• El Salvador sends Chivo ATMs to the United States

  • El Salvador has brought its Chivo bitcoin ATMs to several U.S. cities, making it easier and cheaper to send money to friends and family in the Central American country.

    El Salvador now has 50 commission-free Chivo ATMs in 10 U.S. locations where local legislation allows them, according to President Nayib Bukele in a series of tweets on September 13. Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Laredo, and McAllen, Texas; Doral, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; and Chicago, Illinois are among them. On the Chivo map, there are also two locations in Columbus, Ohio.

    According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 2.3 million Hispanic people of Salvadoran origin (including US citizens) lived in the United States in 2017. The greater Washington, D.C. area, which has one of the largest Salvadoran populations, is not included on the list.

    Salvadorans can register for a Chivo account by entering their national ID number. Chivo members can use ATMs to make withdrawals and recharge their accounts, as well as use the wallet app to make payments or send bitcoin or dollars to friends and family. Users of Chivo do not have to pay a commission.

    Bukele estimates that over 500,000 people have signed up for the wallet, which offers citizens a $30 Bitcoin bonus for signing up. Before the launch, the government estimated that 50,000 people were already using bitcoin in the country.

    Remittances have traditionally consisted of sending money digitally from abroad and picking it up in cash at the destination, with popular services such as Western Union, MoneyGram, and Ria. However, digital payment options in stores are expanding as a result of El Salvador’s new law requiring businesses to accept bitcoin. People who do not have a bank account can now use a wallet like Chivo to pay for a hamburger at McDonald’s or diapers at Dollarcity.

    According to Bukele, Salvadorans spend $400 million per year on remittance fees. Remittances, primarily from the United States, accounted for 21 percent of El Salvador’s GDP in 2018.

    Bukele also acknowledged the well-documented technical issues with the rollout of the Chivo wallet, which debuted alongside the ATMs on Sept. 7 and went offline for a time due to glitches. According to the president, the government has resolved 95 percent of the issues, including issues with bank transfers and blocked accounts.

    The wallet’s rapid release since El Salvador voted to make bitcoin legal tender in June has raised privacy concerns, and developers have identified several troubling bugs in its early days.

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