Charlottesville, Virginia-based Blue Ridge Bank will offer access to Bitcoin at its 19 branch and off-site ATMs, it said Wednesday, claiming it is the first commercial bank in the U.S. to do so.
Blue Ridge is partnering with ATM operator BluePoint ATM Solutions and Bitcoin ATM software provider LibertyX to facilitate access to the cryptocurrency.
Blue Ridge Bank's announcement comes as banks and regulators appear to be warming to digital assets, and as Bitcoin continues to gain value and attention.
"Blue Ridge Bank is excited to continue its evolution to serve the growing needs of our current and future customers," CEO Brian Plum said in a statement. "The ATMs remain able to serve cash-based and inquiry activity, so this is simply layering on more services and reinforces our commitment to the future of banking for all customers."
Anyone can use the bank's ATMs to buy and sell Bitcoin as long as their ATM card is accepted, BluePoint ATM Solutions CEO Wade Zirkle told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Thursday.
The bank's dual capability of servicing cash and Bitcoin transactions at its ATMs is unique, said David Tente, executive director of the U.S., Canada and Americas for the ATM Industry Association.
"There are many that perform traditional cash transactions, as well as electronic Bitcoin transactions" but not both, he told the Times-Dispatch.
Zirkle said in a statement his company predicts more community banks and credit unions will demand similar "innovative fintech solutions" in their branches.
"This is a major milestone in terms of the adoption of Bitcoin as a fungible currency," Stephen Mathai-Davis, co-founder and CEO of quantitative investment research and analytics company Q.ai, said in an email. "The true challenge for digital assets, in my opinion, remains the custody process. How do I save my digital assets in a location that I can trust and will offer true transparency into its value? The decision by Blue Ridge offers this solution while also offering the ability for users to begin converting Bitcoin into U.S. dollars in the same way many of us would go to a bank to convert foreign currencies."
Blue Ridge's announcement comes as larger banks and payment networks move into the cryptocurrency space.
BNY Mellon, the largest custody bank in the U.S., said Thursday it will hold, transfer and issue cryptocurrencies on behalf of its asset-management clients. Mastercard said a day earlier that it would support certain digital assets on its network this year. JPMorgan Chase announced last spring it would extend banking services to cryptocurrency exchanges Gemini and Coinbase.
The wider acceptance comes as Bitcoin opened at more than $48,206 on Friday, its highest opening ever. The coin's worth has jumped nearly fivefold from a year ago, according to Yahoo Financial, and stands at nearly 12 times it early-pandemic low value of $4,106.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) has issued several crypto-related statements in recent months, including an interpretive letter in January clarifying that banks can use stablecoins to facilitate payment transactions for customers on an independent node verification network. That followed guidance from July specifying that national banks could provide cryptocurrency custody services and hold unique cryptographic "keys" associated with cryptocurrency on behalf of customers.