As a digital currency, you’d think buying bitcoin would be easy. I was shocked by the process the first time I tried. I had to set up a bitcoin wallet, print paperwork, drive to a pharmacy and send a MoneyGram order to California. It took days before bitcoin showed up in my wallet.
Thankfully, things have gotten simpler over the years. If you want to buy bitcoin today (and I’m convinced bitcoin will hit $100,000 one day), you’ve got several options.
How to Buy Bitcoin: With Your Bank Account
The most common way to buy bitcoin is by opening an account with a crypto-fiat exchange.
These are exchanges that allow you to deposit currency (“fiat” means paper money) and convert it to bitcoin using their exchange. Now, because these exchanges are taking cash from you and holding it on your behalf, opening an account requires some due diligence by the exchange.
It’s a similar level of diligence that you would expect when opening a bank account or a brokerage account. Crypto-fiat exchanges need to conduct KYC (know-your-customer) and AML (anti-money laundering) checks on you for their internal compliance. (We can’t expect an exchange to allow an anonymous person to deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars into their exchange and buy bitcoin!)
Below is an example from the customer onboarding process of a crypto-fiat exchange called Gemini.
The steps required to buy bitcoin on Gemini
You’ll notice that as a security measure you first need to set up Two-Factor Authentication (or 2FA) using your mobile device. This requires you to download an app (they recommend Authy). Every time you log in to the site, you’ll first enter your username and password. Then, you’ll open the Authy app to get a randomly generated code. You’ll need to enter that code on the website. This ensures hackers can’t access your account without having access to your username, password AND mobile device.
After this, you’ll be asked to add your bank account details. And then you you’ll need to upload proof of identity and proof of address documents. The specifics of the document requirements will vary on where you live, but generally you should expect to provide a good-quality scan of your current valid passport or driver’s license and a proof of address like a utility bill.
HINT: Before you begin opening your account, make sure you have scanned copies of your identity document (passport/national ID or driver’s license), and recent address proof dated within the past three months (i.e., a utility bill) ready.
How to Buy Bitcoin: With a Credit Card
Many exchanges don’t let customers use credit cards to buy bitcoin. That’s because bitcoin transactions are nonrefundable. Credit card payments on the other hand can be disputed. If the dispute happens after an exchange has released its bitcoin to you, it has few options to get reimbursed.
Recently, though, the Malta-based exchange Binance.com gave customers the ability to buy bitcoin with a credit card through a partnership with crypto-payments company Simplex. There are some restrictions.
Simplex doesn’t work in all countries, and it’s unavailable in several U.S. states including Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, New Mexico, New York, and Washington.
If you’re in a permitted state, you’ll need to set up an account on Binance before you can place your credit card order. You’ll also have to pay a 3.5 percent fee, but your bitcoin should be available for trading within 30 minutes.
How to Buy Bitcoin: With Cash
Since 2012, the Finnish company Localbitcoins.com has been connecting bitcoin buyers and sellers in person and online. Like classified ads, users post how much bitcoin they want to buy, and the price they’re willing to pay. Sellers also post a selling price for bitcoin and how they’d like to execute the trade.
Prices and requirements to buy bitcoin vary widely, so make sure you’re comfortable with the terms each seller has listed.
Localbitcoins lists each seller’s successful transactions and ratings. Pay close attention to those stats. The more transactions a seller has performed and the higher his or her rating, the more confident you can be you’re not going to get scammed. Always make sure to meet sellers in a public place. And be sure your local jurisdiction doesn’t forbid private bitcoin sales.
Bitcoin may be in a bear market now, but everywhere I look I see signs of strength. If you’re thinking about buying bitcoin, there’s no better time than now. Bitcoin $100,000 could happen sooner than most investors think.