Top States Where Cryptocurrency Is Catching On
RewardExpert analyzed search traffic and geographical data to see which states’ residents are most interested in cryptocurrencies, and where you can most easily use them for purposes other than investment.
A Very Short Introduction to Cryptocurrency
Recent surveys indicate nearly 80% of U.S. adults have heard of cryptocurrencies, whether it be Bitcoin or Ethereum, or one of at least 1,500 more coins and tokens in circulation. Only about 10% have some amount of assets in cryptocurrency, and more than half remain skeptical and/or suspicious of them, in no small part due to a lack of clear knowledge and familiarity with these currencies. It is thus important to begin by answering the question: “What is cryptocurrency?”
Cryptocurrencies are based upon Blockchain technology, also known as the distributed ledger. Put simply, this means that a complete record of every transaction ever made with a cryptocurrency coin or token is maintained and stored across a cryptocurrency network. Coins cannot be spent twice, for instance, and fraudulent actors cannot falsify the transaction record unless they control an absolute majority of the computing resources in the network. New coins are created in a process called “mining” which has computers compete to be the first to complete the task of adding a new “block” of transactions to the “chain.” In short, the biggest appeal of cryptocurrencies is that they function in a world completely without the need for trust in third-party actors, only trust in mathematics and computation.
Investment or Currency?
Cryptocurrency valuations have skyrocketed, and though they have fallen from their December 2017 peak, current cryptocurrency prices represent astronomical increases over the last year, and even more so over the lifetime of these currencies. The rise of cryptocurrencies has made many millionaires and billionaires, at least on paper. Many holders of cryptocurrencies have no immediate interest in using them as currency, but rather as an investment. We have sought to quantify both interest in cryptocurrencies, and the possibilities of using them as actual currency. While Bitcoin is only one currency among many, it also has the most highly developed infrastructure and widest acceptance by vendors in the real world. We have therefore used Bitcoin infrastructure, such as ATMs, vendors, and establishments accepting it as payment, etc as a proxy for use value and usability.
Top Ten States
Interested in Cryptocurrencies
Home to Silicon Valley and one of the major hubs for the U.S. technology industry, California is unsurprisingly the state in which interest in cryptocurrencies is highest across the board. California tops Google Trends’ keyword search data for specific currencies, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Ripple, scoring 98, 92, 97 and 85, respectively, out of a possible 100. It also ranks highly for searches for the term “cryptocurrency” itself, coming in at a score of 93. The state also has over 500 establishments where Bitcoin is an accepted form of payment.
Second place, New York, would naturally rank as one of the usual suspects. Likewise a major US tech hub, and also the financial capital not only of the U.S., but arguably of the world, New York City drives the statewide average level of interest to stratospheric levels. New Yorkers’ interest in Litecoin and Ethereum helps boost New York’s overall trends score for interest in specific currencies to 96.25 of 100.
Home to the most educated population of any U.S. state, the most scientists per capita, and many New York City commuters, New Jersey falls behind New York by a fraction of a percentage point in measures of interest in cryptocurrencies. Interest in Ripple is higher in New Jersey than anywhere else in the country, while Litecoin takes second place - with New Jersey residents expressing more interest than anywhere outside of New York.
Number four, Washington fits into the pattern established by our top three. Home to major technology giants, such as Amazon and Microsoft, it is no surprise that Washington would be on the leading edge of interest in currency based solely upon technology. Innovation catches on early here, and techies are most likely to have an interest in and an understanding of cryptocurrencies. Ethereum scores a perfect 100 in Washington.
At fifth place overall, Alaska had the highest keyword search volume for the term “cryptocurrency” of any state during our research time frame. A state with a long history of libertarian politics, far removed from the central government of the country, Alaskans’ high levels of interest in cryptocurrency reflects the appeal of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to those with a (healthy?) distrust of government power and centralization.
Like Alaska, interest in cryptocurrency in Nevada is presumably driven in part by the libertarian streak in the state’s politics. It is also likely that its proximity to California adds to this to some extent. It is worth noting that Bitcoin infrastructure is also highly developed here. Overall interest in cryptocurrency here scores 84 on Google Trends’ 100-point scale.
Florida ranks in the top quartile of interest across all five search terms surveyed - with an average score of 74 for specific currency keyword searches and 77 for the term "cryptocurrency" itself. It would be almost pure speculation to posit what is driving interest here. It is possible that Floridian retirees are looking for a better investment opportunity than real estate proved to be in the last decade.
At first glance, Utah would seem an unlikely member of this top ten. Certainly, it is geographically contiguous with sixth place Nevada, and tenth place Colorado, but that is not much by way of an explanation. Interest is highest for Bitcoin (81/100), with establishments accepting crypto-payments concentrated in the Salt Lake City area, suggesting that the state’s relatively well-developed tech industry may be one driver of interest.
Ninth-place Connecticut ranks highly for searches for various currencies, especially Litecoin and Bitcoin. It ranks a hair's-breadth behind Utah in overall search traffic for all cryptocurrency terms. We might suspect that elevated levels of interest in Connecticut are driven by the wealthy Gold Coast region and New York City commuters. This contention is supported by an elevated level of interest in Litecoin (85/100), which is likewise popular in New York, and the one state with more New York City commuters than Connecticut: New Jersey.
As a state with a rapidly growing technology industry, and an educated, frequently libertarian-inclined population, Colorado is a natural choice to fill out our top ten. Colorado stands out for an unusually high level of interest in Ethereum as opposed to other coins and currencies, scoring five points above the four-currency average of 76.
Top Ten States
for Using Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies
Washington, D.C. takes first place on our list on the strength of having the most Bitcoin ATMs per capita anywhere in the country. There are 4.49 ATMs per million residents, and 2.39 establishments per million residents that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.
With 62 establishments accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment statewide, New Hampshire has the most places per capita where you can use cryptocurrency to pay for retail purchases, food, and in some locations, travel and lodging. The state’s four Bitcoin ATMs work out to more than 3 per million residents, making New Hampshire one of the best equipped states for cryptocurrency transactions, even if the state’s residents are only about as interested as the national average.
With 24 Bitcoin ATMs available statewide, Georgia has the most locations where you can automatically convert cryptocurrency into cold hard cash. This is helpful for residents who own Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as there are fewer retail and food establishments that accept Bitcoin than there are ATMs from which to withdraw funds.
Nevada is the first state on our list to have interest in cryptocurrency match infrastructure availability (sixth place). There are four Bitcoin ATMs available in the Las Vegas area, and a total of 78 other establishments that accept Bitcoin for payment, including real estate and legal firms, and one “Zombie Apocalypse Store.”
Like Nevada, Colorado residents are almost as interested in cryptocurrency as the infrastructure for use is available. Colorado is home to 90 establishments accepting Bitcoin payments and seven ATMs that are distributed throughout the Front Range region - not limited to the Denver metropolitan area. Here you can pay for wine and liquor, a lawyer, or a therapist, all in cryptocurrency.
Kansas is a rather surprising entry to our top ten states where you can spend cryptocurrency. Although the state has only one Bitcoin ATM, there are a whopping 110 establishments statewide that accept Bitcoin payments, 88 of which are restaurants. Nowhere else is it easier to order Chinese food and pay using Bitcoin.
New York comes in at seventh for availability of Bitcoin infrastructure, with a total of 23 ATMs statewide (20 of which are in New York City, plus Westchester and Nassau Counties, with the remaining three in the Capital Region). On this measure, New York trails only Georgia in absolute terms, while leading it in terms of the number of places where Bitcoin is accepted for payments. However, New York’s much larger population results in a lower ranking overall.
Eighth place Michigan would rank higher on our list if we were to go solely on its number of Bitcoin-enabled ATMs, with a total of 12 statewide. There are fewer establishments that accept Bitcoin payments on a per capita basis. On the other hand, there are few other states with multiple places where you can get cosmetic surgery and pay with cryptocurrency.
At first glance, Missouri would appear to be an unlikely candidate for our top ten. However, like neighboring Kansas, Bitcoin payments are relatively widely accepted for restaurants and other food purchases. The state has more Bitcoin ATMs than Kansas, with five available statewide to Kansas’ one, but relatively fewer places to use cryptocurrencies for purchases.
Finally, we have Oregon rounding out our top ten list. While the state has only one Bitcoin ATM at present, there are a substantial number of retail, food/grocery, and other establishments accepting Bitcoin payments. Not surprisingly, there are at least seven alternative medicine practitioners in Oregon accepting cryptocurrency payments.
Top Ten States
with Most Combined Interest and Infrastructure
- 1. New York
- 2. Nevada
- 3. Washington, D.C.
- 4. California
- 5. Colorado
- 6. Florida
- 7. Utah
- 8. New Hampshire
- 9. Washington
- 10. Michigan
To determine relative levels of interest in cryptocurrency, RewardExpert analyzed Google Trends search engine traffic data for five keywords: “cryptocurrency”, “bitcoin”, “ethereum”, “ripple”, and “litecoin”, over the 90 day period from January 15, 2018 to April 15, 2018 at the state level. We computed a weighted average of these terms for each state and ranked the states accordingly.
We used GIS data containing the locations of all known establishments that accept Bitcoin as a form of payment, as well as Bitcoin ATMs, to gauge the usability of cryptocurrencies for purchases and other transactions. As data for other currencies was difficult to come by, we used Bitcoin as a proxy for all currencies. We obtained a count of the total number of establishments and ATMs in each state and calculated the number per capita and ranked the states accordingly.
An overall rank was derived by averaging interest and infrastructure.
- Google Trends
- ESRI ArcGIS Open Data