How to buy Bitcoin

Confused by cryptocurrency? Here's how to buy Bitcoin for the first time

Bitcoin is in the news today more than ever. Thanks to skyrocketing prices and rollercoaster dips, everyone and their dog are interested in learning how to buy and sell Bitcoin. As the most popular form of cryptocurrency (and the blockchain technology that powers it) Bitcoin is now widely accepted around the world and has a growing number of applications. But before you can get into any of that, you need to first know where to go to purchase and store it.

There are a few steps you need to take to make your first purchase, but if you’re ready and willing to follow along, we’ll teach you how to buy Bitcoin in no time.

Quick tips

Although each step does take some consideration, these are the main points you need to think over when it comes to making your first Bitcoin purchase:

  1. Install an offline Bitcoin wallet and set up a strong password to protect it.
  2. Set up an account on Coinbase (and its trading platform, Coinbase Pro, if you want additional control).
  3. Choose your preferred payment method.
  4. Buy some Bitcoin!

Step 1: Find a good Bitcoin wallet

How to buy bitcoin: Mycellium

Digital “wallets” are used to store Bitcoin until you are ready to spend them or exchange them for another currency. Wallets range in terms of features, platforms they can be used on, and security, so it’s important to choose one that works for you — probably not the one evangelized by John McAfee.

To get you started, your best bet is to use the wallet that’s automatically provided to you on our recommended exchange, Coinbase. However, it’s also a good idea to set up a wallet that’s not linked to an exchange as that way if the exchange ever goes down or becomes rammed with traffic, you still have ready access to your Bitcoin.

Here are our recommended options:

Exodus An all-in-one offline application with support for a number of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Exodus is free to use, has built-in shape-shift trading and some simple graphing tools to help you visualize your cryptocurrency portfolio.

Mycelium is a popular mobile wallet known for being compatible with more advanced tech, like Trezor hardware wallets (for maximum security) and Tor.

For a look at a few other of our favorite wallets, here’s a more in-depth guide to the best Bitcoin wallets.

Note: Although an online wallet is fine for your first Bitcoin purchase, if you find yourself with a lot of valuable cryptocurrency because of trading or an upswing in value, make sure to store it in an offline “cold storage” wallet for maximum protection.

Step 2: Choose the right Bitcoin trader

how to buy bitcoin coinbasehome

The best place to make your first Bitcoin purchase is on an exchange. There are a whole lot of exchanges out there, with varying performance. Some are less trustworthy than others and some can be quite limited, so it’s important to pick the right exchange to start with. We recommend using Coinbase, though there’s no harm in checking out the competition using a Bitcoin exchange comparison site.

Signing up for a Coinbase account is easy, though you will need to provide some form of identification. That may involve sending a copy of your photo ID and potentially also sending a live image of your face using a webcam. These rules are important to follow as they allow the site(s) to comply with ‘know-your-customer’ regulations.

Although Coinbase alone will allow you to buy and sell Bitcoin, it’s also worth signing up to its linked exchange platform, Coinbase Pro, which will give you greater control over your purchases.

If you would rather take a more direct route in buying Bitcoin, you can opt to use a peer to peer service such as LocalBitcoin or BitQuick. They offer a wider array of payment options and let you purchase Bitcoin directly from a seller without the exchange middleman. If you do opt to use these and plan to trade in person, make sure to meet in safe place.

Step 3: Select your payment method

How to buy bitcoin: Buying on Coinbase

Exchanges accept a variety of payment options based on what they are willing to use. This is sort of a sore point for many exchanges, since some payment methods have been used to scam sellers for a quick buck in the past. Coinbase allows both bank account and credit or debit card transfers for payments and one payment solution must be linked to your account before you can make the trade. Paypal is not supported by Coinbase and with good reason.

Note: Bitcoin ATMs allow you to exchange Bitcoin in compatible wallets for cash. These ATMs are available in a limited number of cities, but do provide an alternative to withdrawing money using an exchange. Again, most exchanges and online wallets will not deal directly with cash.

Step 4: Buy some Bitcoin and store them in your wallet

How to buy bitcoin

Exchanges provide you with information on how many (or how much of a) Bitcoin you can buy for specific sums of money. However, due to its volatile nature, Bitcoin prices can vary dramatically by exchange and from moment to moment.  That means that even if you have a lot of money to burn, you’ll probably be buying a fraction of a Bitcoin. There’s nothing wrong with that and for most people is the route they’ll go down as few but the wealthy can afford more than that.

To make your first trade, input the amount of Bitcoin you want to buy in the provided field and click the buy button. On Coinbase or Coinbase Pro, this will be a basic “market” buy order, which will purchase Bitcoin at the best market rate. Alternatively, you can place a “limit” order, which lets you set a price you’re willing to pay for a certain amount and a trade will only happen if that amount shows up at that price.

Once you’ve made your purchase, your new Bitcoin will be stored in your Coinbase wallet. You should then seek out the option to transfer these funds to the address of the Bitcoin wallet you have created that’s off the exchange. You will have to pay a small fee to do so, but that is part and parcel of Bitcoin transfers. Fortunately, the fees for such trades are far from their peak.

Important note: Bitcoin transfers can be a bit sporadic. Unlike other currency trades, when you buy Bitcoin funds. the transaction needs to be recorded in the blockchain and affirmed. This can take time, especially during busy trading hours. It’s not uncommon for a trade to take an hour or two to complete, so you may not want to immediately leap over to your account and start moving funds around.

Step 5: Get ready to use it

Bitcoin

Whether you plan to ultimately sell your Bitcoin (hopefully at a profit) or use it to purchase something, be ready to do so at a moment’s notice. The way Bitcoin value fluctuates it’s important to have your end-game planned out early on. Be prepared by setting up a seller account now, or figure out how to buy what you want with it before you actually plan to. That way when the time comes, you’ll not have a panicked rush while everyone else is trying to do the same.

For a look at where you can spend your Bitcoin, here’s a list of compatible online stores. Always read reviews and fine print before making any purchase or exchange with your Bitcoin.

Computing

AMD says it duped Nvidia with a price fakeout, escalating a two-front chip war

According to a recent interview with Scott Herkelman of AMD's Radeon Business Unit, AMD successfully convinced Nvidia they would launch their new GPUs at a higher price than they did, sabotaging Nvidias RTX Super launch.
Smart Home

Did you just get a brand-new Amazon Echo? Here's how to set it up

This hands-free, voice-controlled device can do so much. Here's how to set up your Amazon Echo, how to customize settings to get the experience you want, and how to set up more in-depth commands like smart device control.
News

All of these services let you own your content, so you’ll never lose it

With the closure of Microsoft's ebook store, consumers have begun to wonder exactly how much of their digital media they actually own, and how much is licensed. For the average person, the news isn't great.
Photography

Get your photos off your phone and on your PC with these tips

If you haven't already, you should back up your photos to a computer. Here's how to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC using third-party services and a wealth of storage devices.
Computing

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.
Computing

Will the Surface Pro 7 ditch Intel chips for Qualcomm’s 5G support?

Microsoft might announce a new Surface Pro 7 towards the end of this year and according to new rumors, it might do with a new chip under the hood. Not an Intel chip though, but one from AMD, or even Qualcomm.
Computing

Amazon Prime Day discounts makes upgrading to RTX graphics even more affordable

Looking to upgrade your graphics card? Today may be the day to do it, thanks to Amazon's Prime Day shopping event. Amazon is offering Prime members steep discounts off of GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, or RTX 2070 graphics.
Computing

You can get a 2018 MacBook Air for just $999 with this latest deal from B&H

Other retailers like B&H are offering their own sweet laptop deals during Prime Day 2019. In fact, you can score a 13-inch 2018 MacBook Air with a Retina display at a $100 discount from B&H right now.
Computing

Upgrade your gaming rig with our favorite graphics cards for every budget

If you're serious about games, a good graphics card is essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all option for graphics cards, but our recommendations can help you pick from the best graphics cards for your needs.
Computing

AMD or Intel? We take a look at the pros and cons of both processors

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Deals

The best mouse deals for Prime Day 2019: Razer, Logitech, and more

This year's big shopping event, Amazon Prime Day, offers some fantastic discounts on mice. We've scoured this year's sales and made picks for what we think are the best mice you can buy on Prime Day.
Computing

Keep your portable computer safe and shiny with the best laptop bags for 2019

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.
Computing

Amazon Prime Day deal slashes $200 off of this MacBook Pro

Amazon’s Prime Day deals have extended to Apple’s MacBook Pro, with deep discounts galore. You can save $200 on a 2018 MacBook Pro, making it a superb bargain if you’re in the market for a MacBook.
Deals

Walmart Prime Day sale: 4K TV, Apple Watch, and Nintendo Switch Deals

The Walmart Prime Day sale continues to go strong as the first day of Amazon's 48-hour deals event comes to a close. There are loads of great Apple Watch, Nintendo Switch, and 4K TV deals going on right now.