Bitcoin is bigger than ever these days, both in value and in popularity. What was once considered a nebulous niche occupied by hackers in dark basements is now almost mainstream, with network and media coverage, ATMs, financing options, and acceptance at online and in-person merchants. If you’ve decided that it’s time for you to buy Bitcoin and join the rest of the world in the cryptocurrency wave, read on to learn more about how to get started.
- International Bitcoin Exchanges
Bitcoin is a truly global currency as it is not tied to any government-run bank or reserve. As such, it only makes sense to buy Bitcoin through an international exchange. These exchanges are designed for world citizens and are set up with mobile apps and the ability to purchase with traditional government currency. Trading fees are on the low side overall, but some of these exchanges are a bit challenging to navigate for novices, as they also trade in other, sometimes lesser-known, cryptocurrencies.
Bitfinex is one of the most established international exchanges and supports US dollars, Euro, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan, British pounds, and other stable crypto coins. Kraken Exchange offers both spot trading and leveraged trading, and will work with US dollars, Euro, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Swiss francs, British pounds, Japanese yen, and other stable crypto coins. OKCoin accepts US dollars, Euro, Singapore dollars, and other stable crypto coins.
- Decentralized Exchanges
The decentralized exchanges are the most anonymous way to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. They are set up to allow private users to trade directly with each other; as such, they are not subject to the Know Your Customer identity verification legislation. Users do not share private keys with each other or with the exchange, so there is never any way for a third party to seize or freeze funds. These exchanges tend to be both complex and expensive, but sometimes your privacy is priceless.
Bisq is Bitcoin’s self-hosted, peer-to-peer exchange and it uses multi-signature wallets for trades. It does not have a website interface; users must download the software and run a node. Bisq supports a wide variety of payment options including Advanced Cash, AliPay, bank transfer, cash deposit, Chase QuickPay, Faster Payments, HalCash, in-person transactions, Interac e-Transfer, Japan Zengin Furikomi, MoneyBeam (N26), MoneyGram, Perfect Money, Popmoney, PromptPay, Revolut, SEPA/SEPA Instant, Swish, Uphold, US postal money order, WeChat Pay, Western Union, and Zelle.
Hodl Hodl is a global exchange also using multi-signature wallets to facilitate escrow trades directly between users. Forms of payment accepted include bank wires, SWIFT, PayPal, Zelle, credit cards, gift cards, and alternative cryptocurrencies.
- Bitcoin Financing
If you want to have your Bitcoin and use it too, you may want to look into BlockFi. This clever fintech lets you deposit your Bitcoin and then use it as a banking asset or collateral. Your deposit account will earn interest, up to 8.6% annual percentage yield. Once you’ve deposited Bitcoin with them, you can turn around and take out a loan in US dollars against that deposit. Users can borrow up to 50% of the value of their Bitcoin and loans are structured over a 12-month term.
This lets you hold your Bitcoin and watch it climb in price, but you also get to utilize the value of the Bitcoin through your loan funds. You can also apply for a rewards credit card that issues cash back in Bitcoin. BlockFi clients can also buy and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, including Ethereum, LiteCoin, PAX Gold, USD Coin, Tether, Gemini dollar, and Paxos, with no additional trading fees.
- Bitcoin ATMs
Bitcoin ATMs essentially operate the same way that an in-person exchange would. Users deposit cash into the ATM to buy Bitcoin, which is instantly transferred into the user’s secure digital wallet. At the time of this writing, there were 14,701 cryptocurrency ATMs in 71 countries. Bitcoin ATMs are made by Genesis Coin, Lamassu, General Bytes, BitAccess, Skyhook, and Robocoin, and they all operate slightly differently, so it’s really important to know exactly what you’re doing. Remember that cryptocurrency trades are anonymous, so if something goes wrong, your options are very limited.
About 40% of the currently operating Bitcoin ATMs also allow you to sell your Bitcoin this way. You’ll verify your identity and then send money to the network via QR code. Then, you can either withdraw cash immediately or you’ll have to wait for a code; this depends on the machine operator and the amount of the transaction.
- Peer-to-Peer Exchanges
There are some Bitcoin exchanges and networks that help facilitate direct trades between users. This, of course, removes much of the anonymity that many cryptocurrency users crave, but it can also help new users feel more comfortable with the concept. The exchanges are essentially a classified ad service where users can post requests to sell or buy Bitcoin. Users can choose which forms of payment they are willing to accept and what sort of markup or transfer fees, if any, they are looking for. The better P2P exchanges like Bitbuy utilize smart exchanges as a form of escrow and also allow users to rate each transaction.
Transactions can be done face-to-face or virtually, depending on what types of payment the seller is willing to accept; some sellers will accept alternative cryptocurrencies, retail gift cards, or other cash value equivalents.
Editors note: If you’re interested in buying cryptocurrency, but you haven’t heard of any of these exchanges, you can always go with a household name like Coinbase or BlockFi. In particular, Slickdeals has an excellent review of BlockFi. Check it out if you get a chance.