Updated 14 August 2020
In 2009, Bitcoin launched the cryptocurrency phenomenon as we know it today, and it remains the most popular currency of its kind worldwide.
Bitcoin’s popularity sets it apart from all other cryptocurrencies; over time, it has moved closer and closer to what we recognise as a currency, rather than a virtual anomaly.
Unlike many of its peers, bitcoin can be exchanged for fiat currencies like the US dollar and euro. It has greater liquidity than other cryptocurrencies, meaning the loss to its inherent value is minimal when it is converted.
Bitcoin is widely accepted and can be used to purchase many everyday items, from a holiday on Expedia to a website domain with WordPress. The virtual money can also be exchanged with other private users in payment for services, or perhaps to pay off a debt.
From a practical point of the view, bitcoin is often easier to use than fiat currencies. Its transaction fees are low when compared to institutions like PayPal or credit cards and, when making transactions that cross international borders, none of the additional fees usually associated with ATM withdrawals abroad, international money transfers or credit card payments apply.
Bitcoin is stored in digital wallets – coin storage which is secure and houses information surrounding ownership of the units being stored.
Those starting out need to make a decision on which wallet to store their funds in. Some exchanges offer a free wallet but other platforms that sell bitcoin may require you to have a wallet in place before you make a purchase.
Despite bitcoin not being recognised as a currency in every instance, it is still money and you should treat any bitcoin transaction with the same consideration as you would if you were signing up to a new credit card or loan – you’d want to know everything, from associated fees to security.
Different exchanges have different fees so it’s very important to make sure you know this information before committing.
When deciding where to buy your bitcoin, it pays to consider things like currency; if you transfer GBP to an exchange which only deals in US dollars, you will immediately be charged a conversion fee. By choosing an exchange that accepts your currency, you can avoid these fees.
Liquidity varies depending on the cryptocurrency exchange and should be a crucial factor when it comes to deciding which exchange to use.
Liquidity is how many bitcoins the exchange can sell before the price is affected.
You can identify how good a company’s liquidity is by looking at their trading volume (perhaps look at the number of bitcoins traded in the last month, for example); the greater the trading volume, the more liquidity the company has.
Different exchanges have different speeds when it comes to getting your bitcoins to your wallet and making transactions. Some could take five days to get the currency to your account whereas others will be far quicker.
Some exchanges differ in terms of platforms available for use – for example, some are solely mobile-based and, in this case, you would not be able to manage your money from a laptop.
In the same way that you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable making a large bank transfer on a friend’s mobile you’re not used to, you shouldn’t choose an exchange which operates from a platform you’re not fully comfortable using.
Consider your location and the location of the exchange and do some research as to how straightforward it will be to trade with that company.
Fees, especially, can change significantly from region to region – a US-based exchange, for example, may offer great rates to a selection of US states but the prices may ramp up for a European country.
Also, different countries have to adhere to different rules and regulations so it’s important to make sure geographical location isn’t enabling the exchange to be lax when it comes to security.
We’ve put together a list of our top 10 places to buy bitcoin. Some are exchanges, some are platforms to buy from but not sell back to, and others are physical ATM-style structures.
Whichever way you plan to buy your bitcoin, you must do your homework to ensure you understand how the company operates.
We’ve listed the top 10 in alphabetical order and, for each entry, we’ve highlighted what we think the company does best.
There are numerous places to buy bitcoin available and we would always recommend that you conduct your own thorough research and due diligence before making your own personal choice.
Although we have listed several providers below, it should be noted that this is through online research, not personal experience. At WikiJob, we are not financial advisors and any information provided throughout this article is for educational purposes only.
Best for: Currency choice
Binance is one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchanges. UK customers must purchase Bitcoins through its subsidiary, Binance Jersey.
Binance Jersey has free deposit and withdrawal fees for UK customers and a 0.1% trading fee.
The company is well known for supporting a wide range of digital currencies which means bitcoin traders have a vast array of options for trading multiple currencies.
Best for: Anonymity
A bitcoin ATM, or BATM, is simply an ATM – a physical kiosk where you can buy bitcoin.
Just like a standard fiat money ATM, BATMs allow insertion of a credit/debit card or cash in exchange for bitcoin.
These machines allow users to buy and sell bitcoins anonymously – there are none of the ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) checks you will undergo if you’re looking to buy bitcoins with the majority of other companies mentioned on this list.
Fees are on the high side for this service; the ATMs charge between 7% and 10% for buying and selling bitcoins.
Another potential issue is finding a machine which does what you want it to; some can be used to buy bitcoins and some to sell bitcoins, but machines that do both are scarce.
Remember, you need a wallet to store your bitcoins in; ATMs are just ATMs, they do not offer any kind of wallet storage facility.
Best for: Choice of payment method
Bitpanda serves a European customer base and has a good selection of payment methods. The cost of buying and selling bitcoin on Bitpanda is on a par with Coinbase (1.49%); however, a full fee breakdown is not easily found on the website and the fees are included within the buying price.
The level of privacy users receive depends on their usage; with a verified email only, you can buy bitcoin but have limits on the amount you can sell. By verifying your ID, you can buy bitcoin with a credit card and purchase substantially more using other payment methods.
Best for: Buying with credit card
CEX is a UK-based exchange. The company takes payment by credit and debit card as well as bank transfer for the purchase of bitcoin.
Payments with a credit card deliver the bitcoin to the user’s account instantly and fees for the privilege are low compared to other exchanges.
The authorisation process for CEX is lengthy and requires a significant amount of personal information. Those wishing to buy large amounts of bitcoin by bank transfer will need top-level verification which involves photographs of several different identification documents, selfies with each and proof of address.
Best for: Keeping your money safe
Based in California, Coinbase is one of the leading crypto exchanges in the world and a popular choice when buying bitcoin. The company offers both a wallet (which is free) and an exchange for customers.
According to Coinbase, 98% of digital currency is stored offline in vaults and safe deposit boxes. The company also has a 48-hour withdrawal cancellation option in place to protect users from fraudulent activity and offers investors the option of adding a second person’s name to the approval list for added withdrawal security.
Coinbase accepts payment by credit and debit card and charges a flat fee of $3.99 for the privilege – low cost compared to other US and UK exchanges.
Best for: Ease of use
Coinmama is an exchange and wallet in one. The exchange allows users to purchase bitcoin in increments of $100 quickly and easily from the homepage.
Unlike other exchanges that buy and sell on the open market, Coinmama funds trades from its company holdings; it is also a registered money business service in the US.
It could be argued that this added security for users does come at a price, with Coinmama’s fees being on the high side compared to other platforms.
You can buy bitcoin through Coinmama but it’s important to note that you cannot sell it back. This isn’t necessarily a negative; this company will be well suited to those who simply want to buy bitcoin but don’t need an exchange.
Best for: Beginners
The eToro website contains a wealth of information on the details of buying bitcoin, making this exchange well suited to those just starting out in bitcoin trading.
Traders who sign up with eToro get a virtual trading account with $100,000 in it to allow them to practise strategies before trading with real money.
The company also offers trading courses and features a Learning Lab which houses a variety of tools to support clients with their trading experience.
In the UK, eToro is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and money is kept in tier one European banks. Unlike other exchanges in this list, eToro supports deposits and withdrawals to and from external wallets and does not charge any trading fees.
Best for: Privacy
Local Bitcoins is a completely different type of exchange to the others on this list. The company is a peer-to-peer exchange which supports users in posting an advert stating payment methods and exchange rates for buying/selling their bitcoins.
A reply to an advertisement opens a trade, and escrow protection (protecting both the buyer and the seller) is activated.
Bitcoins are stored in a Local Bitcoins wallet, and from there, the user can pay for their purchases directly.
It is free to register, buy and sell bitcoin. It is also free to make a transaction to the wallet of another Local Bitcoin user. A 1% fee is charged for every completed trade.
Best for: Keeping costs to a minimum
Robinhood allows users to buy and sell bitcoin free of charge.
The company has only recently introduced a web version, having been solely mobile-based, so is better suited to those who are comfortable using their phone to manage their money.
Up to now, Robinhood has only been accessible in 16 states, but its website states that it is coming to the UK in early 2020.
Best for: Bringing bitcoin into the mainstream
Described as a banking solution, Wirex brings cryptocurrency as close to the mainstream as it can get. UK users can buy bitcoin and use it as they would their GBP.
A Wirex wallet can be used with a Wirex debit card to purchase items in the same way you would use your fiat currency debit card.
Users get 0.5% back in bitcoins when they use their Wirex card to make in-store purchases.
Adding funds to your wallet can be done via popular payment platforms like PayPal, as well as bank transfers.
Deciding which cryptocurrency to go for is fairly straightforward but choosing an exchange and wallet is more complex. Choose well and you could enjoy a substantial return on your investment, safe in the knowledge that your funds are safe and secure; choose badly and your cryptocurrency experience could be an extremely negative one.
Reading reviews written by other traders can be very useful when it comes to making sure an exchange is as good as you think it is – pros and cons featured in comparison articles online can alert you to areas of the exchange’s website you need to look at more closely to get the full picture.
WikiJob does not provide tax, investment or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.
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