We have broken down the steps to buy bitcoin below. Remember that you still need to perform your research and select the best option for yourself based on your circumstances.
Step One: Choose a Crypto Trading Service or Venue
The first step in buying bitcoin consists of choosing a crypto trading service or venue. Popular trading services and venues for purchasing cryptocurrencies are cryptocurrency exchanges, payment services, and brokerages. Out of these, cryptocurrency exchanges are the most convenient option since they offer a breadth of features and more cryptocurrencies for trading as compared to other places.
Signing up for a cryptocurrency exchange will enable you to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency. It is generally best practice to use an exchange that allows its users to withdraw crypto to their own personal online wallet for safekeeping. For those looking to trade Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, this feature may not matter.
There are many types of cryptocurrency exchanges. Because the Bitcoin ethos is about decentralization and individual sovereignty, some exchanges allow users to remain anonymous and do not require users to enter personal information. Such exchanges operate autonomously and are typically decentralized, which means they do not have a central point of control.
Although such systems can be used for nefarious activities, they are also used to provide services to the world’s unbanked population. For certain categories of people—refugees or those living in countries with little to no infrastructure for government credit or banking—anonymous exchanges can help bring them into the mainstream economy.
Right now, however, most popular exchanges are not decentralized and follow laws that require users to submit identifying documentation. In the United States, these exchanges include Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, FTX.US, and Binance.US, to name a few. These exchanges have grown significantly in the number of features they offer.
The crypto universe has grown rapidly in the past decades, with many new tokens competing for investor dollars. With the exception of Bitcoin and certain prominent coins, such as Ethereum, not all of these tokens are available at all exchanges. Each exchange has its own set of criteria to determine whether to include or exclude trading of certain tokens.
Coinbase, Kraken, and Gemini offer Bitcoin and a growing number of altcoins. These three are probably the easiest on-ramps to crypto in the entire industry. Binance caters to a more advanced trader, offering more serious trading functionality and a better variety of altcoin choices. FTX, a fast-growing crypto exchange that has garnered a multi-billion-dollar valuation, offers a restricted number of altcoins to US investors.2 However, traders outside the US have a greater choice of tokens on its platform.
An important thing to note when creating a cryptocurrency exchange account is to use safe internet practices. This includes using two-factor authentication and a password that is unique and long, including a variety of lowercase letters, capitalized letters, special characters, and numbers.
Step Two: Connect Your Exchange to a Payment Option
After you have chosen an exchange, you will need to gather your personal documents. Depending on the exchange, these may include pictures of a driver’s license or Social Security number, as well as information about your employer and source of funds. The information you may need can depend on the region you live in and the laws within it. The process is largely the same as setting up a typical brokerage account.
After the exchange has verified your identity, you will be asked to connect a payment option. At most exchanges, you can connect your bank account directly or you can connect a debit or credit card. Although you can use a credit card to purchase cryptocurrency, it is not a good idea because cryptocurrency price volatility could inflate the overall cost of purchasing a coin.
Bitcoin is legal in the United States, but some banks may question or even stop deposits to crypto-related sites or exchanges. It is a good idea to check to make sure that your bank allows deposits at your chosen exchange.
There are varying fees for deposits via a bank account, debit, or credit card. Coinbase is a solid exchange for beginners and has a 1.49% fee for bank accounts, with a 3.99% fee for debit and credit cards. It is important to research the fees associated with each payment option to help choose an exchange or to choose which payment option works best for you.
Exchanges also charge fees per transaction. This fee can either be a flat fee (if the trading amount is low) or a percentage of the trading amount. Credit cards incur a processing fee in addition to the transaction fees.
Step Three: Place an Order
You can buy bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) after choosing an exchange and connecting a payment option. In recent years, cryptocurrency exchanges have slowly become more mainstream. They have grown significantly in terms of liquidity and their breadth of features. The operational changes at cryptocurrency exchanges parallel the change in perception for cryptocurrencies. An industry that was once thought of as a scam or one with questionable practices is slowly morphing into a legitimate one that has drawn interest from all the big players in the financial services industry.
Now, cryptocurrency exchanges have gotten to a point where they have nearly the same level of features as their stock brokerage counterparts. Crypto exchanges today offer a number of order types and ways to invest. Almost all crypto exchanges offer both market and limit orders, and some also offer stop-loss orders. Of the exchanges mentioned above, Kraken offers the most order types. Kraken allows for market, limit, stop-loss, stop-limit, take-profit, and take-profit limit orders.3
Aside from a variety of order types, exchanges also offer ways to set up recurring investments, allowing clients to dollar-cost average into their investments of choice. Coinbase, for example, lets users set recurring purchases for every day, week, or month.4
Step Four: Safe Storage
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallets are a place to store digital assets more securely. Having your crypto outside of the exchange and in your personal wallet ensures that only you have control over the private key to your funds. It also gives you the ability to store funds away from an exchange and avoid the risk of your exchange getting hacked and losing your funds.
Although most exchanges offer wallets for their users, security is not their primary business. We generally do not recommend using an exchange wallet for large or long-term cryptocurrency holdings.
Some wallets have more features than others. Some are Bitcoin only, and some offer the ability to store numerous types of altcoins. Some wallets also offer the ability to swap one token for another.
When it comes to choosing a Bitcoin wallet, you have a number of options. The first thing you will need to understand about crypto wallets is the concept of hot wallets (online wallets) and cold wallets (paper or hardware wallets).