There are several things that aspiring Bitcoin investors need: 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.
- 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.
- Although 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 are imperative.
- You can also purchase bitcoin through mainstream services such as PayPal and Robinhood.
- One way to own bitcoin indirectly is by investing in companies that have bitcoin on their balance sheets.
Before You Buy Bitcoin
Privacy and security are important issues for Bitcoin investors. Anyone who gains the private key to a public address on the Bitcoin blockchain can authorize transactions.1 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 you use. The flip side to this public information is that an individual can create multiple public addresses for themselves. Thus, they can distribute their stash of Bitcoin over many addresses. A good strategy is to keep significant investments at public addresses that are not directly connected to ones that are used in transactions.
Anyone can view a history of transactions made on the blockchain—even you. Although 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 that sense, Bitcoin transactions are more transparent and traceable than cash because all of them are available for public view, unlike private cash transactions. But Bitcoin transactions also have an element of anonymity built into their design. It is very difficult to trace the transacting parties—i.e., the sender and recipient of the bitcoin—on the cryptocurrency’s blockchain.
International researchers and the FBI have claimed they can track transactions made on the Bitcoin blockchain to users’ other online accounts, including their digital wallets.2 For example, if someone creates an account on Binance, they must provide their identification.3 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 Binance purchase that is 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.
Be sure to check out the legal, regulatory, and tax status of purchasing and selling bitcoin where you live before transacting.
We have broken down the steps to buying bitcoin below. Remember that you still need to do your research and select the best option for yourself based on your circumstances.
Step 1: Choose a crypto trading service or venue
The first step in buying bitcoin consists of choosing a crypto trading service or venue. Popular trading services and venues for purchasing cryptocurrencies include cryptocurrency exchanges, payment services, and brokerages. Out of these, cryptocurrency exchanges are the most convenient option because they offer a breadth of features and more cryptocurrencies for trading.
Signing up for a cryptocurrency exchange will enable you to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrency. It is generally best practice to use an exchange that allows its users to withdraw crypto to their own personal online wallet for safekeeping. For those looking to trade Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, this feature may not matter.
There are many types of cryptocurrency exchanges (this the Best one). 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 are typically decentralized, which means they do not have a central point of control.
Although such systems can serve nefarious purposes, they can also provide services to 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, most popular exchanges are not decentralized and follow laws that require users to submit identifying documentation. In the United States, these exchanges include Binance, Kraken, Gemini, FTX, and Binance.US, to name a few. These exchanges have grown significantly in the number of features they offer.
The crypto universe has grown rapidly in the last decade, with many new tokens competing for investor dollars. With the exception of Bitcoin and certain prominent coins, such as Ethereum, not all of these tokens are available at all exchanges. Each exchange has its own set of criteria to determine whether to include or exclude the trading of certain tokens.
Coinbase, Kraken, and Gemini offer Bitcoin and a growing number of altcoins. These three are probably the easiest on-ramps to crypto in the entire industry. Binance caters to a more advanced trader, offering more serious trading functionality and a better variety of altcoin choices. FTX, a fast-growing crypto exchange that has garnered a multibillion-dollar valuation, offers a restricted number of altcoins to U.S. investors.4 However, traders outside the U.S. have a greater choice of tokens on its platform.
An important thing to note when creating a cryptocurrency exchange account is to use safe Internet practices. This includes two-factor authentication and a long, unique password that includes a variety of lowercase letters, capitalized letters, special characters, and numbers.
El Salvador made Bitcoin legal tender on September 7, 2021. It was the first country to do so.5 The cryptocurrency can serve as currency for any transaction where the business can accept it. The U.S. dollar continues to be El Salvador’s primary currency.
Step 2: Connect your exchange to a payment option
After you have chosen an exchange, you will need to gather your personal documents. Depending on the exchange, these may include pictures of a driver’s license or Social Security card, as well as information about your employer and source of funds. The information you may need can depend on the region you live in and the laws within it. The process is largely the same as setting up a typical brokerage account.
After the exchange has verified your identity, you will be asked to connect a payment option. At most exchanges, you can connect your bank account directly or you can connect a debit or credit card. Although you can use a credit card to purchase cryptocurrency, it is not a good idea because cryptocurrency price volatility could inflate the overall cost of purchasing a coin.
Bitcoin is legal in the United States, but some banks may question or even stop deposits to crypto-related sites or exchanges.6 It is a good idea to check to make sure that your bank allows deposits at your chosen exchange.
There are varying fees for deposits via a bank account, debit, or credit card. It is important to research the fees associated with each payment option to help choose an exchange or to choose which payment option works best for you.
Exchanges also charge fees per transaction. These fees can either be a flat fee (if the trading amount is low) or a percentage of the trading amount. Credit cards incur a processing fee in addition to the transaction fees.
Step 3: Place an order
You can buy bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies) after choosing an exchange and connecting a payment option. In recent years, cryptocurrency exchanges have slowly become more mainstream. They have grown significantly in terms of liquidity and their breadth of features. The operational changes at cryptocurrency exchanges parallel the change in the perception of cryptocurrencies. An industry that was once thought of as a scam or one with questionable practices is slowly morphing into a legitimate one that has drawn interest from all the big players in the financial services industry.
Now, cryptocurrency exchanges have gotten to a point where they have nearly the same level of features as their stock brokerage counterparts. Crypto exchanges today offer a number of order types and ways to invest. Almost all crypto exchanges offer both market and limit orders, and some also offer stop-loss orders. Of the exchanges mentioned above, Kraken offers the most order types. Kraken allows for market, limit, stop-loss, stop-limit, take-profit, and take-profit limit orders.7
Aside from a variety of order types, exchanges also offer ways to set up recurring investments, allowing clients to dollar-cost average into their investments of choice. Binance, for example, lets users set recurring purchases for every day, week, or month.8
Step 4: Safe storage
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency wallets are a place to store digital assets more securely. Having your crypto outside of the exchange and in your personal wallet ensures that only you have control over the private key to your funds. It also gives you the ability to store funds away from an exchange and avoid the risk of your exchange getting hacked and losing your funds.
Although most exchanges offer wallets for their users, security is not their primary business. We generally do not recommend using an exchange wallet for large or long-term cryptocurrency holdings.
Some wallets have more features than others. Some are Bitcoin only, and some offer the ability to store numerous types of altcoins. Some wallets also offer the ability to swap one token for another.
When it comes to choosing a Bitcoin wallet, you have a number of options. The first thing you will need to understand about crypto wallets is the concept of hot wallets (online wallets) and cold wallets (paper or hardware wallets).
Online wallets are also known as hot wallets. Hot wallets are wallets that run on Internet-connected devices such as computers, phones, or tablets. This can create vulnerability because these wallets generate the private keys to your coins on these Internet-connected devices. Though a hot wallet can be very convenient in the way you are able to access and make transactions with your assets quickly, storing your private key on an Internet-connected device makes it more susceptible to a hack.
This may sound farfetched, but hot wallet holders who haven’t set up enough security run the risk of losing funds to theft. This is not an infrequent occurrence, and it can happen in a number of ways. For example, boasting on a public forum such as Reddit about how much bitcoin you hold while you are using little to no security and storing it in a hot wallet would not be wise. That said, these wallets can be made secure so long as precautions are taken. Strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and safe Internet browsing should be considered minimum requirements.
These wallets are best for small amounts of cryptocurrency or cryptocurrency that you are actively trading on an exchange. You could liken a hot wallet to a checking account. Conventional financial wisdom would say to hold only spending money in a checking account while the bulk of your money is in savings accounts or other investment accounts. The same could be said for hot wallets. Hot wallets encompass mobile, desktop, web, and exchange account custody wallets.
As mentioned previously, exchange wallets are custodial accounts provided by the exchange. The user of this wallet type is not the holder of the private key to the cryptocurrency that is held in this wallet. If an event were to occur wherein the exchange is hacked or your account becomes compromised, you would lose your funds. The phrase “not your key, not your coin” is heavily repeated within cryptocurrency forums and communities.
The simplest description of a cold wallet is that it is not connected to the Internet and therefore stands at a far lesser risk of being compromised. These wallets can also be referred to as offline wallets or hardware wallets. These wallets store a user’s private key on something that is not connected to the internet and can come with software that works in parallel so that the user can view their portfolio without putting their private key at risk.
Perhaps the most secure way to store cryptocurrency offline is via a paper wallet. A paper wallet is a wallet that you can generate off of certain websites. It then produces both public and private keys that you print out on a piece of paper. The ability to access cryptocurrency in these addresses is only possible if you have that piece of paper with the private key. Many people laminate these paper wallets and store them in safe deposit boxes at their bank or even in a safe in their home. These wallets are meant for high-security and long-term investments because you cannot quickly sell or trade bitcoin stored this way.
A more common type of cold wallet is a hardware wallet. A hardware wallet is typically a USB drive device that stores a user’s private keys securely offline. Such wallets have serious advantages over hot wallets because they are unaffected by viruses that could infect one’s computer. With hardware wallets, private keys never come into contact with your network-connected computer or potentially vulnerable software. These devices are also typically open source, allowing the community to determine their safety through code audits rather than a company declaring that they are safe to use.
Cold wallets are the most secure way to store your bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. But they require more technical knowledge to set up.
A good way to set up your wallets is to have three things: an exchange account for buying and selling, a hot wallet to hold small to medium amounts of crypto you wish to trade or sell, and a cold hardware wallet to store larger holdings for long-term durations.
How to Buy Bitcoin With PayPal
You can also buy bitcoin through payment processor PayPal Holdings, Inc. (PYPL). There are two ways to purchase bitcoin using PayPal. The first and most convenient method is to purchase cryptocurrencies using your PayPal account that is connected to a payment mechanism, such as a debit card or bank account. The second option is to use the balance of your PayPal account to purchase cryptocurrencies from a third-party provider. This option is not as convenient as the first because very few third-party sites allow users to purchase bitcoin using the PayPal button.
Four cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash—can be purchased directly through PayPal.9 With the exception of those who live in Hawaii, residents of all states can either use their existing PayPal accounts or set up new ones. You can also use your cryptocurrencies to purchase products and services through the “Checkout With Crypto” feature.10
To set up a crypto account with PayPal, the following information is required: name, physical address, date of birth, and tax identification number.11
It is not possible to use a credit card to purchase Bitcoin using PayPal. During the buying process, PayPal will display a price for the cryptocurrency. But that price is subject to rapid change due to the volatility of cryptocurrency markets. It is a good idea to make sure you have more than the price you budgeted for the purchase in your bank account.
When you buy bitcoin directly from PayPal, it makes money off the crypto spread or the difference between Bitcoin’s market price and its exchange rate with USD. The company also charges a transaction fee for each purchase. These fees depend on the dollar amount of the purchase. For example, a flat fee of $0.50 is charged for purchases between $100 and $200. Thereafter, the fee is a percentage of the overall dollar amount. For example, a fee of 2% of the total amount is charged for crypto purchases between $100 and $200.12
One disadvantage of purchasing cryptocurrencies through PayPal is that you cannot transfer the crypto outside the payment processor’s platform. Therefore, it is not possible for you to transfer your purchased bitcoin from PayPal’s wallet to an external crypto wallet or your personal wallet.11
The other disadvantage of using PayPal is that very few exchanges and online traders allow the use of the payment processor to purchase payment. eToro is among the few online traders that allow the use of PayPal to purchase bitcoin on its platform.13
How to Buy Bitcoin With a Credit Card
The process for purchasing bitcoin with credit cards is similar to the process for buying it with debit cards or through automated clearing house (ACH) transfers. You will need to enter your credit card details with the exchange or online trading firm and authorize the transaction. In general, however, it is not a good idea to purchase bitcoin with credit cards. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, not all exchanges allow bitcoin purchasing with credit cards due to associated processing fees and the risk of fraud. This decision may work out in the best interests of customers. This is because credit card processing can tack additional charges onto such transactions. Thus, in addition to paying transaction fees, you will end up with processing fees that the exchange may pass onto you.
The second reason is that credit card purchases can be expensive. Credit card issuers treat bitcoin purchases as cash advances and charge hefty fees and interest rates on such advances. For example, American Express and Chase both count purchases of cryptocurrencies as cash advance transactions. Thus, if you purchase $100 worth of bitcoin using an American Express card, you will pay $10 (current cash advance fee for such transactions) plus an annual percentage fee of 25%. What’s more, the credit card company also limits you to $1,000 worth of bitcoin purchases per month.14
An indirect method of purchasing bitcoin using a credit card is to get a Bitcoin rewards credit card. Such cards function like your typical rewards credit card except they offer rewards in the form of bitcoin. So, they invest the cash back earned from purchases into Bitcoin. One example of a Bitcoin rewards card is the BlockFi Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card.15 Beware, however, that the annual fees for these cards may be steep and there may be additional costs associated with the conversion of fiat currencies into crypto.
Although exchanges such as Coinbase or Binance remain among the most popular ways to purchase Bitcoin, they are not the only way.
Alternative Ways to Buy Bitcoin
Bitcoin ATMs act like in-person bitcoin exchanges. Individuals can insert cash into a machine and use it to purchase bitcoin that is then transferred to online wallets for users. Bitcoin ATMs have become increasingly popular in recent years—even retail giant Walmart Inc. (WMT) is testing a pilot program that will offer its customers the option of purchasing bitcoin. Coin ATM Radar can help to track down the closest machines.
However, ATMs are an expensive option. There are two charges associated with ATM bitcoin purchases: a purchase fee and a conversion fee for converting a fiat currency to bitcoin. Both fees are fairly steep compared to those of other options. For example, the worldwide average purchase fee at Bitcoin ATMs is 8.4% (of the purchase amount) and 5.4% for sales at ATMs.16
Be aware, however, that Bitcoin ATMs have increasingly required government-issued IDs as of early 2020.
Unlike decentralized exchanges, which match buyers and sellers anonymously and facilitate all aspects of the transaction, there are some peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange services that provide a more direct connection between users. LocalBitcoins is an example of such an exchange. After creating an account, users can post requests to buy or sell bitcoin, including information about payment methods and prices. Users then browse through listings of buy and sell offers, choosing the trading partners with whom they wish to transact.
LocalBitcoins facilitates some aspects of the trade. Although P2P exchanges do not offer the same anonymity as decentralized exchanges, they allow users the opportunity to shop around for the best deal. Many of these exchanges also provide rating systems so users have a way to evaluate potential trade partners before transacting.
Very few mainstream brokerages offer bitcoin purchase and trading capabilities due to the uncertainty surrounding the regulatory status of cryptocurrencies. Robinhood Markets, Inc. (HOOD), an app popular with retail investors, is one exchange that offers crypto trading facilities. It charges 0% commission for cryptocurrency trades and purchases and makes money from payment for order flow, passing its trading volume onto other trading platforms or brokerages.17
The absence of a commission fee may be an enticing prospect for beginners, but there are a couple of catches to that offer. First, Robinhood does not have the breadth of features and coins offered by prominent crypto exchanges like Coinbase. Robinhood had enabled trading on its platform for seven cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Bitcoin SV, Dogecoin, and Ethereum Classic.18 In contrast, you can trade more than 100 cryptocurrencies on Coinbase.19 The exchange also offers various order types to minimize risk and offset losses during trading.
The Robinhood platform also does not have a hosted wallet. Therefore, if you want to purchase cryptocurrencies through Robinhood, you will have to factor in additional costs for an online wallet provider.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency investments are NOT protected by insurance from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). At regular brokerages, the agency protects against the loss of securities and cash in brokerage accounts containing up to $500,000, with a $250,000 cash limit.20 That facility is not available to customers of cryptocurrency exchanges. Cryptocurrency exchanges like Coinbase have crime insurance to protect their infrastructure against hacks. But that insurance does not protect individual customers from password theft.21
How to Sell Bitcoin
You can sell bitcoin at the same venues where you purchased the cryptocurrency, such as cryptocurrency exchanges and P2P platforms. Typically, the process of selling bitcoin on these platforms is similar to the process for purchasing it.
For example, you may only be required to click a button and specify an order type (i.e., whether the cryptocurrency should be sold instantly at available prices or whether it should be sold to limit losses) to conduct the sale. Depending on the market composition and demand at the venue, the offering price for Bitcoin may vary. For example, exchanges in South Korea traded bitcoin at a so-called kimchi premium during the run-up in its prices back in 2018.
Cryptocurrency exchanges charge a percentage of the crypto sale amount as fees. For example, Coinbase charges 2.49% of the overall transaction amount as fees.22
Exchanges generally have daily and monthly withdrawal limits. Therefore, cash from a large sale may not be immediately available to the trader. There are no limits on the amount of cryptocurrency you can sell, however.
What Are the Steps for Purchasing Bitcoin?
The process to purchase bitcoin consists of four steps: choosing a venue or exchange to place your order, selecting a payment method, and ensuring safe storage for your purchased cryptocurrency. Depending on the type of venue chosen in the first step, there might be additional steps involved in the process. For example, if you purchase the cryptocurrency through Robinhood you might need to factor in additional costs for an online wallet and custody of your bitcoin because it does not offer these services.
What Are the Most Popular Venues for Buying Bitcoin?
The most popular venues for buying bitcoins are cryptocurrency exchanges, brokerages (crypto and mainstream), and payment services like PayPal. You can also buy Bitcoin from P2P exchanges. For indirect ownership of bitcoin, you can invest in companies that hold the cryptocurrency on their balance sheets, such as Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) or MicroStrategy Incorporated (MSTR).2324
How Much Should I Expect to Pay to Purchase Bitcoin?
Typically, the price for purchasing bitcoin consists of a fee per trade plus the cost to convert a fiat currency (generally dollars) to bitcoin. (Cryptocurrency exchanges and payment services make money off of this conversion spread.) The fee per trade is a function of the dollar amount of the trade. A higher trade amount will carry higher fees. The overall purchase cost also depends on features offered by the venue. For example, Robinhood does not currently offer an online wallet for storing bitcoin. Therefore, you will need to budget for online wallet costs for your purchase.
Besides Cryptocurrency Exchanges, Where Else Can I Buy Bitcoin?
You can also buy bitcoin at the following locations:
- Through Bitcoin ATMs
- Through online payment services like PayPal
- At mainstream brokerages like Robinhood
Is My Bitcoin Purchase Protected by SIPC?
No, your bitcoin purchase is not protected by SIPC.20 At certain exchanges, like Coinbase, fiat balances in individual accounts may be FDIC-insured to the tune of $250,000 per account.21
The Bottom Line
The process for purchasing bitcoin is slightly more complicated than the process to buy regular equity or stock. This is mainly because the cryptocurrency ecosystem and infrastructure are not as well developed as those of mainstream trading.
A bitcoin purchase process consists of four steps: selecting a service or venue for the purchase, connecting with a payment method, placing an order, and ensuring safe storage for your purchased cryptocurrency. Each of these steps requires research and a careful assessment of the pros and cons of each service. You can also buy bitcoin at Bitcoin ATMs or from payment services like PayPal and mainstream brokerages like Robinhood.
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Despite its well-known volatility, cryptocurrency is on fire and many investors are looking to profit on its white-hot rise. Cryptos such as Bitcoin and Ethereum ebb for a while and then climb higher, and many other popular digital currencies are doing so, too. Experienced traders have been speculating on crypto for years, but what if you’re new to the market and looking to get a piece of the action?
Here’s how to start investing in cryptocurrency and what you need to watch out for.
5 steps for investing in cryptocurrency
First things first, if you’re looking to invest in crypto, you need to have all your finances in order. That means having an emergency fund in place, a manageable level of debt and ideally a diversified portfolio of investments. Your crypto investments can become one more part of your portfolio, one that helps raise your total returns, hopefully.
Pay attention to these five other things as you’re starting to invest in cryptocurrencies.
1. Understand what you’re investing in
As you would for any investment, understand exactly what you’re investing in. If you’re buying stocks, it’s important to read the prospectus and analyze the companies thoroughly. Plan to do the same with any cryptocurrencies, since there are literally thousands of them, they all function differently and new ones are being created every day. You need to understand the investment case for each trade.
In the case of many cryptocurrencies, they’re backed by nothing at all, neither hard assets nor cash flow. That’s the case for Bitcoin, for example, where investors rely exclusively on someone paying more for the asset than they paid for it. In other words, unlike stock, where a company can grow its profits and drive returns for you that way, many crypto assets must rely on the market becoming more optimistic and bullish for you to profit.
Some of the most popular coins include Ethereum, Dogecoin, Cardano and XRP. Solana has been another massively successful coin as well. So before investing, understand the potential upside and downside. If your financial investment is not backed by an asset or cash flow, it could end up being worth nothing.
2. Remember, the past is past
A mistake that many new investors make is looking at the past and extrapolating that to the future. Yes, Bitcoin used to be worth pennies, but now is worth much more. The key question, however, is “Will that growth continue into the future, even if it’s not at quite that meteoric rate?”
Investors look to the future, not to what an asset has done in the past. What will drive future returns? Traders buying a cryptocurrency today need tomorrow’s gains, not yesterday’s.
3. Watch that volatility
The prices of cryptocurrencies are about as volatile as an asset can get. They could drop quickly in seconds on nothing more than a rumor that ends up proving baseless. That can be great for sophisticated investors who can execute trades rapidly or who have a solid grasp on the market’s fundamentals, how the market is trending and where it could go. For new investors without these skills – or the high-powered algorithms that direct these trades – it’s a minefield.
Volatility is a game for high-powered Wall Street traders, each of whom is trying to outgun other deep-pocketed investors. A new investor can easily get crushed by the volatility.
That’s because volatility shakes out traders, especially beginners, who get scared. Meanwhile, other traders may step in and buy on the cheap. In short, volatility can help sophisticated traders “buy low and sell high” while inexperienced investors “buy high and sell low.”
4. Manage your risk
If you’re trading any asset on a short-term basis, you need to manage your risk, and that can be especially true with volatile assets such as cryptocurrency. So as a newer trader, you’ll need to understand how best to manage risk and develop a process that helps you mitigate losses. And that process can vary from individual to individual:
- Risk management for a long-term investor might simply be never selling, regardless of the price. The long-term mentality allows the investor to stick with the position.
- Risk management for a short-term trader, however, might be setting strict rules on when to sell, such as when an investment has fallen 10 percent. The trader then rotely follows the rule so that a relatively small decline doesn’t become a crushing loss later.
Newer traders should consider setting aside a certain amount of trading money and then using only a portion of it, at least at first. If a position moves against them, they’ll still have money in reserve to trade with later. The ultimate point is that you can’t trade if you don’t have any money. So keeping some money in reserve means you’ll always have a bankroll to fund your trading.
It’s important to manage risk, but that will come at an emotional cost. Selling a losing position hurts, but doing so can help you avoid worse losses later.
5. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose
Finally, it’s important to avoid putting money that you need into speculative assets. If you can’t afford to lose it – all of it – you can’t afford to put it into risky assets such as cryptocurrency, or other market-based assets such as stocks or ETFs, for that matter.
Whether it’s a down payment for a house or an important upcoming purchase, money that you need in the next few years should be kept in safe accounts so that it’s there when you need it. And if you’re looking for an absolutely sure return, your best option is to pay off debt. You’re guaranteed to earn (or save) whatever interest rate you’re paying on the debt. You can’t lose there.
Finally, don’t overlook the security of any exchange or broker you’re using. You may own the assets legally, but someone still has to secure them, and their security needs to be tight. If they don’t think their cryptocurrency is properly secured, some traders choose to invest in a crypto wallet to hold their coins offline so they’re inaccessible to hackers or others.
Other ways to invest in cryptocurrency
While investing directly in cryptocurrency may be the most popular way to do so, traders have other ways to get into the crypto game, some more directly than others. These include:
- Crypto futures: Futures are another way to wager on the price swings in Bitcoin, and futures allow you to use the power of leverage to generate massive returns (or losses). Futures are a fast-moving market and exacerbate the already volatile moves in crypto.
- Crypto funds: A few crypto funds (such as the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust) also exist that allow you to wager on the price swings in Bitcoin, Ethereum as well as a few other altcoins. So they can be an easy way to buy crypto through a fund-like product.
- Crypto exchange or broker stocks: Buying stock in a company that’s poised to profit on the rise of cryptocurrency regardless of the winner could be an interesting option, too. And that’s the potential in an exchange such as Coinbase or a broker such as Robinhood, which derives a huge chunk of its revenues from crypto trading.
- Blockchain ETFs: A blockchain ETF allows you to invest in the companies that may profit from the emergence of blockchain technology. The top blockchain ETFs give you exposure to some of the key publicly traded companies in the space. But it’s important to note that these companies often do much more than crypto-related business, meaning your exposure to cryptocurrency is diluted, reducing your potential upside and downside.
Each of these methods varies in its riskiness and exposure to cryptocurrency, so you’ll want to understand exactly what you’re buying and whether it fits your needs.
Cryptocurrency investing FAQs
How much money do I need to start investing in cryptocurrency?
In theory it takes only a few dollars to invest in cryptocurrency. Most crypto exchanges, for example, have a minimum trade that might be $5 or $10. Other crypto trading apps might have a minimum that’s even lower.
However, it’s important to understand that some trading platforms will take a huge chunk of your investment as a fee if you’re trading small amounts of cryptocurrency. So it’s important to look for a broker or exchange that minimizes your fees. In fact, many so-called “free” brokers embed fees – called spread mark-ups – in the price you pay for your cryptocurrency.
How does a blockchain work?
Cryptocurrency is based on blockchain technology. Blockchain is a kind of database that records and timestamps every entry into it. The best way to think of a blockchain is like a running receipt of transactions. When a blockchain database powers cryptocurrency, it records and verifies transactions in the currency, verifying the currency’s movements and who owns it.
Many crypto blockchain databases are run with decentralized computer networks. That is, many redundant computers operate the database, checking and rechecking the transactions to ensure that they’re accurate. If there’s a discrepancy, the networked computers have to resolve it.
How do you mine cryptocurrency?
Some cryptocurrencies reward those who verify the transactions on the blockchain database in a process called mining. For example, these miners involved with Bitcoin solve very complex mathematical problems as part of the verification process. If they’re successful, miners receive a predetermined award of bitcoins.
To mine bitcoins, miners need powerful processing units that consume huge amounts of energy. Many miners operate huge rooms full of such mining rigs in order to extract these rewards. As of early 2022, running the Bitcoin system burned as much energy as a medium-sized country.
How can I invest in Bitcoin?
If you’re looking to invest in Bitcoin, you have a variety of ways to do so, and you can work with a number of companies, including:
- Crypto exchanges: Exchanges have some of the widest selection of cryptocurrencies, and they tend to be the most competitive on price. Top players include Coinbase, Kraken and Binance, but there are literally dozens of others.
- Traditional brokers: Many traditional brokers also allow you to trade Bitcoin in addition to stocks and other financial assets, though they have a relatively limited selection of other cryptocurrencies. Top players here include Interactive Brokers, TradeStation and tastyworks.
- Financial apps: Many financial apps now allow you to trade Bitcoin and a few other cryptos. Top players here include Binance and Webull as well as payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo and Cash App.
What are altcoins?
An altcoin is an alternative to Bitcoin. Many years ago, traders would use the term pejoratively. Since Bitcoin was the largest and most popular cryptocurrency, everything else was defined in relation to it. So, whatever was not Bitcoin was lumped into a derisive category called altcoins.
While Bitcoin is still the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, it’s no longer as dominant as it was in the very early days of cryptocurrency. Other altcoins such as Ethereum and Solana have grown in popularity, making the term altcoin somewhat outmoded. Now with a reported 15,000 or more cryptocurrencies in existence, it makes less sense than ever to define the industry as “Bitcoin and then everything else.”
Cryptocurrency is a highly speculative area of the market, and many smart investors have decided to put their money elsewhere. For beginners who want to get started trading crypto, however, the best advice is to start small and only use money that you can afford to lose.