Investing in Bitcoin
Investing in Bitcoin can seem complicated, but it is much easier when you break it down into steps. You don’t have to understand computer programming to realize that banks, businesses, the bold, and the brash are cashing in on cryptocurrencies. This guide will help you to get started, but always remember that Bitcoin investing carries a high degree of speculative risk.
What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a collection of computers, or nodes, that all run Bitcoin’s code and store its blockchain. A blockchain can be thought of as a collection of blocks. In each block is a collection of transactions. Because all these computers running the blockchain have the same list of blocks and transactions and can transparently see these new blocks being filled with new Bitcoin transactions, no one can cheat the system.
Anyone, whether they run a Bitcoin “node” or not, can see these transactions occurring live. In order to achieve a nefarious act, a bad actor would need to operate 51% of the computing power that makes up Bitcoin. Bitcoin currently has over 10,000 nodes and this number is growing, making such an attack quite unlikely.
There are several things that every aspiring Bitcoin investor needs. A digital wallet, personal identification documents, a secure connection to the Internet, a method of payment, and an account at a cryptocurrency exchange are the usual requirements. Valid methods of payment using this path include bank accounts, debit cards, and credit cards. It is also possible to get bitcoin at specialized ATMs and via P2P exchanges. However, be aware that bitcoin ATMs were increasingly requiring government-issued IDs in early 2020.
Privacy and security are important issues for Bitcoin investors. Even though there are no physical Bitcoins, it is usually a bad idea to brag about large holdings. Anyone who gains the private key to a public address on the Bitcoin blockchain can authorize transactions. While it is obvious thata the private key should be kept secret, criminals may attempt to steal private keys if they elarn of large holdings.
Be aware that anyone you make a transaction with can see the balance in the public address that you useBe aware that anyone you make a transaction with can see the balance in the public address that you use. That makes it a good idea to keep significant investments at public addresses that are not directly connected to ones that are used for transactions.
When it comes to choosing a bitcoin wallet, you have options. However, the Louis Vuitton and Gucci of the cryptocurrency world right now are software and hardware wallets. Software wallets are mobile applications that connect with your traditional bank account. These wallets allow for quick and easy access to bitcoin, but the drawback is that they put your money in the hands of a third-party company.
Although the leading software wallets are trustworthy, popular third-party companies have collapsed, or been hacked, in the past.4 5 Much like you wouldn’t store thousands of dollars in your mattress, users with larger bitcoin holdings should consider storing their money more securely.
Coinbase is the most popular software wallet available in the United States. In part, that is because it has a website, a mobile application, and stores 98% of customer currencies offline for added security. For beginners, Coinbase is the best and easiest place to start because it is connected directly to a bitcoin exchange, which simplifies the buying and selling process.
Step Two: Connect a Bank Account
In order to purchase bitcoin, you need to connect your wallet to a bank account, debit card, or credit card. Although these payment methods all perform the same function—exchanging traditional currency for bitcoin—they each carry their own set of fees.
Transactions made using a bank account can take four to five days to process on Coinbase, but are generally recommended for first-time investors.6 By linking a bank account to your wallet, you can buy and sell bitcoin and deposit that money directly into your account. Bank accounts are generally recommended if you are dealing with larger sums of money. At the time of writing, bank accounts let users spend as much as $25,000 per week.
Debit and credit cards, on the other hand, allow you to buy bitcoin almost instantly. The drawback is that on Coinbase and other popular exchanges, debit cards can only be used to purchase crypto—and even then, only in smaller amounts. Users cannot sell bitcoin or deposit money into their bank account when their wallet is connected to a debit card.6
Step three: Join a bitcoin exchange
Bitcoin exchanges are online marketplaces where you can trade bitcoin for traditional currencies, say BTC for USD. Just like when you go to make a purchase online, you have options. There’s eBay, Amazon, Etsy, and Alibaba—to say nothing of the millions of private retailers who use these websites to sell their products. The same is true of buying bitcoin.
Even when two exchanges trade the same cryptocurrencies, they usually offer slightly different services. Exchanges can vary in reputation, reliability, security, processing fees, exchange rates, and cryptocurrencies available for trading. Before settling down with an exchange, look around. Here are our top recommendations for where to start
Step four: Place your order
You’re now ready to buy bitcoin for the first time. It is crucial to keep in mind that although one bitcoin costs several thousand dollars, bitcoin can be divided up to eight decimal points. The smallest unit of bitcoin is known as a satoshi. Even if the price of bitcoin skyrockets, you’ll still be able to buy a satoshi for a tiny fraction of a cent.