Key Takeaways

  • The value of Bitcoin is derived from its adoption as a store of value and payment system, as well as its finite supply and decreasing inflation.
  • While it is nearly impossible for Bitcoin itself to be hacked, it is possible for your wallet or exchange account to be compromised. This is why practicing proper storage and security measures is imperative.
  • Investing or trading Bitcoin only requires an account on an exchange, though further safe storage practices are recommended.

Before You Buy Bitcoin

There are several things that every aspiring Bitcoin investor needs. A cryptocurrency exchange account, personal identification documents if you are using a Know Your Customer (KYC) platform, a secure connection to the Internet, and a method of payment. It is also recommended that you have your own personal wallet outside of the exchange account. 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 as of 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. Private keys should be kept secret; criminals may attempt to steal them if they learn of large holdings. Be aware that anyone can see the balance of a 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.

Anyone can view a history of transactions made on the blockchain, even you. But while transactions are publicly recorded on the blockchain, identifying user information is not. On the Bitcoin blockchain, only a user’s public key appears next to a transaction—making transactions confidential but not anonymous. In a sense, Bitcoin transactions are more transparent and traceable than cash, but the cryptocurrency can also be used anonymously.

That is an important distinction. International researchers and the FBI have claimed that they can track transactions made on the Bitcoin blockchain to users’ other online accounts, including their digital wallets. For example, if someone creates an account on Coinbase they must provide their identification . Now, when that person purchases Bitcoin it is tied to their name. If they send it to another wallet it can still be traced back to the Coinbase purchase which was connected to the account holder’s identity. This should not concern most investors because Bitcoin is legal in the U.S. and most other developed countries. .

Step One: Choose an Exchange

Signing up for a cryptocurrency exchange will allow you to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency. It is generally best practice to use an exchange that allows its users to also withdrawal their crypto to their own personal online wallet for safer keeping. 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, typically, are decentralized which means they do not have a central point of control.

While such systems can be used for nefarious activities, they are also used to provide services for 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, the most popular exchanges not decentralized and do require KYC. In the United States, these exchanges include Coinbase, Kraken, Gemini, and Binance U.S., to name a few. Each of these exchanges has grown significantly in the number of features they offer.

Coinbase, Kraken, and Gemini offer Bitcoin and a growing number of altcoins. These three are probably the easiest on-ramp to crypto in the entire industry. Binance caters to a more advanced trader, offering more serious trading functionality and a better variety of altcoins to choose from.

An important thing to note when creating a cryptocurrency exchange account is to use safe internet practices. This includes using two-factor authentication and using a password that is unique and long, including a variety of lowercase letters, capitalized letters, special characters, and numbers.

El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender on June 9, 2021.1 It is the first country to do so. The cryptocurrency can be used for any transaction where the business can accept it. The U.S. dollar continues to be El Salvador’s primary currency.