Bitcoin is an innovative payment network and a new kind of money.
Each Bitcoin represents the value of the currency on the blockchain.
This guide is not and should not be interpreted as investment advice, a recommendation regarding a course of action or as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative and complex, and they involve significant risks—they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable, and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances and obtain your own advice before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant regulators' websites before making any decision. The author may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed. All product names, trademarks, brands, photographs and logos are the property of their respective owners.
Note: Images can be clicked to see a larger version. If you're confused by any terms used, a glossary can be found here.
Choose which Bitcoin exchange you'd like to use (by clicking on the logo), and the guide will continue:
If you use this link to sign up to Coinbase we'll both receive ten dollars of free coins when you spend over $100 (or the equivalent in your currency).
Press the 'sign up' button and fill out your name (make sure this is exactly how it's written on your photo ID), email and a password.
Just like a US bank, Coinbase is regulated by the US government, and has to follow strict financial rules. So they take verifying your identity very seriously. It's a pain, but it does give Coinbase a reputation for being the most trusted way to convert fiat currency to cryptocurrency.
To verify your account you must supply a phone number, upload an image of your photo ID and verify a credit/debit card or bank account before you can buy.
Using a credit/debit card on Coinbase means higher fees but offers instant purchasing. Using a bank transfer is cheaper but slower (taking up to a week to get your coins).
Once your payment details are verified, click 'buy/sell' on the top menu.
Select 'Bitcoin', and at the bottom of the page choose how much to spend in your local currency / how many coins you want to buy.
Once you're happy with the amount, click the big 'Buy' button.
You'll be asked to confirm your purchase.
Press the 'Confirm Buy' button.
Congratulations! You now own some Bitcoin.
Click here to go to Cex.io
Click the 'Register' button along the top menu.
Enter your email address and a secure password. Click the checkbox to agree to the terms.
You will now be asked to set up 2-factor authentication for your new account. It is strongly advised not to skip this step, as 2-factor authentication makes your account far more secure.
We recommend using the 'Smartphone App' option.
Once your security has been set up, you'll be taken to your account dashboard.
Before we do anything else, head on over to your personal email account- there will be an email from Cex.io asking you to click a link to verify your account. Click it.
You will be taken to a page telling you your email has been confirmed. Click 'Go back to the site'.
Look for your user ID in the top menu, hover your mouse over it and in the drop down menu click 'Verification'.
Every exchange that lets your buy cryptocurrencies for cash require you to verify your identification before doing so.
Complete the Cex.io verification process by supplying your personal information and uploading your ID.
Once you're verified, click the 'Deposit' button along the top menu.
You now get to choose how you'd like to deposit money:
Via credit/debit card
If you choose credit/debit card you can buy instantly, but you pay commission on the money you deposit.
Via bank transfer
This option takes a few days for the transfer to arrive but has no commission fees.
Choose the method you prefer and follow the instructions to deposit your money.
Once your money is in your account, click 'BUY/SELL' on the top menu.
Choose '' and the currency you'd like to buy it in (Dollars, Euros, Pounds or Rubles).
You will be offered some precalculated amounts of Bitcoin, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page and input the amount of Bitcoin you'd like to buy in the 'Custom amount' box.
Once you've decided, click 'Buy'.
You'll be asked to confirm your buy.
Check everything looks correct and click 'Confirm the order'.
Congratulations- you now own some Bitcoin!
Click here to go to LocalBitcoins, and click 'Sign up' on the top right menu.
Enter a username, your email and a strong password (that you won't forget!).
An email will be sent to you with a link to confirm your email address. Go find that email and click the link.
This will open a new window that will have automatically logged you into your new account.
Press 'Buy Bitcoins' on the top menu.
Click 'Quick buy'.
In the first input box, write how much money you want to spend on Bitcoin.
In the first drop down menu, select your currency. For example USD is US dollars, GBP is Great British Pounds etc.
Then in the next drop down select the country you're in.
If you wish to buy Bitcoin without needing to provide any ID, click the check box beside 'ID not required'. Please note that this may limit the numbers of sellers, and may be a more expensive way to purchase Bitcoin.
In the final drop down menu you're given a wide range of buying methods. You can choose to look for sellers that accept Paypal, bank transfers, Amazon gift cards etc. - or just choose to look at all options.
Once you're happy with your selections, press Search.
You'll be given a list of sellers matching your criteria.
Beside their user names you will see the number of transactions they have done on the site (e.g. 1000) and their feedback (e.g. 100% positive).
You will also see the payment methods they accept, the price they're selling Bitcoin at and any limit to the amount they will sell in one transaction (for example, they might have a lower limit of $50 and an upper limit of $10,000 for a single transaction).
Choose which seller you'd like to use and click 'Buy'.
On this page, read the terms of trade with your selected user. Make sure you're happy with them.
Pay attention to the opening hours- are they open right now? Also pay attention to the 'payment window'- this is how long you have to pay after sending the trade request. If you're not ready to send the payment within that time frame, don't continue.
Once you are ready, input the amount of Bitcoin you'd like to buy in your chosen currency. You may be limited to a smaller amount as this is your first time using LocalBitcoins- your limit will increase as you get positive feedback.
You may choose to write a message to the seller, but this isn't required.
Press 'Send trade request'.
You will now be given the payment details for the seller- for example, their bank account details, Paypal address etc.
Use these details to send the correct amount of money to the seller, within the payment window, by following the steps laid out on the right side of the screen.
It's very important to include the reference message with your payment so the seller knows the money came from you.
Once you have made the payment, click the 'I have paid' button.
You will be asked to confirm that you've made the payment.
Read the information and when you are sure you're happy to accept, press 'Confirm payment complete'.
You must now wait for the seller to confirm they have received the payment.
Once they have, the Bitcoin will be released into your account- you will get a message on the site (which can be seen as a red speech bubble along the top menu), as well as an email to confirm it.
Your coins will appear in your wallet (also on the top menu). Click it.
Congratulations! You now own some Bitcoin. Now you need to decide where you're going to store it. There are three options:
1) Keep it on Coinbase.
This is the easiest option, and pretty safe (as long as you enable 2-factor authentication). But exchanges have been hacked before, and many people simply prefer having their coins under their own control.
2) A desktop/web wallet.
There are plenty of wallets out there, for desktop and mobile, and a full list of Bitcoin.org approved wallets can be found here for download.Storing your coins in a wallet on your computer is as safe as you make it- if you lose or forget your password you can lock your coins away forever, or if your computer is hacked and security compromised you can be vulnerable to having your coins stolen.
So, choose this option only if you're confident you have good security practices and are sufficiently technically minded.
For a step by step setup of a wallet on your computer, click here.
3) A hardware wallet.
We all hear of computers and phones being hacked. Websites running illicit code to steal passwords. Phishers tricking people into clicking links that steal information from their computers.
Another line of defence to keep our coins from being siphoned out of our wallets is essential.
And that's a hardware wallet.
Hardware wallets plug into your computer like a USB stick, and they have one job- to be a firewall between your coins and the outside world.
To do this, they encrypt the private keys to your cryptocurrency wallets so that no-one- not even you- can know them. That way only someone with physical access to your hardware wallet- and who also knows its password- has a chance to access and move your coins.
The Nano S, makes it easy to manage your coins- it's compact and discreet, and wallet management is achieved through a small LCD screen and two buttons.
Once you have your Ledger, here's a step by step guide to setting it up.
Let's set up a simple Bitcoin wallet on your computer.
We're going to download and install the Electrum wallet.
Click here to go to the official Electrum site.
Note: As always, when clicking any links involving cryptocurrencies be sure that the URL looks correct and secure in your browser.
Click 'download' on the Electrum site. Choose the correct file for your computer (for example, for Windows users choose 'Windows Installer') and download it.
Once the file has finished downloading you should run it, and then follow the installation instructions.
Once setup has completed, open the wallet, which will have been installed under the name 'Electrum' on your computer.
You will be asked to give you new wallet a name. Choose something obvious, such as 'my_bitcoin_wallet'.
You will be presented with your personal wallet seed.
This seed is a backup of your wallet, and can be used to open it from any computer without knowing your password. It's very important that you back this information up somewhere safe (think multiple external hard drives and/or USB drives that you put somewhere safe).
Note: If someone gets hold of this seed they can open your wallet and take your coins. Keep it safe!
You now have to write your seed into the box to confirm you copied it correctly.
Once done click 'Next'.
You'll now be asked to enter a password. Make it something that would be hard to guess (but which you won't forget!).
Note: If someone with access to your computer guesses this password they could steal your coins. Don't tell anyone your password!
Once entered twice press 'Next''.
Your wallet is now open. Congrats!
Press 'Receive' to find your wallet address- it's a long string of letters and numbers. Copy this somewhere safe as we'll need it soon.
Now, return to Coinbase.
Click 'Accounts' from the top menu, then find your Bitcoin wallet listed on the left.
In the 'Recipient' box, paste your personal wallet address we saved earlier from Bitcoin wallet in step 14.
In amount, type how much Bitcoin you wish to send (there is a 'use max' option if you wish to send it all).
Coinbase may ask you to confirm with your password/phone. Follow the instructions until it confirms the Bitcoin are sent.
Go back to Cex.io
Press 'Withdraw' on the top menu.
Under 'Select currency and amount' click 'USD' and select '' in the drop down menu.
Input the amount of Bitcoin you're sending.
In the box labelled 'Enter the recipient's address below' paste the Bitcoin wallet address we saved earlier from Bitcoin wallet in step 14.
Once you've looked everything over, click the check box to confirm you've double checked everything is correct.
You will be asked for a 2-factor authentication number.
Use your selected method of authentication to generate the number and write it in the box. Press 'Confirm'.
You will be sent an email to confirm the withdrawal.
Go to your personal email and click the link Cex.io has sent you. This will send the coins on their way.
Go back to LocalBitcoins.
You should still be in your wallet page.
In the box labelled 'Receiving Bitcoin address' paste the Bitcoin wallet address we just saved in step 14.
Enter the amount of Bitcoin you're sending.
You will be asked to enter your password to confirm the send.
Once entered, press 'Send from wallet'.
You will be taken back to your wallet and a message will appear to confirm the Bitcoin has been sent.
Now you simply have to wait for the Bitcoin to travel to your wallet. This generally takes between 5 to 20 minutes, but on busy days can possibly take hours.
Once it has, it will show in your Electrum wallet 'balance' and the transaction will be viewable under the 'History' tab.