of 2014, after a much-debated, much-planned security upgrade system required by the financial sector. The first unit? It sits at Clover eatery in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The way the unit work is simple: set up a virtual wallet, then head to the ATM machine, deposit cash, and see it get converted into bitcoins and deposited into your wallet.

From there, you can choose to spend, save or move your virtual money around as you please. All it takes is a single click. And this is what makes bitcoins so attractive: not only are they easy to use and accepted in thousands of places online, but the transaction fees associated with bitcoins are very low when compared to bank transactions.

While bitcoins are not likely to replace real money anytime soon, they have become a valuable investment option for those who want to keep their money diversified and their options open.