They say that Bitcoin is the future of money—but it’s already far more flexible than fiat money since you can send it anywhere in the world in minutes, with low transaction costs. Countless business are betting big on cryptocurrencies becoming the new cash. So where and how do you buy Bitcoin?
We’ve compiled a guide of the best ways to buy Bitcoin, including by using credit cards, PayPal and cash. Here’s a straight forward step-by-step guide. Let’s get cracking.
During the past year or so, several companies have made the buying process simpler. The most important thing though is choosing the right provider. Here are our top picks:
In cryptojargon, “coinbase” refers to the first transaction in a newly mined Bitcoin block (which is typically sent to the miner.) The exchange known as Coinbase wasn’t the first exchange, but it was the first to make it easy for unsophisticated consumers to buy crypto. Based in San Francisco, it was also the first licensed Bitcoin exchange in the U.S., meaning it was approved by federal regulators.
Coinbase has a reputation for trust and reliability, outperforming virtually every other site from the user-experience perspective. The simplest way to buy Bitcoin, Coindesk would be the site you’d refer your grandmother to, if she wanted to get started. Note however that simplicity has its price: Expect to pay high transaction fees of 4% for U.S. customers.
Coinbase supports 42 fiat currencies including USD, GBP and EUR.
Popular in Europe, Kraken launched in 2011, which makes it one of the older Bitcoin exchanges. (The name refers to a mythical Norse sea monster.) It was the first exchange to have its market displayed on the Bloomberg Terminal, which traders use to track the traditional markets. It’s worth noting it costs $5 to deposit your USD into Kraken, which makes it expensive for smaller amounts, but much more reasonable at higher amounts.
Kraken supports USD, EUR, JPY, GBP and CAD.
If anyone’s trying to take over the world, it’s Singapore-based Huobi. Having expanded to Australia, the Middle East, Africa, South Korea and Russia, it has recently rebranded its official U.S. partner under its brand name—as it was previously called HBUS—to help expand its reach into the U.S..
But is it safe? Near-term history would say yes: unlike many crypto exchanges, Huobi hasn’t suffered a hack in its five years of operation, according to General Manager Josh Goodbody. It even supports 400 trading pairs—pairings of coins that you can immediately trade against each other, such as BTC:XRP. That puts it high on our list for where to buy bitcoin.
Huobi supports USD.
Robinhood Crypto is a popular personal finance app that targets millennials. So far, it’s only available in the U.S. It features funky graphics, rather than the usual minimalistic trading interface, and even better, it’s mostly free to use. (Aside from from these “hidden costs.”) You should know that no-transaction fees are paid, reportedly, as the exchange sells your data instead.
While it’s cheap to buy Bitcoin—you can’t do anything with it, such as take it off the exchange to put it in your own wallet and use it to buy things. So, if you’re looking to do a bit of light trading, this might be for you but if you want to start spending your Bitcoin, you’ll need another service.
Robinhood Crypto supports USD.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey co-founded Square nine years ago and the Square Cash app has long been Bitcoin accessible. Power-beginner tip: Square is actually one of the cheapest ways to buy Bitcoin, since there are no fixed fees. It makes money by adding a 1.1 percent fee (known as the spread) to the exchange rate when you buy it. But again, you can’t transfer your Bitcoin outside of the app.
Square Cash supports USD.
Similar to Monzo, Revolut offers virtual and physical debit cards controlled by an app on your phone. But recently it started offering the ability to buy cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin. (Note that you cannot send crypto outside the app.) One good use for it: round up your spare change and automatically exchange it into Bitcoin.
Revolut supports GBP and EUR.
You’ve decided to take the plunge and have settled on your provider of choice. Now, it’s time to take you through the simple process of actually buying Bitcoin. Obviously, the specifics change based on the provider, but here are the general steps:
Sign up to the service you want to use. This is a simple matter of entering in your personal details to create an account. Once you’ve signed up, log in and head to “account details.” Here you want to enter your bank account details to set the system up with your preferred method of payment. Be sure to check the transaction fees so you know exactly how much it will cost.
KYC, which stands for “know your customer,” is practiced by legitimate exchanges to appease regulatory and law enforcement agencies that are trying to thwart money laundering and the financing of terrorism, among other things. Typically, you’ll be asked to upload a copy of your drivers licence, or passport, and a photo of you. Sometimes, the app will ask you to write your name and today’s date on a piece of paper, within a selfie (to ensure that the photograph is recent.) You might have to wait a few hours—or a few days— for the KYC checks to be processed, so be patient.
Time to get rid of that fiat faster than a banker can say, “quantitative easing.” Simply choose how much you want to purchase. The amount will come up in both regular old fiat, and Bitcoin, which will look something like 0.00043253 (depending on how much you want to buy.) That represents how much of a Bitcoin you’re buying—unlike fiat, you can buy crypto in tiny increments, almost as if you were buying meat at the butcher’s. Double check the amount and transaction fees, which will be listed, and if all looks good, click buy.
Hurrah. Clever you. You’ve just entered the digital currency world. There are thousands of ways to spend your shiny, new Bitcoin. To find out where, check out our handy guide, coming soon.
Knowing how to buy Bitcoin with credit card is tricky since so few sites support it, and even then, the ability to do so often comes with higher fees. But credit cards provide more protection online than debit cards, and that’s useful when there are so many scams kicking around. Of the exchanges listed in Section One, only Coinbase lets you pay with a credit card. Here are several other places where you can also do so.
Binance is the world’s most popular crypto exchange by trading volume, but it has always missed out on one feature: you couldn’t buy Bitcoin with fiat money. Instead you had to buy from Coinbase and send it to Binance. But, now Binance has partnered with Israeli-based Simplex so its customers can buy Bitcoin with credit card. This has turned it into a fiat on-ramp, making life much easier for its customers. And funds are safu too.
Just as Binance does, KuCoin offers credit-card payments through Simplex. This means users pay with USD or EUR in more than 100 countries. The crypto exchange lists hundreds of altcoins including Grin, Tron and Zilliqa and has a whopping 383 trading pairs between different coins. It uses the stablecoin USDT (a cryptocurrency designed to mimic the U.S. Dollar) instead of USD when trading.
Another convenient way to buy Bitcoin with credit card—but be careful. The fees are high with Coinmama. When you purchase Bitcoin, there’s a 5.9 percent fee. In addition, when you use a credit card to buy Bitcoin, the card providers charge a further five percent. The website does support both USD and EUR, and you can buy a handful of altcoins including ETH and XRP.
Owned by Bitcoin Cash proponent Roger Ver, Bitcoin.com has a tendency to refer to Bitcoin Cash as “Bitcoin.” So be careful. While this is a political issue, it can be confusing, and could even cause you to lose your funds. Never send Bitcoin to a Bitcoin Cash address—or you could lose it. That said, when you buy Bitcoin with credit card on the site, it clearly identifies the two, different coins, and offers a straightforward way for you to do so, too. But it is expensive: fees are 7.5 percent, much higher than using a debit card.
One of the easiest ways to swap one coin for another, ShapeShift was created in 2013 by libertarian Erik Voorhees. It has recently (under pressure from U.S. regulators) added KYC protocols in line with other exchanges, and now requires you to have an account, to use it. It also allows you to buy Bitcoin with credit card. If you really want to buy a load of altcoins in one go, make sure to use its “one-to-many” service—when it launches.
There are several disadvantages to buying Bitcoin via credit card. It is not a good idea to spend money that you don’t own, especially on a volatile asset. Card providers are aware of this and charge additional fees—some of which aren’t always obvious when you make the payment. It’s much cheaper to use a debit card. This means credit card may not be the best option for you, but if you want the added protection then you must be willing to pay for it.
Bitcoin isn’t quite as anonymous as it has been made out to be. But there’s nothing quite as anonymous as cash, and if you don’t want anyone to know that you own your newly bought Bitcoin, then it’s the best way to go. Here are some ways to do so:
Now, it’s possible that some of you reading this don’t have a bank account. But if you live in Hong Kong, you can deposit physical cash at Bitspark’s headquarters, and receive Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in your account, via its app. The company launched in 2014 to provide remittance services to Hong Kong’s Filipino community.
LiberalCoins enables you to buy Bitcoin from other people and is aimed at those who love privacy coins, which are cryptocurrencies that make it hard (or impossible) for observers to see payments. You can trade Bitcoin for Dash, Monero and Zcash, all of which have strong settings for keeping your transactions private. And why should you let everyone see into your bank account anyway? It’s not just for drug dealers and thieves—you might have legal obligations to keep your accounts private, or you simply don’t want everyone to see the crazy items on the below list that you’re buying. There is also no KYC required—for now—although exchanges are under increasing pressure to add it.
LiberalCoins supports USD and GBP.
There are more than 4,000 Bitcoin ATMs across the world. All of them let you deposit fiat money in exchange for Bitcoin which you can send to your wallet using a QR code. You can see a map of many of them here. Some Bitcoin ATMs even accept debit cards in case you don’t have any cash to hand. But watch out, they are known to charge up to 10 percent on transactions.
PayPal is a very convenient way of making online payments so it would make sense to use it to buy Bitcoin. However, very few sites actually support this as a feature. Here are some sites that do:
Best known for its cryptocurrency debit card, Wirex also features a virtual wallet where you can store your coins. Once you’ve signed up for an account and gone through the KYC processes, simply fund your account using PayPal, same as you would for any other purchase. After your fiat money is in the account, exchange it for Bitcoin.
Wirex accepts USD, EUR, and more.
Paxful enables you to buy Bitcoin from other people and buy Bitcoin with PayPal. The website sets you up with potential sellers and provides an escrow account for the payment. It also lets you chat with the seller. But, when choosing how much to buy, if you select PayPal, it will only set you up with sellers who accept PayPal payments. Be sure to check the Bitcoin price, it can be steep.
Paxful accepts USD, EUR and more.
LocalBitcoins also lets you buy Bitcoin from other people. By using the app, you can organize trades that happen in person or through escrow accounts online. When done online you can buy Bitcoin with PayPal. You can do so in 16,600 cities in 248 countries using the app—which makes it essential for those in China and other countries where Bitcoin is frowned upon. The good thing is that buyers and sellers receive ratings—like on Uber—which helps to keep you safe. There are no fees for buyers but check the price, it will usually be a few percent above the market price, so the seller makes money. You can also make payments in cash.
LocalBitcoins supports USD, EUR and more.
Ironically, this is an exchange for buying and selling coins—not just HODLing them. A HODL exchange would be, well, pointless. But we digress. The key thing about HODL HODL is that you don’t need to go through know-your-customer (KYC) checks which require providing your personal details, such as your passport or driving licence. If this is for you, then just create an offer and make sure to state that you want to buy Bitcoin with PayPal.
We believe that it should be really easy to buy Bitcoin. With that in mind, PayPal is a great option but not enough places have integrated with it. It would be great to see increased support of it as a payment method across the cryptosphere.
Buying Bitcoin is easy. Knowing where to buy Bitcoin is harder. This guide was designed to help you make that choice. If you want to know where you can spend Bitcoin, check out our next guide:
The best of Decrypt fired straight to your inbox.
Get the top commentary on the news that matters delivered to your inbox
An oh so clever take on the day’s 3 top stories.
You friend, if you want to know what’s what.
Each morning with your ☕.
Because a young writer's career is on the line.