Many people may be interested in buying bitcoins or cryptocurrency, but unsure of where to start. They have bank accounts and Visa or MasterCard, and they want to buy bitcoins with their dollars. Fortunately, getting started is easy; all a person needs is a bitcoin wallet and a cryptocurrency exchange or a bitcoin wallet and a cryptocurrency ATM. A bitcoin wallet is needed to store bitcoins. Many cryptocurrency exchanges also offer wallet features. Cryptocurrency exchanges are platforms where people buy and sell bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies, also known as altcoins, with dollars or other national currencies. Cryptocurrency exchanges are also used to trade one cryptocurrency for another. Cryptocurrency ATM’s allow people to buy and sell cryptocurrency with an experience similar to a traditional ATM. It is worth noting that many authors use the terms “bitcoin” and “cryptocurrency” interchangeable.
Where to Buy Bitcoin Online
Similar to stock exchanges or many other similar exchanges, cryptocurrency exchanges facilitate the trading of assets. Where stock exchanges offer shares of different companies, cryptocurrency exchanges offer different cryptocurrencies. Just as there are many different stock exchanges, there are many different cryptocurrency exchanges; however, unlike most stock exchanges, cryptocurrency exchanges are not regulated by governments. Exchanges covered in this article have all been in operation for at least five years and accept payments via bank account and routing numbers. Some exchanges may accept payments via credit or debit cards. In other words, these exchanges allow people to buy bitcoin with dollars and/or other national currencies.
First on this list of cryptocurrency exchanges is Kraken. It is listed first because it is the oldest exchange covered in this article. From their website: “Founded in 2011, San Francisco-based Kraken is the largest Bitcoin exchange in euro volume and liquidity and also trading Canadian dollars, US dollars, British pounds and Japanese yen.” In addition to Bitcoin, Kraken offers trading of Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Monero, Dash, Litecoin, Ripple, Stellar/Lumens, Ethereum Classic, Augur REP tokens, ICONOMI, Melon, Zcash, Dogecoin, Tether, Gnosis, and EOS. Kraken is available to users right from their web browser. They also have an iOS app, but it is not available in the United States.
About one year after Kraken was established, the number of people buying Bitcoin created demand for additional trading services. Enter Hong Kong-based Bitfinex. “Founded in 2012, Bitfinex was one of the first professional platforms set up to accommodate for the booming interest in cryptocurrency trading.” Bitfinex enables customers to buy Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum.
On August 2nd, 2016, Bitfinex announced a “Security Breach” and the suspension of its exchange services via its company blog. Four days later on August 6th, 2016, Bitfinex acknowledged an August 2nd “theft” of and that the company would be distributing losses across all accounts and assets at a generalized loss percentage of 36.067%. On August 10th, 2016, Bitfinex announced the return of many exchange services. The company responded to the outage by releasing their own cryptocurrency, BFX.
“We are actively discussing various strategic options with numerous potential investors as part of our strategy to fully compensate our customers. Such discussions, however, are in early stages and will likely take time to play out. In the meantime, In place of the loss in each wallet, we are crediting a token labeled BFX to record each customer’s discrete losses. Tokens will be distributed without release or waiver. The BFX tokens will remain outstanding until redeemed in full by Bitfinex or possibly exchanged—upon the creditor’s request and Bitfinex’s acceptance—for shares of iFinex Inc. We are still sorting out many details on this; we will post further updates in the coming days.”
Bitfinex has since continued to operate without a similar breach. Their platform can be used to buy Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum via a web browser or iOS or Android mobile app.
Bitcoin prices plummeted after the Bitfinex hack. Around this time, Coinbase came into the exchange scene. Coinbase is a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange that takes additional precautions to protect their assets. “Founded in June of 2012, Coinbase is a digital currency wallet and platform where merchants and consumers can transact with new digital currencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin.” Coinbase provides its customers with additional security by storing 98% of customer funds offline. This practically eliminates the risk of a hack similar to what was experienced with Bitfinex. As an additional precaution, the digital currency (cryptocurrency) that coinbase does hold online is insured.
“Coinbase prioritizes the security of our customer’s funds, all-digital currency that Coinbase holds online is insured. If Coinbase were to suffer a breach of its online storage, the insurance policy would pay out to cover any customer funds lost as a result. Coinbase holds less than 2% of customer funds online. The rest is held in offline storage.
Please note that the insurance policy covers any losses resulting from a breach of Coinbase’s physical security, cyber security, or by employee theft. This insurance policy does not cover any losses resulting from the compromise of your individual Coinbase account. It is your responsibility to use a strong password and maintain control of all login credentials you use to access Coinbase.”
In addition to bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin, Coinbase offers customers the ability to buy bitcoin cash. Their services are offered via a web interface or app available for iOS and Android.
With several established exchanges based in the United States, people began to operate internationally-based cryptocurrency exchanges. CEX.IO is a UK-based cryptocurrency exchange with an extensive international presence. “Established in 2013 as the first cloud mining provider, CEX.IO has become a multi-functional cryptocurrency exchange, trusted by over a million users.” CEX.IO is a leader in international currency exchanges. They are available in over 99% of countries and twenty-four US states, according to their website. Security features include DDoS protection and compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). CEX.IO offers a mobile app for both iOS and Android in addition to its web app.
Bisq (formerly Bitsquare)
With an initial alpha release in 2014, Bisq, formerly known as Bitsquare, is the only decentralized bitcoin exchange on this list. The decentralized structure of this platform increases user privacy. “Bisq is for those who do not want to forfeit control or privacy to a central authority in order to trade with other individuals. We regard financial transactions as a form of private speech that should be protected from surveillance by banks, governments, and other institutions.” In other words, Bisq provides additional privacy compared to other bitcoin exchanges. Their app is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Where to Buy Bitcoin with Cash
In addition to buying Bitcoin with dollars online, people can exchange dollars for Bitcoins at many physical locations throughout the United States and the world. In order to buy Bitcoin with US dollars outside of the United States, people will likely have to convert their dollars into their local currency and then use that local currency to buy Bitcoin. While there are other options to buy cryptocurrencies with cash, the two most popular are cryptocurrency ATM’s and participating local stores.
Cryptocurrency ATM’s allow people to trade paper national currency for cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be bought with dollars this way. One must simply convert their dollars to whichever national currency is accepted at a given ATM, and then follow the instructions at the machine. Cryptocurrency ATM’s are available throughout the world. One service that helps people find cryptocurrency ATM’s is Coin ATM Radar. They offer a map of over 3,400 Bitcoin ATM’s around the world. Those looking for ATM’s can filter machines by buy-only, sell-only, or buy/sell; machines can also be filtered based on which cryptocurrencies can be traded there. Filters are available for Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ether, Dash, Litecoin, Zcash, Monero, and Dogecoin. The map is available via their website, and people can find cryptocurrency ATM’s on-the-go with mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Many local stores will allow customers to buy bitcoins with dollars in-store. One way for local stores to offer bitcoin buying service is through LibertyX. Stores partner with LibertyX to sell bitcoins at their brick-and-mortar locations. Buyers pay cash to store clerks, and in exchange, the store gives the buyer cryptocurrency. A map of participating locations is available via the web and via apps on iOS and Android. LibertyX is currently available only in the United States.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency are no longer a new game. A variety of established, reputable online and local businesses and organizations work together to provide people with places where they can buy bitcoin with dollars.
DISCLAIMER: None of the above should be construed as or interpreted to be financial advice.